Turn Out the Lights, the Party’s Over

You may have heard of the young Catholic monk who was assigned to copying ancient manuscripts in the cellar of the monastery library. He worked tirelessly, straining his eyes and consulting lexicons and dictionaries to correctly transcribe and translate each parchment. He climbed the stars each evening exhausted and ink stained.  His brothers began to worry about him.

Then one day they heard a blood-curdling scream rise from the cellar. They rushed to the top of the stairs. The young monk raced up and dropped to his knees on the top stair. With a strength powered by anguish, he tore his robe and wailed, “The word is ‘celebrate,’ C-E-L-E-B-R-A-T-E.”

All the other monks dropped to their knees and wept with him.

A motto that can sometimes describe how many of us view and live the Christian life is the one sports announcer Don Meredith sang near the end of many Monday Night Football games, “Turn out the lights, the party’s over.”

Yet, God spends a lot of time mandating his people to  celebrate feasts, festivals, celebrations, and–well–parties.

Are we guilty of thinking that the faith life amounts to turning out the lights and shutting down the party? I know at times I am.

Eugene C. Scott joins Mike in writing A Daily Bible Conversation twice a week.

TODAY’S READING (click here to view today’s reading online)

2 Chronicles 31:1-36:23

1 Corinthians 1:1-17

Psalm 27:1-6

Proverbs 20:20-21

INSIGHTS AND EXPLANATIONS

2 Chronicles 31:1-36:23: To a large extent Israel has ceased to follow and serve the Lord. And in consequence God allows other kings and nations to rule and subjugate them. This brings up an age-old question, why would anyone choose to serve lifeless objects and ideas rather than the living, loving Lord of all? The answer lies in the heart of each of us.

But Chronicles ends hinting that even when we give up on God, God does not give up us. If God’s people will not respond to him, Cyrus, the pagan king of Persia will. The story is is not over.

1 Corinthians 1:1-17: 1 Corinthians is a misunderstood and often misused book. It has become a modern proof text for and against–mostly for–belief in miraculous spiritual gifts. Not to mention 1 Corinthians 13 becoming the most common wedding reading. But that is only scratching the surface of this brilliant, painfully honest–sometimes brutal–letter to the church that had formed and was struggling to define itself in the ancient Roman city of Corinth.

If not filled with wedding poetry and descriptions of other worldly gifts, what is this letter all about? Paul lays it out in verse 13 of chapter 1. “Is Christ divided?” he asks the Corinthian Christians. Thus is the underlying message of this letter. Our sister and brotherhood in Christ unites, not divides.

Paul addresses several divisions the Corinthians boasted of. As we read through this letter, let’s ask what as the modern bride of Christ, we have learned or failed to learn about unity in Christ. What divides us today?

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THE WORD MADE FRESH

Christianity and Judaism have long been accused of being monkish, dour and dreadfully serious. And rightly so. Not only have both faiths fostered movements such as the ancient and desert-bound Essenes and the somber new-world Puritans, but we are dealing with real life and death issues, not to mention life after death issues. This is rather serious business.

Yet feasts, festivals, and parties comprise a large part of what God expects his people to do together. Old Testament worship is often prescribed and described as celebration. Can you imagine how bustling and noisy and alive was worship in the days of the Tabernacle and Temple? Kids, fathers, mothers, soldiers, shepherds, birds, goats, priests, smoke, bells, songs, laughter, shouting, and teachers mingled in the courts all seeking God and his forgiveness. Compare that with our often silent, meditative, somber approach to worship.

It’s as if we are saying, “Shhh, God may be napping.”

Jesus seems to advocate this party mentality too. He describes heaven and the kingdom as a party. And despite our erroneous portrait of him as some depressed British guy, Jesus used humor often and moved comfortably in noise and celebration. He even threw a party for his last meal with his disciples. They did not eat only bread, nor drink grape juice.

This last section of Chronicles highlights this party mentality as well. Josiah brings Israel back to God and throws a Passover party. And it is an elaborate one. The whole nation is involved.

Then something we have seen before and very sad happens. Josiah and Israel stop celebrating. He is killed and the people turn away from God. Turn out the lights, the party’s over.

As I read this section, I wondered if there is not a correlation between our inability to celebrate God and our slow movement away from obedience to God. Laughter and noise and celebration, especially together with loved ones, are healing and motivating. Yet we consider these things frivolous.

When I was a new follower of Christ, as a teenager, I struggled to break away from the drinking and drug party scene. I had heard that Jesus went everywhere with me and when I was partying, he was there and was probably not enjoying the party. That was all true. But his lack of joy came from my self-destructive behavior not my desire to enjoy life and celebrate. Interestingly enough, I truly began to grow and live in my faith when I found a group of friends who knew how to love and celebrate God. We throw a mean party.

Today let’s turn on the lights, the party’s just started!

  1. What divides us today?
  2. What’s the best party you’ve ever been to?

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Eugene co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, CO and writes a blog eugenesgodsightings.blogspot.com

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