Summary: Learning what it means to have true celebration. Part 5 of 13 on Spiritual Disc.
Spiritual Discipline: Celebration
February 3, 2008
There was a farmer who had a neighbor who was a chronic complainer, he would always find something wrong with anything. He was a cold, wet blanket on a cold, wet night. The man had absolutely no joy within him. So the farmer decided he would find a way to make this man smile and see the good in life. So the farmer went out and bought the world’s greatest hunting dog, and trained it to do everything a person could imagine; then he invited his joyless neighbor to go hunting with him.
When they were hunting the farmer showed his neighbor how his dog could stand motionless for one hour, how his dog could pick up a scent from one mile away. There was no response by the neighbor. Finally, the farmer shot a duck, which landed in the middle of the lake. The farmer spoke to the dog, commanding the dog in a foreign language, then the dog ran to the edge of the water, stopped, then the dog walked on the surface of the water, picked up the duck, and brought the duck back to the farmer and dropped it at the farmers feet. The farmer asked and challenged his neighbor, “so, what do you think of that?” To which his neighbor replied, “Your dog can’t swim, can he?”
We all know people like that, don’t we? People who without even knowing it, or even understanding it, suck the life and joy right out of us. They’re kind of like black holes in outer space, once we enter their atmosphere, they suck us in and the joy out of us. We need to be careful to keep these people at as safe a distance as possible, so they don’t shape us into themselves.
This morning we are going to look at the 4th of the Spiritual Disciplines. The discipline of Celebration. For many people, celebration is an unknown as a Spiritual Discipline. It escapes our thinking and reasoning that we need to discipline ourselves to celebrate. I mean, shouldn’t that just be a natural part of life. Yet, we realize it is not. There are many people like that farmers neighbor who just don’t enjoy life. So, as we dig into the Spiritual Discipline of celebration the expectation is that we will use celebration as a means to help us draw closer to Christ and for us to become more like Christ.
So, what does it mean to celebrate? Is celebration, really something spiritual, which makes it a spiritual discipline?
Richard Foster tells us,
Celebration is central to all the Spiritual Disciplines. Without a joyful spirit of festivity the Disciplines become dull, death-breathing tools in the hands of modern Pharisees. Every Discipline should be characterized by carefree gaiety and a sense of thanksgiving.
Foster then adds, “Without joyous celebration to infuse the other disciplines, we will sooner or later abandon them. Joy produces energy. Joy makes us strong.”
I want to pick up on that theme for a moment. Have you ever tried to do something you really didn’t want to do? You go at it using your willpower, using all of your strength and energy, and whatever you are trying to do, it saps you of everything.
Foster’s point and I agree with him, is that without a spirit of joy, everything we try to do becomes a dull and boring means to an end. If you don’t like school or work, how much fun it is to wake up on Monday morning? And how about worship, which we will talk about at a later date, because that is also a Spiritual Discipline. How about coming to this building as a grump, with no joy, how much of yourself will you give to God.
As I work on my doctorate and spend late nights at the church, reading and writing, I find that I may come here feeling exhausted from the day, yet, once I arrive, I actually gain energy because this is something I believe in and really enjoy. I may tell you to pray for me and my family, and joke about this, but I believe in this and have found wonderful renewal in my own spiritual and preaching life.
With that in mind, we need to know that the Bible is filled with numerous passages in which God calls the people to celebrate. It seems strange that we should be commanded to celebrate, yet, maybe that is one of our issues in this life, we forget, and need to be reminded to celebrate.
In Nehemiah 8, we hear the vivid call to celebrate, as we read,
9 Then Nehemiah the governor, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who were instructing the people said to them all, "This day is sacred to the LORD your God. Do not mourn or weep." For all the people had been weeping as they listened to the words of the Law.