Celebrate Life – January 14, 2007

Isaiah 62:1-5, John 2:1-11

January 14, 2007

Do you celebrate this life? Do you rejoice every day that you have been given the gift of life? Or do you just go about your normal routine and “just get by?”

I was meeting recently with a family about a funeral. And when I asked what kind of a service they wanted, I was told, “We believe a funeral should be all about celebrating the life of the individual.” And I was glad they said that, because I believe that too. But since then, I got to thinking, “That’s great, but what about life now?” “Do we celebrate this life?”

Some people don’t, you know. There are people in this world who don’t seem to want to celebrate life. And I’m sure you know some of them! They seem to find the dark cloud in every silver lining! And they never seem to be happy unless they’re miserable. We could all do that, you know. If we thought about it, I’m sure we could all find things to dwell on that are unpleasant!

For other people, life is simply dull. It’s drudgery. It is mundane. It’s routine. For some people in our world, life is boring. By the way, that’s a big word today, especially for kids. I hear them using that word more and more all the time! When my kids started using it, I called it “The B Word.” “Don’t tell me about the ‘B word.’” I would say. In fact, I started saying to them, “If you’re bored, who’s fault is it, yours or mine?” (They hated when I said that!)

I can’t imagine using that word when I was a kid. Sure there were boring things. Sometimes school could be less exciting than other things I would rather have been doing. But I can’t imagine ever just sitting around complaining that “I’m bored.” We did all kinds of things! We played games. We climbed trees. We went on adventures. And we had very little technology! But now we have created a generation of kids who have to be entertained. They have gadgets and technology that we couldn’t even have imagined back then. And yet, when they’re not entertained any more to the same level, “they’re bored.” And I suspect many adults are the same way!

Let me tell you. This life is so amazing! And I think it must grieve God sometimes to have made this amazing planet, with it’s wide variety of life, and amazing landscapes, and then to have people live it as though they are bored. As one author put it, “In creating the world, God seems to have been extravagantly wasteful with beauty.”

Life is amazing. It’s also very fragile. Whenever we lose someone dear to us we say, “Life is so fleeting.” Maybe at such times we have a better sense of how precious the gift of life is. Yet there are many other times when we take that gift for granted! I think we need to find ways to rediscover the joy of this life! And I’m not saying life is always has to be good for us to be happy. In fact, I am saying we don’t have to “have it all together,” we don’t have to have everything perfect in order to be enjoy life. Like the Apostle Paul, we need to learn “to be content in what ever circumstance we find ourselves”

People these days work so hard. And if you ask them why, they’ll often tell you, “So I can save for retirement.” So then you ask them, “Why are you doing that?” And they’ll often answer, “So I can enjoy life.” I’m not saying that’s bad. But I would ask them, “Aren’t you enjoying life before retirement?” Or is it all drudgery and toil until that day? Is that all “chasing after the wind” as Solomon observed? “Are you enjoying life now?” Maybe you think this is a rhetorical question. Maybe you do enjoy life now. I hope so.

Look at our story for today from John’s gospel. This story of the “Wedding at Cana.” And in John, this is the first miracle Jesus performed. And what does he do? He changes water into wine. Now, if you think about it, aren’t we just a little bit uncomfortable with him being there in the first place? Aren’t we at a loss to explain that. Some would say, “Well, his family and friends were there, so he went.” Why would we think he wouldn’t be at such an event? But we kind of do, don’t we?

What about him making the wine? Don’t we also have a problem with that being his first miracle? I’ve heard some explanations of that, too. “It was ‘ceremonial water.’” As if that made it “holy” somehow. Or “Their wine wasn’t as fermented as it is today. It wasn’t as strong.” Maybe you’ve heard those kinds of explanations. Why then would John record the words of the steward of the feast. “Every man serves the good wine first, and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine…” And it’s at that point we find out that, not only did Jesus make wine. He made good wine! But, why wouldn’t we think Jesus would have been celebrating in such a way? Why would we think that was beneath him or unspiritual in some way? But we do, don’t we? I’d like to suggest to you that this was not uncharacteristic of Jesus to be a part of such a celebration.

