Tag Archives: Celebration

The City of Satisfaction

One of the C.S. Lewis’ most famous points came on the heels of his talking about our pleasures. Which is something that Lewis knew something about. J.R.R. Tolkien once made fun of Lewis for what he chose to give up for Lent. He drank 3 ale’s a day at the local tavern. For Lent, C.S. Lewis decided to just drink two.*

So he’s quite the spiritual giant.

Now, Lewis’ obviously knew heartbreak and pain as well. But he also had a deep appreciation for pleasure, and it’s purposes in the world. Because there is a reason in God’s good world that things are created to bring pleasure, and we are created to enjoy certain things. But C.S. Lewis’ famous point about pleasure is that nothing truly satisfies. Every good thing leaves us hoping for more of it, or deeper experience of it. And this, Lewis says, is one of the great lessons of pleasure. That moment of unsatisfaction is actually a God-given gift pointing to something else. Something deeper.

When we approach pleasure as an end we often find ourselves battling addictions or depression or despair. Because no thing and no person can give what most of us are actually looking for. Jurgen Moltmann comes at this from another angle:

“Why have people in our modern world become so perverted? Because both consciously and unconsciously they are dominated by the fear of death. Their greed for life is really their fear of death: and the fear of death finds expression in an unbridled hunger for power. “You only live once” we are told “you might miss out on something” this hunger for pleasure for possessions for power the thirst for recognition through success and admiration-that is the perversion of modern men and women. That is their godlessness. “

The fear of death is really behind their greed for life.

But for Jesus followers, we believe that God created both us, and the very things that give us pleasure. We believe that God wired up the world in such a way as to frustrate us from time to time because as much as we’d like them to fully satisfy us, they cannot. They are sign post that point to another reality. Continue reading The City of Satisfaction

Christians and Pleasure

So I love this picture. It’s from the prohibition era, and it’s pretty self-explanatory. It’s iconic for what I believe many people think of when they think of Jesus followers. We don’t cuss or chew, or go with girls who do.

In her book, “The Kindness of God” Janet Soskice writes about how when women have their first baby they tend to feel guilty about the amount of affection that they feel toward their child. They’ve never had an experience quite like this before and so sometimes they will struggle with guilt.

She wrote about how one woman found her devotional life in ruins after her first child. So she went to three different churches because she worried about her lack of time with God. One preacher told her to get up an hour earlier than the baby to pray with God, another preacher told her to have her husband watch the baby three times a week so she could make Mass, and another told her, “Don’t worry about that right now, the church is praying for you.”

All of that sounds like decent enough advice, but…

The problem is that none of it takes into account that perhaps the best way that this woman might experience life with God is through her baby.

Did you know that when a woman nurses, her body releases doses of oxycotin? So God wired mothers up, to where when they nurse their newborn it gives them neurochemicals that produce feelings of intimacy and deep affection. So much so, that in tests on rats, mother rats choose their newborns over cocaine.

Here’s the point…we have been taught to think of pleasure has something that we should feel guilty for, but God wired us up this way. Now there are ways that we can and have abused pleasure, it can, of course, make a great servant and a horrible master. But we must never forget pleasure was God’s idea.And if we let it, it doesn’t point away from Him, in fact, it does the opposite.

Here’s a question for you to chew on for a bit: Do you think that Jesus enjoyed life? I know that it was said the Messiah would be a man of sorrows, and certainly Jesus practiced heroic ways of withdrawing from the world as well. But the question remains: Did Jesus enjoy life? Because your answer to that question, as a follower of Jesus, will shape the way you approach your own. Continue reading Christians and Pleasure

The Party Tithe

So I’ve heard (and given) quite a few sermons on generosity, specifically on giving to the community of faith that you belong to. I know that sometimes the perception of organized religion is one of a money-making business, and stories about Jesus turning over the tables in the Temple (or reading any of the prophets for that matter) help give me perspective any time I am going to talk about sharing our wealth with the local church.

But I am never going to stop talking about generosity in the context of community. I believe so much, not just in the local church, but that we are in line with the character of God the most when we are being generous.I think that’s true of our churches as well. Churches should be just as generous to the world as they hope their members are toward the church. Because I think one of the most formative thing a person, or community can do, is to give toward a common mission.

But….

There have been times in my life when I see a Christian driving a Mercedes, or going to Hawaii, or eating at an expensive restaurant, and I’ve immediately thought poorly of them. Most of the time it’s because I cannot afford to do those things. But I would never say that. I would always say that I’m offended on behalf of the poor. There are millions of people dying because of lack of access to clean water, but go ahead, enjoy your $100 steak.

I have issues, I know.

In the book of Leviticus, God is adamant about this new group of slaves learning to party. So entire book is really a party planning manual. For every season there is a feast of celebration. But none of them are as big as the Passover. It is, after all, the time of year that they are celebrating the day that everything changed. When they said no to the Pharaoh. No more bricks for God’s people. God stood up to Egypt, and when God stands up there is no army in the world that can make him sit down. So every year, the Israelites would have a huge celebration. And if you were a Jew, and  you didn’t go to the Passover party, you would be subject to the penalty of death.

