I wonder how many people around here who are not connected with the Church
if asked how to describe Christianity, would readily say it is a joyous lifestyle?
I can think of all sorts of words that people might (and do) use
but I’m not sure that “joyous” is normally one them.
I wonder why not.
Time spent with the Christian church in Africa is time spent in exuberant joy.
For all the jokes about the guilt and hardness of the Jewish faith,
there is the great description of all Jewish Festivals –
“They tried to kill us, we survived, let’s eat.”
In fact there is a great story about the Jewish Festival of Tabernacles
set out in Leviticus to last 7 days, but in practice it lasts 8. Why?
Because the tradition goes that early on in the observance of the Festival,
God was having such a good time in the festivals partying,
that he asked the pilgrims to stay on another day.
Today we are starting a month of Jubillee –a month of refreshment –
And we start with the theme of a party.
The earliest record of creation in Genesis (which is the second one in the book)
Has the great line of God coming and looking for Adam,
because he wanted to spend time with him.
In the reading from Exodus,
when God is taking action to get the Hebrews out of Egypt
God says that when they are released, the way that they will mark the occasion
is a huge party.
Each of our festivals – both the ones we inherit from our Jewish heritage
and the ones that Christianity has moulded into something new
is a celebration of life, and a remembering of the wonders of God
And each week in our month of Jubillee we are hopefully getting the feel
of one of those festivals.
Today – the festival of Passover, which has become as well the festival of Communion
In the gospels it specifically talks about the time of Communion
as being a way of “remembering” Jesus.
Just like the original Passover was a way of remember God’s involvement in Exodus.
A few weeks ago, when we gathered for Alan’s funeral,
part of the importance of the time was the “Telling of the story”
The times when we heard people say
“Do you remember when Alan provided that wisdom for us just when we needed”
We did the same earlier this year with Kath Gibson:
“Do you remember the way that Kath would spend time with young kids”.
When we spend time remembering, we are refreshed, we are renewed.
Often it is a little easier to hear wisdom from others,
when we hear and celebrate the wisdom Alan provided.
Sometimes it is easier to be motivated to create time for children
when we remember and celebrate the time Kath gave.
That’s the role of the remembering in Communion, in the Passover.
Do you remember when God’s people were behind the 8 ball
and through the miracles of God, they were set free?
Do you remember when people were ganging up on a woman
because of her lifestyle, and Jesus wouldn’t condemn?
Do you remember when the man who was being condemned because of crimes
asked Jesus for companionship, and Jesus promised it straight away?
True “remembering” is not nostalgically looking to go back to the past
True “remembering” is refreshing –
“re-membering” putting together what has been very real for us
to strengthen us for today and tomorrow
Another Jewish phrase is that to celebrate is to remember.
What is it that you have to celebrate and remember?
Is it the birth of a child?
Is it the friendship of people at a time when you were particularly low?
Is it the success of something you never thought would be a success?
Is it the simplicity of the reality of a roof and a warm meal?
When the Jewish people in Jesus’ day headed to Jerusalem for their festivals
it would be mayhem – the mood was not sombre, but joyous.
As people huddled in their tents along the way to Jerusalem
the leaders – the rabbis – would be there doing party tricks, juggling, celebrating.
Because the people knew in the celebration of the festival
they were again being refreshed for living.
There is nothing quite like concentrating on the wonders of God’s involvement
throughout the years and in many circumstances
to give us a great reminder of who we are and how, ultimately, we fit in.
A celebration of faith and the signs of the hand of God
is a good reminder for a perspective of life.
We certainly aren’t unimportant, but nor are we the centre.
In Isaiah, and Psalms, and Proverbs, and Nehemiah, and Acts and John
over and over again, the scripture says that the movement of humanity with God
is to “everlasting joy”.
Do you remember when God broke in and life really picked up?
Do you remember when you were exhausted
and you got the chance to smell the roses?
Do you remember?
Then let’s eat!