The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘These are my appointed festivals, the appointed festivals of the LORD, which you are to proclaim as sacred assemblies.'” –Leviticus 23:1
Following today’s Scripture passage, the rest of Leviticus 23 reads like a dry listing of stoic assemblies which God’s people are required to observe — with about as much apparent joy as a nine-year-old forced to sit through a church service.
Yet if we look deeper, another picture emerges.
God calls His people to observe the festivals not out of duty, but out of a desire to connect them in celebration with the larger story of their history. In celebrating the festivals, the people were not merely remembering some foregone event long ago. They believed that as they celebrated the festival, they were actually ushered into the original event, somehow actively participating in the original event itself. The festival was not merely remembrance of what God had done in the past; it was claiming that event for the present. The God who did this in the past is the God who still does it in the present. So in the festivals, God was giving them a multi-sensory experience of His goodness and provision, both past and present.
Something else worth noting is this: often, when we think of “the appointed festivals of the LORD,” we imagine something akin to a social hall church potluck. You know the kind. But in reality, these festivals were blowout parties — celebrations — filled with food, drink, dancing and laughter. They were loud and raucous, sometimes lasting up to a week or more at a time! It was a time not to work, but to focus on the work at hand: some serious celebrating!
Ever thought about it? We serve a God who loves a good party. We serve a God who says, in essence, “Be sure to stop working and start partying… or you’ll be disobedient!”
What if Christians were known more for the celebrations we threw — epic, God-sized celebrations? What if we were known as people who really knew how to celebrate life and beauty and goodness? I wonder how that would change perceptions.
How about you? Do you struggle to see God as a God who loves a good party? Do you have rhythms and times of celebration where you reconnect yourself with the larger story of God, one that is beyond your “work” or “accomplishments” that focuses on God’s goodness?
These are not to be times of duty, but times of celebration. These are gifts from God who knows how we are wired, that we need times to be reminded of what is important, what is essential…that life is more than work.
Perhaps we might need a reminder every once in awhile. “This is to be a lasting ordinance for the generations to come, wherever you live.” (Leviticus 23:31)
Do you, your church, or your family have regular times of celebration? How do you re-connect yourself, your family, or your church with the larger story of God’s activity in this world?