Bethlehem Lutheran Church

The Heart of Bay Ridge
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Sunday Service 10:30am
4th & Ovington Avenues
Brooklyn NY  11209
Rev. Paul H. Knudsen
Pastor Paul's April Message 
Bethlehem Lutheran Church ®  |  4th & Ovington Avenues, Brooklyn NY 11209  |  718.748.9502
A member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA)

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Dear Members and Friends,

​In my Christian Living class at LES, we have been reading stories on happiness. Before reading, “The King and the Shirt” by Leo Tolstoy, we read the following paragraph about the author. “Although Tolstoy was a famous novelist, he was not happy. After much thought, he decided that people could make their lives worthwhile only by living simply and serving others. In 1890, he sold all his property, became a vegetarian, and gave up the copyrights on his writing. He worked in the fields and lived simply. Yet he never felt satisfied and continued to look for ways to lead a more pure and worthwhile life until he died in 1910.”

​In Tolstoy’s short story, “The King and the Shirt”, the king fell ill. One of his wise men stated, “If you can find a happy man, take his shirt, put it on the king – and the king will be cured.” The king’s emissaries searched far and wide for a happy man, but they could not find one. Finally, late one night, the king’s son was passing by a poor little hut and heard someone say, “Now God be praised. I have finished my work. I have eaten my fill, and I can lie down and sleep. What more could I want?” The king’s son rejoiced and gave orders that the man’s shirt be taken and carried to the king. The emissaries went in to take off the man’s shirt, but the happy man was so poor that he had no shirt.

The 2019 United Nation’s World Happiness Report was published last week. The Finns remain the happiest people in the world. It seems like Scandinavia is the place to be. These are the top 10 countries on the happy scale: (1) Finland, (2) Denmark, (3) Norway, (4) Iceland, (5) Netherlands, (6) Switzerland, (7) Sweden, (8) New Zealand, (9) Canada, (10) Austria. The United States ranks 19th and our happiness index has been declining since the study began. Should we all get one way tickets to the frozen tundra of Scandinavia?

I asked our 8th graders, “Is it hard to enjoy each day?” Only one responded, “No.” All the others gave a litany of reasons why it is hard to enjoy each day. They interact with people who “push their buttons.” “It’s hard to be happy when people are being annoying.” Negative emotions are caused by negative interactions with people and by life’s challenges. Yes, it is tough to be 14 years old.

We read the story “The Station” by Robert Hastings. In it, the person is never satisfied or content with where he is in life. There is always a dissatisfied yearning for the next step, the next level, the next milestone. They want to get “it”, but every time they get “it”, “it” disappears, and any feelings of happiness or contentment disappear with it. The author concludes with the need for us to realize that the true joy of life is the trip, not arriving at the station.

In answering the question, “What can help you live more joy filled?”, one of my students wrote, “You have to have faith in God and trust that he has a plan for you.” That’s a pretty good start! This month we remember a God who sacrificed for us, and a God who rose from the dead for us. Oh, what wondrous love is this! That’s a pretty good start too!

In God’s Service,