I'm not much of a basketball fan. I grew up wrestling, and the closest I ever got to playing basketball was that one time we almost got in a fight with the basketball team for walking on our mats. But that was years ago now. Back when you couldn't give away Auburn University basketball tickets.
But things are different now. Tonight Auburn plays in the final-four of the NCAA tournament and everyone is celebrating. It seems as though the way college boys play with their balls has made a whole town want to party. And they are partying.
But through the story of humanity people have always sought for a reason to celebrate. Some where good reasons, some were just an excuse to get down. But no matter the reason, we were created to celebrate. And that should pertain to the Church as well. But unfortunately the Church has come to look more stoic than Spirit-filled in our view of celebration.
This morning I found myself reading the ways God told His people to celebrate in the book of Deuteronomy. He wanted His people, and through His word us, to remember what He had done and celebrate it. And in these calls to celebration He also makes it clear who should come to these celebrations.
"You shall rejoice before the LORD you God, you and your sons and your daughters, your male servant and your female servant, the Levite who is within your towns, the sojourner, the fatherless, and the widow who are among you..." -Deuteronomy 16:11a
If you weren't able to pick up on who all is meant to celebrate, it was everyone. God was calling his people to remember what He had done for them, and He wanted them to celebrate it. And He wanted everyone at the party. He said this because He knew that the natural inclination of our heart would bent in one of two ways, with neither of them being good or right.
The first is that we could easily forget what God has done for us. For it is so easy, especially when we are in seasons where it seems like we can't catch a win, to forget what God has done. And because of this God Himself set up certain times, events, and rhythms for us to place in our lives as reminders of what He has done for us. We may no longer celebrate the Feast of Weeks, the festival in consideration in Deuteronomy 16, but we as the people of God come to the Communion Table. And yet, somehow in coming to the table we have made it a solemn event. But in the first few centuries of the Church people became so overjoyed at remembering what Christ had done for them they partied too much.
God made us to be people that needed celebration, yet so often nowadays we pour our joy out on other alters because we have forgotten the amazing grace that saved us. This is why Easter services at most churches has more people lying about how they are doing than reveling in the grace they have been shown. It's why the Church has become boring. It's why people skip service to catch the game or make it our to the lake. We have somehow taken the greatest invitation to party and made it look more like being placed in time-out.
The second thing that God was ensuring when he gave this command to celebrate was that everyone should be invited to the party. He wanted His people to always remember that His table was open for all people. That when we gather to celebrate the grace of God that covers us all, our doors should be open to everyone. In this description of who should be at the party we see that those of means should come, and those who are working poor, those who are like us should be there, and those who are not like us. This celebration should have those who are close to God, yet be welcoming to those who don't even know Him. And there should be special provision for those who are the downcast and rejected of society.
But to truly celebrate in this way will cost us something. But when we're honest, none of us really care about the cost of celebration. All across Auburn today there will be people who will spend too much money to throw a party to watch college boys play with balls. They will sacrifice to celebrate. And yet, in the Church we often fail to see what Jesus did as something to be celebrated.
If we did then our lives would ever look like our team was in the final four. We would be a people marked by festival and festivity. Our budgets would show that we will throw parties to gather with people who also celebrate what we celebrate. Our words would be marked by the attempt to bring people into the celebration we are a part of.
I'm not at all saying that the only thing we celebrate should be Christ. I believe that He made us how we are so that we could celebrate other things. But these other celebrations are nothing more than a shadow. For all of these other celebrations can never fully satisfy our longing to celebrate. For even if Auburn wins tonight, eventually they will lose. And then the celebration will be matched with sorrow for everyone who's joy was found in a college team.
And the same goes for everything we place our hope in. A new child is worth celebrating. But eventually that kid'll let you down. New love should be a joyful occasion, but it does not always last. Old love should be held up in the highest esteem, but eventually it will be cut when death comes. Victories and sacrifice can long be held as occasions of celebration, but given time each new empire shall go the way of Rome.
There has only ever been one thing that shall never lose it's significance. Only one love that shall never fade. Only one Kingdom that shall never fall. Only one that shall never again taste defeat.
So let us look to Jesus. Let us seek to again see what He has given as reason to celebrate. And let us do so. And when we do, let's strive to ensure that we build bigger tables and bring others into the celebration alongside us. For in the end, not doing so is sin.