You have been invited to a party. Should you go? You have not been compelled, but asked, so you have time to deliberate. Who is giving the party? What is the occasion?
Here is a party you should not attend, although the enticement of doing so may feel almost irresistible. It looks like a great party, but it is not. It begins with impatience. “When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him’” (Ex. 32:1). A new religion, a new festival, and a sumptuous meal ensue. “[Aaron] took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf” (Ex. 32:4). “[The people] rose early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel” (Ex. 32:6). We know what happened, and we know it can happen to anyone at any time. “They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen” (Rom. 1:25). The living Lord of heaven and earth is alone the source of all felicity. A party without God is to have the whole world and lose one’s soul.
Here is a party you should attend but may refuse to do so. “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son” (Matt. 22:2). Despite the honor of being invited by such a host to such an occasion, the guests would not come. Later, having been told that “everything is ready,” they made light of the invitation and returned to work and business. Worst of all, they abused and killed the servants of the king who issued the invitation.
Orthodox theologian, Alexander Schememann, has diagnosed the problem. “Feast means joy. Yet, if there is something that we — the serious, adult, and frustrated Christians of the 20th century — look at with suspicion, it is certainly joy. How can one be joyful when so many people suffer? When so many things are to be done? How can one indulge in festivals and celebrations when people expect from us ‘serious’ answers to their problems? Consciously or subconsciously, Christians have accepted the whole ethos of our joy-less and business-minded culture” (For the Life of the World, p. 36).
There is a party at which the things of this world are not the idols of our affection. We ascend as if into heaven, we go where Christ is, we lift up our hearts. Yet, this party is not a repudiation of flesh and blood, family and business. It is, instead, a heavenly joy that permeates every temporal good.
Go to the party. Put on your wedding (baptismal) garment and enter into the joy of the Lord. Give voice to every creature under heaven.
Praise the Lord, all works of the Lord: all angels, waters above the firmament, all powers, sun and moon, stars of heaven, showers and dew, winds of God, fire and heat, winter and summer, frost and cold, ice and snow, nights and days, light and darkness, lightning and clouds, mountains and hills, green things upon the earth, seas and floods, whales and all that move in the waters, fowls of the air, beast and cattle, children of humanity, people of God, spirits and souls of the righteous.
God’s world is a festival of praise!
Look It Up: A Song of Creation
Think About It: The joy of all creation.