Which can put a bit of a damper on the party spirit. Continue reading The Party Tithe

You’ve Got to Fight For Your Right…

So this set of blog posts kind of goes hand in hand with the previous ones I’ve written for the past few weeks. And here’s what I mean by that.

According to James Hunter, the landscape of American politics have shaped and captured the identity and imagination of most of Western Christianity. We think often in terms of changing the world to ensure that it reflects our image on the culture. So we lobby and posture to gain credibility and influence in politics, meanwhile history proves that there are much more effective ways to enact change. And they’re a lot more fun. And a lot closer to the Gospel story.

Because at the heart of the Gospel is a story about a God who is reconciling all parts of Creation back to Himself. The young and old, the rich and poor, the oppressed and the oppressor are all going to be a part of the new thing that God is doing in the age to come. There is not a single sin or a single sinner who is beyond the scope of God’s grace.

And that’s why they call it good news.

In Luke 14 and 15, within the course of two chapters there are nine different parties mentioned. They are celebrating lost things being found, separated people being reconciled, they are eating and playing music and dancing, all to the tune of the Kingdom of God. But…If you were to just read the Gospel of Luke, and then walk into your average American church you might be a bit confused.

You might find yourself wondering things like where are the feasts? Or the dancing, or for that matter, the sinners?

I read about a survey recently that asked Americans what they thought when they heard the word “Chocolate Cake” or “Heavy Cream” When the average American heard Chocolate Cake, they immediately thought “guilt,” when they heard the words Heavy Cream they immediately thought “Unhealthy.”

But then the same survey was done with the French, and they had a very different take on these words.  When French people heard Heavy Cream they thought “Whipped” and when they heard Chocolate Cake they thought, “celebration.”

In other words, when Americans think of parties and celebrations they think almost immediately of guilt. They feel bad for celebrating. But that is a foreign idea to the writers of Scripture. Continue reading You’ve Got to Fight For Your Right…

How To Throw a Party

So this Saturday I went to the new Cowboys Stadium to see my Razorbacks beat the pants off of Texas A&M in the largest stadium known to man. People were cheering like we had won the national championship, at one point I hugged several total strangers. There was a drunk, fraternity guy in front of us we nicknamed Captain Affection, because he kissed several people, hugged everyone, and I think was eventually kicked out of the stadium. I thought the game was going to be the highlight of my week.

But I was wrong.

I will never forget yesterday’s church service. Even if I tried I don’t think it’s possible.

Sometimes the power of Scripture is lost because we have developed these creative hermeneutical loopholes that make the Bible about another world. We exegete and explain away passages that don’t fit what we are comfortable with. Especially with stories about God’s goodness.

Yesterday Atchley preached on the Prodigal Son. And his main point was that as scandalous as the Father accepting the son back was, people could have probably accepted it. It was after all the Father’s son coming home. But what was truly scandalous about this story is the way that the Father accepted the son back.

He threw a party.

This Father, who’d just taken a serious hit toward his net worth, dipped into the savings once more for his youngest son and threw a party. And not just any party. It was one for the entire family, for all the servants, and the entire village. The Father fed everyone, there was music and dancing (pay attention to those words) and for a moment everything was right in the world.

And so yesterday, RHCC did more than just tell this story. We practiced it.

We passed out 4,000 noisemaking, party favors. Had the Jr. High students re-teach us how to dance to the Happy Song, and bought cake for everyone. For an hour after the assemblies you could see people eating cake and hear those annoying birthday party noisemakers.

And it sounded like gospel noises.

I think this is perhaps the main thing that our Western churches are missing. We are anemic from lack of partying. We have bought into the idea that partying is a secular thing, and have made our churches just as somber and serious as we know how. So we read the Prodigal Son as if was about something other than the unbridled joy of God’s reconciling love. We leave the partying to the people who really don’t have that much to party about.

Soren Kierkegaard spoke about our trivial parties well:

“Last night I went to a party. Everyone admired my wit and
sophistication. All agreed that I was most entertaining. And
I returned to my apartment, closed the door, held a gun in
my hands and thought about ending my life.”

I want you to think about this. Most of the time in our world, parties have a hedonistic bent to them. That is to say, we party just to celebrate ourselves. So we party about the most meaningless things. I have seen grown men cry from joy because a man ran down the field with a ball made from pigskin, and celebrate something that will not matter in one week (this doesn’t apply to the Razorbacks, that was obviously quite important).

There’s a reason that a huge chunk of Jesus parables are about banquets, or weddings, the party scenes of his day. It’s because the Scriptures are trying to paint a hope for this world that is so big, so tremendous that it’s a heresy not to party.

Because what that Father did for the Prodigal Son, God is going to do for every single molecule of creation.

God is reconciling all things to Himself.

So we eat cake to celebrate the time drawing near where no one will be hungry. We make noise to celebrate the time when justice will roll forward like roaring waters. We dance because the Shalom, our “this-world made new” hope is coming. We party, to practice.

And with each movement toward drawing all things back to Himself, Heaven celebrates.

So our churches need to stop slaving. It’s time to join the party.