The centennial celebration at our church has been consuming a considerable amount of my attention these days. It takes a lot of planning and coordination by a lot of different people in order for a celebration like this one to take place. So first, let me extend a word of thanks to those many people who have made this celebration what it is.
In addition to thinking about our centennial celebration, I’ve also been doing a lot of reading in the Psalms lately in preparation for my next series of sermons after the centennial. This has been an interesting mixture since so many of the Psalms themselves are little sonnets of celebration. Although celebration is by no means the only note sounded in the great chorus of the Psalms, various tones of celebration do reverberate throughout the Psalter. The Psalms celebrate God, God’s mighty acts of deliverance for his people, God’s glorious artistry in creation, and the work that God does through his people as they follow God’s teaching and instruction. So many of the Psalms are verbal celebrations of life lived in God’s grace.
All of this has served to remind me of the importance of joyous celebration in the life of the Church. Genuine celebration is truly a significant part of the Christian life because when we pause to rejoice in what God has done for us, as the writers of the Psalms do, then we are overwhelmed with the various ways in which God has blessed us beyond measure. Celebration is the natural outpouring of the grace of God in our lives.
Of course, to say that the Christian life is one of celebration does not mean that every moment of the Christian life is set to the tune of angelic harps. It doesn’t mean that we should become a “happy clappy” church, a term Jess and I often use in jest to describe churches which seem to ignore the darker realities of life by just playing more cheerful worship songs. There are genuine tragedies in life, as we all know, and they should not be covered over with a fake smile and religious pretense.
The beauty of the Psalms is that they recognize that genuine happiness and celebration do not come by ignoring life’s tragedies but by embracing them as God embraces us. Celebration takes place among God’s people because we know that we do not face life’s darkest moments alone. Instead, we can give thanks because the one who has himself conquered death walks among us and richly blesses us with his words of life. That new life is what leads to our celebration.
So let us remember that, although the Christian life is a cross-shaped one, this does not make it a somber one. We can carry that cross as a symbol of our celebration because of the kingdom that it represents. Let our life together as a church be a celebration in anticipation of the new creation for which we hope.
Praise the Lord!
Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty expanse.
Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness.
Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with harp and lyre.
Praise him with timbre and dancing; praise him with stringed instruments and pipe.
Praise him with loud cymbals; praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord!