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Psalm 86


How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion. O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed! For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!

(ESV)

 

 

Just Plain Fun

Monday of Pentecost 8

20 July 2015

Some years ago, a pastor who was a colleague of mine and I sat at a luncheon with other pastors who did not know either of us personally at the time. When we asked permission to join these men, they rather grudgingly gave permission and there seemed to me to be some rumbling of disapproval at the table that we had sat down with them. My friend and I struck up a conversation about theology, life, and service in the church that was marked by joy and good humor. The brothers sitting with us began to chime in and soon the whole table was laughing and kibitzing. At the end of our time together, one the men who grumbled about our joining the company said, "You guys are a lot more fun than we expected." I was mystified about this comment until my friend pointed out to me that we had the reputation for being conservative pastors and that our colleagues did not expect conservatives to have any fun or to have fun with anyone else. They are thought to be sticks-in-the-mud, dour fellows, nay-sayers, and generally no fun whatever. When we were found to be enjoyable company, despite being conservatives, this slew some stereotypes. May they rest in peace.

 

Often the world looks at Christians as spoil sports, as though Christians are trying to ruin the fun of everyone else with their rules, and talk of sin and repentance. However, the Bible does not commit us to the countenance of Grant Wood's "American Gothic;" with its pitchfork wielding, dour-faced farm couple. At times, previous generations of Christians gave some impetus to this misunderstanding by forbidding alcoholic beverages as wicked in themselves or dancing as basically satanic. When such theological certainties were perceived to be false and nonsense, it was easy to presume that all moral boundaries were a matter of the prejudices of the sour spoil-sports of a previous generation. If dancing is not sin, could it be that homosexuality might not be too?

 

Let us not reject the joy which God has granted to humans in the world, for joy too is His creature, given to man for his pleasure. A joyless life will be filled with its own mischief. The Creed still has a first article. The truth does not need to be joyless or dour. We may eat and drink together, share human company, take pleasure in storytelling, and sing with the voices created by God, all without any fear of God's judgment. Such things, when indulged with moderation, are part of what it means to be a human being in the world created by the God of Jesus Christ. Certainly, balance is supported by the moderation and good order establishing the discipline of the New Testament. Within that good order such pleasures may be shared with pagans and Christians alike.

 

If we know what we are about, we will not be contaminated by the pagans; rather we will seek to contaminate them so that they might know where true joys are to be found. By sharing with us the proximate joys of this world, the question of ultimate joy must arise for those who do not yet know it. If there are little pleasures, there must be one Source of purest pleasure, Jesus, priceless treasure. If this is so, then all we do is God's business. It is God's world; every part of it: inside and outside the church. If the joys of the table may be share with the pagan, then we might be able to introduce the pagan to the Table where Christ is the table server. If a glass of wine can give joy, then the wine that becomes the blood of life might someday give the greatest joy by leading from earthbound conversation to holy discourse on high. Sometimes it is okay for people to find out you are just plain fun.

 

John Chrysostom

 

"I am giving this advice not only to the rich, but the poor too, and chiefly to those that club together for social parties. For this is not really enjoyment or relaxation, but punishment and vengeance. For enjoyment lies not in speaking filthy things, but in talking solemnly, in being filled, not in being ready to burst. But if you think this is pleasure, show me the pleasure by the evening (once the feast is over)! You cannot! And this not to mention the mischief it leads to. At present I have only been speaking to you of the pleasure that withers away so quickly. For the party is no sooner broken up, than all that went for mirth is flown away. But when I mention the spewing, and the headaches, and the numberless disorders, and the soul's captivity, what have you to say to all this? Have we any business, because we are poor, to behave ourselves in an unseemly way too? And in saying this I do not forbid your meeting together, or taking your suppers at a common table, but to prevent your behaving in an inappropriate way, and desiring enjoyment to be really enjoyment, and not a punishment, nor a vengeance, or drunkenness and reveling. Let the Gentiles see that Christians know best how to enjoy themselves, and to enjoy in an orderly way. For it says, 'Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling' (Ps 2:11).

 

"'How then could one rejoice?' Why, by singing hymns, making prayers, introducing psalms in the place of those low songs. Thus will Christ also be at our table and fill the whole feast with blessing, when you pray, sing spiritual songs, invite the poor to partake of what is set before you, and set into order and temperance the feast. So you will make the party a Church, by hymning, in the room of ill-timed shouts and cheers, the Master of all things. And tell me not, that another custom has come to prevail. Correct what is amiss. 'So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God' (1Co 10:31). For from banquets of that sort you have evil desires, and impurities, and wives come into disrepute, and harlots in honor among you. From them come the upsetting of families and evils unnumbered, all things are turned upside down, and you have left the pure fountain and run to the conduit of mire."

John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans, 24
 
Prayer

Lord Jesus, You grace our tables with Your presence, that we might receive grace at the Table at which you are the host. Help us to find joy in You at both. Amen.

 

For President Lawrence Rast of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, that the Lord Jesus would grant him strength and wisdom

 

For Chad Smith, who was ordained to the holy ministry yesterday, that the Good Shepherd would guide and guard his work shepherding His sheep

 

For all those who speak for the unborn, that they would continue to show courage in their labors seeking the safety of little children in the womb
Art: Dürer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 

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