Thoroughly Equipped: Share the Celebration

Today’s reading includes Exodus 23:14-25:40, Matthew 24:29-51, Psalm 30:1-12, Proverbs 7:24-27

Yesterday’s reading included lots of “don’ts”. Don’t follow the crowd in doing wrong.  Don’t deny justice to your poor in their lawsuits.  Don’t accept a bribe.  And on and on and on.  Those who are skeptical may think, “Yep.  Here it comes.  Just as I thought.  Christianity is a set of rules and regulations of which I want no part.”  And the truth is, Christianity does have rules and regulations, or rather boundaries.  But boundaries are good things.  Boundaries create stability and banish confusion.  Boundaries create peace in place of disorder.  Boundaries actually satisfy our souls when we understand their purpose.  But if we think that God is just a God of “don’ts”, we don’t know Him very well.  In fact, keep reading in today’s passages and we find that God is a God of “do’s”.  Yes, many of the “do’s” are obligations, but many of the “do’s” are celebrations.  Our God is a God of celebration–  Or, to borrow the title of Tony Campolo’s book, the kingdom of God is a party.

In Exodus 23:14-19 we are introduced to three annual festivals that God said to celebrate: The Feast of Unleavened Bread, The Feast of the Harvest, and the Feast of the Ingathering.

When we get to Leviticus we will find out more details about these feasts and what they required and what they represented.  But today, I want to focus on the fact that God set these special days up as a lasting ordinance.  The feasts were about celebration.  The feasts were about remembering.  And the feasts were about looking forward.  It is significant that God called for feasts and fasts and celebration throughout the year.  There are Jewish holidays in the winter, spring, summer, and fall.  Some are somber, but all are celebratory.  So, our take away is that no matter the day, no matter the season, the matter the dark days, no matter the days filled with light and love and joy. No matter what has happened, no matter what will happen … joy comes in the morning. A celebration is right around the corner.  And through the knowledge of these days, we, too, can celebrate, remember, and look forward to the great things He has in store for us.  And, even more importantly, we can share our spirit of celebration with those around us.

When I was living in Costa Rica as a missionary, we held weekly Bible School events in a very poor refugee camp called Los Guidos.  After one of our Saturday Bible Schools, we found ourselves in the home of a precious lady named Alicia.  When she walked with her children to the great big tree in the center of sector 8, where we held our weekly program, she pulled me aside to invite us to come to her house after Bible school.  We gladly accepted the invitation, although I must confess that I was a bit nervous.  We did not know the lady very well, and at that point, we had never been invited to enter any of the dilapidated shacks, which covered the mountainside.

As soon as all of the other children had walked back to their own homes, we walked to Alicia’s home with her 3 children.  My eyes had to adjust a bit when we first entered the dirt-floor dwelling.  There was no electricity, so therefore the only light was from the doorway, and from a “window” which had been cut from the tin and wood-scrap walls.  The home was just one room, which was partitioned by sheets hanging across rope, which was attached to the ceiling.

Alicia excitedly welcomed us to her home.  I noticed that the dirt floor had been neatly swept, and all of her meager belongings were in order.  On the table, I noticed several broken glasses from several different patterns, a small plate full of saltine crackers, and a chipped pitcher of lemonade.  There were no chairs for us to sit, so we simply stood around the table and listened while she talked of her life and her love for the Lord.  Such sweet fellowship of believers we experienced that day!  She offered us the crackers and lemonade, which we received with a gratitude that had nothing to do with what was offered.  I was overcome with her pure hospitality.  Although we had been repeatedly warned against eating or drinking in that area, I took what was offered, and silently prayed the prayer that my missionary friend, Ben Pierce, had once shared with me: “Lord, I’ll get it down, if You keep it down!”

When we were thanking her for her invitation and hospitality, she joyfully responded, “Este es mi fiesta!”, “This is my party!”  A party given in honor of us. A party given with grace and elegance, yes elegance, despite the resources that she had to work with.  Such pure hospitality and generosity I have rarely, if ever, seen since that day.  And such conviction it brought to my soul.

How many times do I resist reaching out to others because my house is not perfect, or my dishes don’t match, or I don’t have time to create an extravagant meal?  And how many times do my guests leave my house feeling the joy of being honored, and the warmth of sweet fellowship.  After that day in Los Guidos, I am without excuses.  I need to share my “party”.  The kingdom of God is a party, to be shared by all with whom we are privileged to come in contact.  And scripture tells us that when we do it for “the least of these”, we do it unto Him. So whenever you reach out to anyone with a pure, loving heart, you are reaching up to Jesus. And that shows extravagant love for Him.

 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.

                                                                                                            1 Peter 4:8-10

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