THE DISCIPLINE OF CELEBRATION
This past weekend was the annual celebration of Easter, the day we commemorate the historic resurrection of Jesus. How did that celebration go for you?
After a restless Saturday night I got out of bed unsure of the mixed feelings I was experiencing. You should know that I am the default personality type that when asked how I am feeling, immediately responds with, “I think I feel _.”
I’ll never forget the first day someone stopped me and pointed that out, telling me to stop and actually tell him how I felt instead of trying to just think through everything. Yet our feelings are forged from our thoughts. The important thing I learned from that interaction is that I can often be dishonest about my feelings because I think in circles around them as opposed to through them.
On Sunday morning, there was deep sorrow for the continued spread of this global pandemic and all the havoc it is wreaking. The next tick on my mental calendar of weeks we haven’t physically gathered as a church was etched with an audible sigh. But like a gentle outflowing river meeting the incoming tide of the sea, there was hope and joy beyond circumstance. Deep inside me, there is an unshakable conviction the grows out of the reality of that first Resurrection Sunday. An anthem inside of me cannot help but be voiced. Lyrics from one of my favorite songs from Citizens resonates so much:
Just want to shout it out for the world to hear it
That I’m His kid no matter what I’m feeling
I’m doubting doubts, I just cannot help believing
That I am loved no matter what
I am loved no matter what!
An artist I follow online posted an image he drew and the start of the caption was something to the effect of, “I’m glad to not gather with my church today.” It felt a lot like click-bait, and I think we’ve all grown weary of the constant click-bait these days, but I clicked. It felt so opposite to how I was feeling and I couldn’t believe he would say that. Then I read what he had to say. He made the point that Easter Sunday is often viewed as the “Super Bowl” of the church calendar. We go all out in so many ways for the church gathering on this day to celebrate. And please hear this: there is nothing inherently wrong with that. The question he planted for me to wrestle with was, What if there is something beautiful to find and celebrate in the quietness of this Easter Sunday, reminisce of the first Resurrection Sunday?
As we explored in the sermon this past weekend, the first Resurrection Sunday morning had none of the fanfare that we expect in Easter Sunday celebrations today. Jesus apparently resurrected to an initial audience of none (at least of His followers); an angel broke the news to some ladies that came with the sorrowful assumption that they would be trying to anoint the decaying body of a deceased loved one; Jesus, alive forevermore, showed up to greet these ladies and tell them to tell others; and then we hear nothing else of Jesus until later in the day as evening is approaching and He takes a walk with some disciples on the way to Emmaus.
Can you imagine the hope, the beauty, and the great joy of that day? And why? Not because of an elaborate speech by a gifted orator. Not because of the stirring arrangement of melodies and musical notes. Not because of a well produced visual spectacle. Only because of Jesus.
Again, please here me: there is nothing inherently wrong with the efforts we throw into making much of Jesus in typical gatherings through various forms. There is a very biblical basis and wisdom for doing so in proper ways. But this year, the beauty of what this Easter afforded us was that we could be quieted, isolated, and less distracted so we could enjoy an intimate encounter with the risen Jesus. To celebrate Him and Him alone!
As your pastors, we waited to begin discussing the discipline of the month for April: celebration. With the move to online gatherings and the reality of a global pandemic, it did not seem wise to introduce the discipline quite yet. But Easter was coming… the full realization of hope and joy that even death cannot take from us! We always have reason to celebrate!
Celebration is a discipline woven throughout Scripture. It may even sound odd to you to think of celebration as a discipline. The annual feasts and pilgrimages for Israel were commanded celebrations. The commands to give thanks and rejoice are innately forms of celebration. And these commands were to stand despite circumstances. Why is that? Because for the people of God, there is always reason to celebrate. That is not to ignore or make light of real sorrow and grief or to pretend, but to see that there is hope and joy to hold to in every circumstance. His name is Jesus.
We will be unpacking further what this discipline looks like in the next couple weeks, but start now. FaceTime, Zoom, etc. with your discipline practicing partner and celebrate some things together!
Grace and peace,