All too often, people who aren’t followers of Jesus equate the church with this hilarious scene from The Princess Bride. Unfortunately, we’ve done a good job of reinforcing the stereotype.
After living in our home for a couple of years, our oldest daughter became friends with another girl in the neighborhood. When Anna told the girl where we lived, the girl replied, “Oh, you live in the party house.”
In the five years we’ve lived in our home, hundreds of people have joined us for various parties. Not potlucks. Parties. It helps that my wife easily takes on the role of being “the life.”
No one has ever called the police to shut everything down, but we do know how to have a good time.
When asked why we have so many parties, I respond, “We’re just trying to be biblical.”
Please join me as we delve a little deeper into today’s topic!
INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS
Leviticus 22:17-33. Reading this section about God’s command to give him the best of the people’s flocks, rather than the leftovers, causes me to ask myself, Do I give God my best—or my leftovers?
But this also brings me back to Jesus, the only true, unblemished sacrifice. His once-for-all sacrifice enables us to experience an intimate relationship with God despite our blemishes and uncleanness.
Leviticus 23. Sacred assemblies were national gatherings of public, corporate worship (verse 3).
Since this chapter lists the religious festivals in the Hebrew calendar, I’ll give you a quick summary of their significance:
Passover commemorated Israel’s departure from Egypt, prompted by the last plague when the death angel “passed over” the houses of the Israelites, but killed the firstborn Egyptian males of every family and flock.
The Feast of Unleavened Bread marked the beginning of the barley harvest (March-April). Unleavened bread was made from the newly harvested grain without adding yeast and was celebrated as the first sign of coming harvests that year.
During this harvest festival, the people brought the Firstfruits of their harvest to the priest who then waved the sheaf of grain before the God to draw his attention to the sacrifice. This was an acknowledgement that their harvest came from God and belonged to him.
The Feast of Weeks, also known as Pentecost, was celebrated seven weeks after the beginning of harvest. The significance of the harvest and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost in Acts 2 is inescapable and exciting to explore.
The Feast of Trumpets commemorated the covenant between God and his people. It lasted ten days and concluded with the Day of Atonement, which observed God’s forgiveness of Israel. For good reason, it later became the Jewish New year.
The Feast of Tabernacles coincided with the final harvest in the Fall, just prior to the rainy season. The festival reminded the people of the forty years that they wandered in the wilderness. To take them back in time, they lived in booths during the seven day celebration.
Mark 9:33-37. Children in Jesus’ day had no rights. They were powerless, needy, and reliant on their parents. Jesus said that when we love people who will never be able to repay us—like little children—we’re really loving him.
Mark 9:42-50. This is a really challenging passage. In it, Jesus tells us to remove anything that might cause us to sin. While we can’t remove every temptation–for example, I can’t control the sales ads in the paper (if I’m a shopoholic)–I know I can do better at eliminating unhealthy influences.
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THE WORD MADE FRESH
Christians aren’t known for having a good time. In fact, the most fun some churches allow comes in a covered dish with tater tots on top.
But take a close look at the list of required festivals in Leviticus 23. What does it tell us about God?
He likes to party. From my initial count, God required his chosen people to take the day off and celebrate a minimum of 31 days a year!
And God was just getting started.
Just look at Jesus. He performed his first miracle by turning water into wine at a wedding so the fun could continue. He was also known for hanging out with a pretty rough crowd at times (Mark 2:15). Undoubtedly, they were much more fun to hang out with than the Pharisees. In fact, Jesus said this about himself: “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and “sinners.” ’ But wisdom is proved right by her actions” (Matthew 11:19).
Jesus surely wasn’t accused of being a drunkard for going to bed early on a Saturday night.
The early church followed Jesus’ example by regularly hosting love feasts. Rather than distribute a small paper-like wafer and a little cuplet of grape juice to partake of the body and blood of Jesus, the early believers held a community-wide meal.
All too often, it seems like the church is so concerned about not having too much fun that we guarantee we won’t have enough.
But this simply goes against solid biblical principles.
Of course, I’m not advocating wild drunkenness and carousing—God still wants us to live holy lives. But somewhere along the way, I think the church has forgotten how to have a good time.
We of all people, have something (and someone) to celebrate.
- What spoke to you in today’s reading?
- Do you agree that Christians aren’t known for having a good time? Why or why not?
- Why would God command his people to celebrate? Do you celebrate to the extent that God commands it? Why or why not?
- If you followed Jesus’ command to remove anything that causes you to sin, what would you need to eliminate?
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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.