Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Party Pooper

Who doesn't love a good party?  My son is turning 5 in about a month and has been making special requests for his birthday for about....ummm.....11 months now.....  He has decided he wants us throw him a surprise party.  He wants me to take him for a walk and when we get back everyone yells "surprise".  I am not sure if his concept of "surprise" is a completely developed one yet.....

Rarely do we have pointless parties.  Either it is a birthday, a celebration of some event, a holiday, etc.  And the party itself becomes shaped by the specific event that is being recognized.  You don't hand out birthday presents at a Halloween parties, nor do you give everyone a Christmas present during your birthday party. 

If you are the host of a party, especially a specifically themed party, you can take great offense at people ignoring the type of party it is.  When hosting a costume party it is a bit off putting if your friend shows up without a costume because they think the idea is "dumb". 

The way in which we want things to be gives us a sense of comfort.  When people don't follow the "rules" we can tend to get frustrated and anxious.  A party is one thing, but when our sense of how life should be, or, when our plans are found thrown apart we can get very defensive and angry.

In the beginning of chapter 7 in the Gospel of John Jesus is invited to come to Judea for the Festival of the Booths.  Because that way lots of people can be impressed by him.   Every year the longest, and arguably biggest, Jewish holiday celebration was this festival(also known as Sukkot). 

Sukkot was a week long holiday where the Jews would build temporary shelters that they would dwell in and eat in for the course of the week.(this is still celebrated today, but people don't live there for a week and generally just eat a single meal during the week inside their booth)  This was to celebrate the Harvest and a reminder of the Exodus.  During the festival they would make blessings to all the ends of the earth to recognize God as sovereign over all of creation. 

The key blessing phrase they would speak was, "Blessed are you, Adonai our God, Ruler of the universe, who has sanctified us with commandments, and commanded us to dwell in the sukkah."

Jesus refuses to go along with the plan to make a big appearance at the Festival since the hearts of his brothers in encouraging him to come was not based on His divinity, but in the sense of getting a bigger following.  And Jesus plainly states that it is not yet his time.

So his brothers go on ahead of him, and Jesus "sneaks" in later.  He goes into the Temple and begins to teach.  And what does he teach...That no one lives up to the Law.  The main blessing is what?  That God's commandments(and following them) is what sanctifies people.  And Jesus says, your party is a lie.

Jesus didn't want to come to the party on the parties own terms.  He was here with a diametrically opposed purpose and message.  The Jews(and you and I) can't hope in God's law as the source of being made righteous.  We don't even live up to the standards we claim to celebrate. 

Our life is the party we design for ourselves.  We set up the decorations and the snacks in the way that is most reflective of what we want to communicate to the world.  Namely, that we are pretty ok people and we are doing just fine.  Jesus comes into your party on His own terms and says, "Who are you fooling?  You are broken, lost, hurting, and no matter the public show you make, this party simply is hiding that internally, what you claim and what is true about you are not really in alignment."

After tearing into the hypocrisy he ends with a simple question for each of us.  "Are you angry because I make a whole mans body well".  See, they want to fix themselves their own way, and Jesus says, it doesn't work.  I am here doing the work that you claim you want done, but you are angry because I am not doing it your way. 

We claim we want our lives to be a certain way.  But doing it our way isn't actually getting us there.  And Jesus says, I am the one who can do it...but guess what....it isn't going to be your way.  And we get angry.

What we have done is made an idol out of the way we want things to be done.  We claim that we want a specific result.  Whether that is peace, joy, happiness, etc.  But it turns out what we really want is not those things, but to do it our way.  We sacrifice what we claim to want on the altar of following the script we want for our lives. 

Jesus says, quit doing it your way.  I am the one who will make you whole. 

Sometimes a ruined party is a much better story.....

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