Now, I’m not proposing to undo all the good work of AA. I am not advocating drinking or anything like that. But I am suggesting that there’s something in the back of our minds – and even our faith – that if we aren’t working hard, if we aren’t being serious about life and faith all the time, then we aren’t taking things seriously enough. I believe Jesus celebrated this life! And I believe God wants us to celebrate this life, too!

I remember a picture I once saw of Jesus. And it was a surprising picture in a way. But it was a wonderful picture. It was surprising because it’s the only picture of Jesus I’ve ever seen where he was laughing! Why are all our pictures so serious? Why would we think it so unusual or out of character for Jesus to laugh, or to enjoy this life? Why would we think it uncharacteristic of him to celebrate this life with his friends and family?

Is it because of the serious work of the cross, with which we associate him the most? Maybe it is. But do we think that intensely serious part of his life and mission would preclude him from seeing the joy of life? I don’t! In fact, I think it would cause him to enjoy life even more, because he realized how much it cost! And that may be a big part of this idea of celebrating life! Counting the cost.

As I said, young people these days have so many things to entertain them. But it’s ironic that too many of them don’t really appreciate those things. For so many, the excitement of getting them is short lived. And before long, things that were wondrous just a few weeks before, are now starting to gather dust. They don’t appreciate their cost. And we adults do that, too, don’t we?

When I was growing up, there was a picture over the fireplace at my grandparents house. And we grandkids didn’t like it very much. It was a picture of a “society lady” from the 1920’s. And we used to call it “The ugly lady over the fireplace.” (We were rotten kids!) Later it came to my parents where it now hangs over their fireplace. Well, a few years ago, my brother did some research on the internet and he found that picture. It turns out it was an original pastel that was used for the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in the early ‘20’s. It was done by a famous artist of that time, Neysa McMein. And it was worth many thousands of dollars! Suddenly “The ugly lady over the fireplace” wasn’t so ugly any more! She was appreciated because we knew the cost. We should appreciate and celebrate this life more because we know the cost!

As you know, I often like to quote that first question of the catechism, “what is the chief end of man?” And you know the answer, “To glorify God and enjoy him forever.” Notice, it doesn’t say the chief end of man is to “Worship God forever.” It doesn’t say it’s to “learn about him.” And those things are important. It doesn’t even say it’s to “get to know him” or “to be in relationship with him” forever.” And you know how important I think that is! But it doesn’t say those things. It says “The chief end of man…” the main purpose for our existence, “is to glorify God and enjoy him – forever.” Not just when things are going right. Not just when things fall into place. Enjoy! Forever!

Paul told the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord, (when?) Always!” And that was so important for them he repeated it. “Again I will say it. Rejoice!” And then after that comes these other things – forbearance, prayer, supplication, peace… God wants us to enjoy this life he gave us. He wants us to celebrate this life. He wants us to wake up and have that “joy in the morning” each day of our lives. But the sad fact is, instead of opening our eyes and being amazed at the gift of a brand new day, too many people open their eyes and think, “Oh no. Another day! And I’ve got so much to do.” Or “Oh no. Here I go again! The same old routine.”

God wants you to celebrate this life he has given you! And that’s something we need to choose to do, isn’t it? The cares of this life will overwhelm us in a heartbeat if we let them! When Paul told the Philippians “Rejoice in the Lord,” it was in the imperative. He was telling them to rejoice – twice! That can only be obeyed by a choice to do so.

So what about us? Do we take for granted all that God has done for us? Or do we stop and see the wonder of it all? Do we see the beauty and the gift of each new day? Do we see the beauty and the good and the value in all of the people God has given us in this life? Do we think of what he has done for us in sending his son to show us his kingdom? And do we choose to celebrate all of that?

Prayer.

Eternal God, thank you for all we have in this life. Help us to see the beauty and joy in everything you have given us, no matter what the circumstances. Help us to choose to rejoice. For we pray in our savior’s name, Amen.

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