We will continue this morning with our sermon series titled, Celebrate the Harvest, where we are looking at the harvest and harvest celebrations in the Bible. Last week we looked at a passage from the book of Exodus that focused on the Feast of Tabernacles or Feast of Booths. This morning, we read from the book of Deuteronomy where we find this feast again mentioned and more outlined about it.
We like to party don’t we? When you look at our culture and society, I think that’s a fair assessment. We enjoy celebrating birthdays, graduations, baptisms, anniversaries, retirements, and much more. Any major milestone or event in our lives deserves a celebration, whether big or small. We celebrate holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas and New Year’s Eve. We gather with loved ones and decorate and eat a lot of food.
We even have stores dedicated to parties. From the party stores we find within and around our town, to places like Party City where you can get all kinds of decorations and balloons and anything else you could possibly want for your event. You want a Hawaiian luau theme for your son’s graduation party? They have it. Want to have a Disney Princess theme birthday party for your daughter. Done. There is a whole industry dedicated to parties and celebrations.
So I have to wonder, what kind of person are each of you at a party? Are you the “life of the party”, right in the middle of everything with a crowd around you? Or are you the one who is busy making sure everyone else is having a great time, filling drinks and helping out wherever needed? Or perhaps you are the DJ, keeping watch over the music and making sure every gets to hear at least one of their favorites? Or are you maybe more of the wallflower or people watcher, observing others and just enjoying all the activity?
I have my guesses, and have even witnessed some of you first hand at events we have held. But there are lots of different personalities and types of people at parties and gatherings from those holding court to the storytellers to the observers. They are each different in their own ways, but they all come together to make for an enjoyable time as family or friends. And that’s why we have parties right? To have a good time. To have fun. To make memories. To spend time with those who matter to us.
Author and theologian Frederick Buechner once wrote, “The grace of God means something like: Here is your life. You might never have been, but you are because the party wouldn’t have been complete without you.” And did you know that God wants to us have a good time when we are having a celebration or a party? I mean, that’s one of the things that this passage tells us. One translation of these verses reads as, “Thou shalt rejoice in thy feast, and, because the Lord shall bless thee, thou shalt surely rejoice.”
This is saying that it is the will of God that his children should be a joyous people. Let’s think about this. In the Old Testament the people of Israel, those under God’s law, were instructed to rejoice and celebrate before God. And they did! But what about now? As God’s children living in the new covenant that comes from God’s grace in the Gospel, isn’t it our responsibility and honor to rejoice and celebrate not only at times like these feasts and traditions, but also to always rejoice. Because we have that Good News. We have that salvation found in Jesus Christ that is more appropriate than anything else to celebrate!
As much as the ancient Israelites had to celebrate in the love of God back then, look at how much more we have to celebrate now. And I don’t mean our technology or our medicine or anything like that. I mean our eternal salvation that Jesus died for and rose again after defeating death and sin. We have that new covenant of love with God that came through those saving acts of Jesus. I’ll be honest, I feel like we should be celebrating that very reality every single day.
But there is more we can take away from this passage in Deuteronomy. As we continue in verse fourteen it says, “Rejoice during your festival, you and your sons and your daughters, your male and female slaves, as well as the Levites, the strangers, the orphans, and the widows resident in your towns.” So it’s not just that we ourselves should be celebrating, but that we should be bringing others to celebrate with us. The more the merrier right?
Seriously though, when we are rejoicing in the love and grace of God ourselves, we should also be working to bring others to rejoice with us. We should be doing everything we can to help others to know the joy that we know in God. And we are called to be rejoicing in God not just because of the blessings and things we receive now in this life. No, we should also be celebrating because of that promise, that Good News – that is our future.
So here in these few verses we have two more commands or rules from God about how we celebrate. The first, to celebrate with joy and happiness the promise and hope we find in our God. And second, to share that celebration with all people and bring people to the celebration. So how do we do that? How do we take these rules given so long ago, and apply them to today? How do we live into these expectations that God has given to his children?
Well, that’s up to you. You see, as we come together to discuss the future of this congregation and the role we hope to play in our community and our world, that is just what we will be figuring out. Because if we celebrate the Good News every day of our lives, and share it with others, that is the ministry that God calls us to. And we know that, so we just need to decide exactly how we are going to do it.
How are we going to celebrate the blessings and promise of God’s love and grace? How are we going to live joyously and rejoice daily in the Good News of this new covenant? How are we going to blow the roof of this place with an outcry of celebration of God’s love for his people and his creation?
And then we must answer the question of how we are going to bring that celebration to the world. How are we going to share it with others? How are we going to invite our community into the party? How are we going to spread the joy and happiness we have in God’s love and grace throughout the world?
Are we going to shake the very foundations of this building with our cries of joy and excitement and rejoicing? Are we going to wear God’s love upon our hearts for all to see? Are we going to let God’s love shine in us to be beacons of hope for the world? Are we going to open those doors and invite the world to join us in this worship space? Or maybe we are going to go out of those doors into the world and seek out the world to share the Good News.
Whatever the plan will come to be and look like in the end, the goal, the mission is clear. We are called to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. I have asked you many times before to imagine a world where people lead their lives with love, or do something else counter to what we tend to do. Now I am asking you to imagine a world that raises a joyous sound in celebration of God’s love and grace.
Imagine it! A world-wide party based on love, acceptance, care, and joy. What would it look like if everyone knew about God and Jesus and the love for creation that led to eternal salvation? Care you picture it? Can you see the smiles on people’s faces? People of every race, every nation, every age, every gender? Can you see that beautiful image?
But that image is a little ways away yet. We are not yet there. There is much work to do and the Church needs help to do it. That is why we are coming together to plan and pray and discern what God is calling this congregation to do. We are working to understand what role we play in this great celebration that is yet to come. We are working to build the foundation for that celebration.
So we must think about what ministries we are being called to engage in. We must think about where God is pulling us. Should we be doing the same ministries, but make some adjustments? Should we be doing different ministries that are focused in a different way? Those are the kinds of questions we must begin to ask and consider.
The goal is not in question. The endgame is very clear and has been given to us by God. To make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We are called to share the celebration with everyone and bring them all to the party as we celebrate God’s love and grace for all humanity and all creation. That part of the work is done.
We must now work with God to figure out how we will get there. And if you ask me, we could not ask for a better partner to be working with. Our God wants us to be a joyous and happy people! Our God wants us to be in relationship with Him and to know His love. Our God sent His only Son to die a horrible death to win for us eternal salvation. And our God is an all-powerful God, who has always been and always will be. We will never be alone in these endeavors.
Now every week I always leave you with a challenge or a request to do something over the coming week. Well today is going to be a little different. I still have a challenge for you, but it is not just for this week. I am asking that each and every one of you take five minutes every day in prayer. But not just in your regular prayers about your life, your loved ones, or the other things you bring to God.
No I am asking for an extra five minutes each day to pray and ask God for direction for our congregation. Ask for clarity in how we can achieve God’s mission. Ask for peace that we can work together in harmony. And most of all ask for love. Love for each other and for our congregation. I ask that you do this every day from now until the end of the year.
If you start today, that’s only forty-six days. That comes out to two hundred and thirty minutes. Not even four hours between now and the end of this calendar year. If we can all do come together and dedicate that time in prayer, any time during the day that you can spare that five minutes, can you imagine what we might hear? I do not claim to know what the future will be for this congregation, but I am beyond excited to see where God is calling us and direct us to go. Won’t you join me in that excitement and celebration?