Celebrate Life!

…listen to Him
Matthew 17:1-9

CelebrationMany mythical years ago, word went out that within sixty days, the southern tip of Florida was about to fall away and be covered by fifty feet of water. What to do? The scientists and the engineers and the politicians were completely baffled. The mayor of one small community decided to call together all the religious leaders in the threatened area. “You must tell us how to respond to this impending ‘Act of God,'” he challenged them. One leader said piously: “The solution is prayer. We must pray.” Another suggested that a study committee be appointed. Still another thought that evacuation was the only answer. The most learned philosopher in the group merely said, “What will be, will be.” Finally, one of the persons serving coffee spoke up. “Find out how to live under fifty feet of water!” she said. Of course! “How to live!”…

Under fifty feet of water,
above fifty feet of water,

How to live! The practical dimensions of our Faith must deal with this, day-by-challenging-day.

We recall the Creation Story in the Book of Genesis — how it moves, day-by-poetic-day, with God imagining and designing and creating something wonderful and exciting and hopeful. And at the end of each day’s creative work, God celebrates. “Look at that! Isn’t it gorgeous! Take a look!,” He calls out to a nearby angel.

Of course, the actual poetry in the Bible merely understates: AND GOD SAW THAT IT WAS GOOD!

And then, at the end of the story, when God looks out on the entire range of things, the poetry still understates: GOD SAW EVERYTHING HE HAD MADE AND IT WAS VERY GOOD!

Later, in the Old Testament, in the Book of Job, another Biblical writer gets slightly more daring, saying that in the midst of all God’s creative activity, “The morning stars sang together, and all the angels of God shouted for joy” (Job 38:7). We are part of that! And we can celebrate it! “Even though death is at work in us, life is in us,” the Apostle Paul says. And nothing — no thing, no body, nothing — can stop that life!

Author Gerald Kennedy often told the story of his visit to the office of a Bell Laboratories executive:

On the man’s desk, I saw a small wooden container the size of a cigar box. On one side of the box was a switch. When it was flipped on, a buzzing sound was heard, the lid slowly lifted and a mechanical hand emerged. Slowly and surely this hand moved down, turned off the switch and went back into the box. Then the lid came down and the buzzing stopped. The entire operation was over. Here was a machine designed to do nothing but turn itself off!

That may be an appropriate parable for a congregation that does a lot of buzzing, and succeeds only in turning itself off. In a “Sanctuary of the Turned-Off,” it will be a rare soul who finds joy in life’s possibilities. But, dear friends, in a “Sanctuary of the Turned-On,” we can affirm and we can celebrate the still undreamed of possibilities of a God who is making all things new!

The Bible opens, in the Book of Genesis, with God doing something creatively new. And it closes, in the Book of Revelation, on the same joyous note: “I am making all things new…I will wipe every tear from their eyes,” says the Lord. The eternal heart- beat of Divine Creation never stops. No cardiac arrest here! No by-passes needed here! If that’s not reason enough to celebrate life, what is?

The author of the Book of Revelation is envisioning the same blessed hands that stretched out to create the heavens, stretching out to touch your cheeks; the same blessed hands that scooped up clay from the river bed to shape a human being, cupping your face and brushing away your tears. If that’s not reason enough to celebrate life, what is?

“Death will be no more; mourning and crying will be no more,” says the Heavenly Voice in the Book of Revelation. Can you imagine that? A world with no hearses, no caskets, no morgues, no cemeteries, no tombstones, no funerals, no somber clothes — a world in which “good-bye” is a meaningless phrase. Can you imagine that? And if that little glimpse of heaven isn’t reason enough to celebrate life, what is?

That’s the Voice of God we’re hearing. It’s God Himself speaking: “Look! Envision! See, I am making all things new!”

Of course! That’s what God’s been doing all along. But it’s certainly not what we’ve been doing all along. Change is difficult for us, but change seems to be in the very nature of God as He moves ever onward through His Creation. “See, the home of God is among mortals,” says the Heavenly Voice. “He will dwell with them as their God.” God’s dwelling? God’s home? — it’s with His sons and daughters. Not on some distant cloud, not on some light-years-away planet, not at some amorphous gathering of unrecognizable ghosts — God is home among His people. And if that’s not reason enough to celebrate life, what is?

God is at home with us…wiping away tears, in and through our Christian Ministry of caring and compassion; making all things new…in and through our day-to-day creative efforts to love one another unconditionally.

The very imagery that shaped the original faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior and Redeemer moves us down to the depths of our souls as we think of the rhythm of special days in the Church:

Christmas–by His Incarnation, He honored us;

Good Friday–by His Crucifixion, He placed a value on us;

Easter–by His Resurrection, He has given us the greatest work in the world — His work.

And, if that’s not reason enough to celebrate life, we’re not doing our job.

Today’s Gospel Lesson is the story of Jesus’ miraculous “Transfiguration” — a colossal “Act of God.” Matthew tells us that…

Jesus took with Him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them, and His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became dazzling white…suddenly, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a Voice said, “This is My Son, the Beloved; with Him I am well pleased; listen to Him” (Mt. 17:1-2,5).

Listen to Him so that, through your own life of love, others may see the Glory of the God of Love shining through.

One Sunday, on the way home from Church, a little girl named Mary Lou turned to her mother and said, “Mommy, the preacher told us that God is bigger than us. Is that true?” “Yes,” mommy replied, “that’s true honey.” Then the little girl said, “The preacher told us that God lives in us. Is that true?” “Yes,” mommy replied, “that’s true honey.” “Well,” said the little girl, “if God is bigger than us and He lives in us, wouldn’t He show through?”

Yes, Mary Lou, He would show through, if only we’d listen to the Lord Jesus and learn to live the way He wants us to live — the way He wants us to love one another as He has loved us!

Under water, above water — Wherever! — love one another! Let your love shine through and you will discover the best of all possible reasons to celebrate life!

What are your thoughts about celebration?

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