Time for Church? Time to Celebrate or be Reverent?
Devotional Thought of the day:
8 They gave an oral translation of God’s Law and explained it so that the people could understand it. 9 When the people heard what the Law required, they were so moved that they began to cry. So Nehemiah, who was the governor, Ezra, the priest and scholar of the Law, and the Levites who were explaining the Law told all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God, so you are not to mourn or cry. 10 Now go home and have a feast. Share your food and wine with those who don’t have enough. Today is holy to our Lord, so don’t be sad. The joy that the LORD gives you will make you strong.” 11 The Levites went around calming the people and telling them not to be sad on such a holy day. 12 So all the people went home and ate and drank joyfully and shared what they had with others, because they understood what had been read to them. Nehemiah 8:8-12 (TEV)
There are those that think church is a time for high reverence. For everyone to sit calmly and sedately, to not make noise. To somberly listen to the music, the sermon, play their part in the responsive readings and prayers.
And while I know we are to be in awe of God, I think the somberness of church can be taken too far. This is especially true when God is at work. At work as He reconciles and restores His people. Seeing God at work, whether it happens when God’s people are gathered together, is an awesome thing. I am not saying being irreverent, but that our definition of reverence needs to be changed, changed to include the joy of God’s love, manifested in our lives.
As people hear God’s word, things happen. This is why it is so critical that they are told, as they were in the passage above, in a way they can understand! The Holy Spirit’s work is amazing, as the Spirit breath’s life into people.
You see it in this passage, as the crowd has to be told that this day, the one God has made, is not a time for weeping and mourning. tHey heard the Law, they knew where they fell short, and hearing the law grieved them. They had a heart that was no longer stone (see Exodus 36:25) but flesh, and was still broken, damaged by the sin. Their hearts were broken because they realized how they had rebelled against God, how they had treated the special relationship He had created, where He would be their people, and He would care for them, love them, and protect Him, for He is their God.
Hearing that was painful. So much, that the priests had to go around and assure them of God’s love, and teaching them not to mourn, not to cry, this is God’s day. As they gather they are told that this is the day, He has set aside for us to rest, to be at peace, to know His love.
Not the day to mourn, not the day to dwell on the failures of our past, but the day to celebrate! You are His people! He has restored you! He is your God, you are His people, and nothing will separate you from Him.
The result is amazing! They leave the gathering and go and feast together. Even the poorest of the poor are provided for, as they celebrate His love.
IF this was the pattern before the Crucifixion, before Jesus rose from the grave. How much should it be now? For now we can explore the height, the depth, the width, the breadth of His love. Now we can realize that He has brought us to life with Christ in our Baptism.
Church, a place for mourning and tears because of our sin? Now, there are times and places for that, This is the time for a feast, for a celebration, to realize that the Lord is with us!
So make sure you don’t miss the celebration tomorrow… and when you are there, celebrate!