Tag Archives: Sunday

We Need More Festivals

Thus Moses declared to the people of Israel the appointed festivals of the Lord.
Leviticus 23:44 (NRSV)

For going on nearly a century, our small Iowa town has held a Tulip Festival every May. Everything stops for three days as residents pour their time and energy into the tens of thousands of visitors who descend on our community. Make no mistake, the festival is all about promotion and commerce. It’s the major fundraiser of the year for most of our community organizations. Nevertheless, I think everyone in our town would agree that the festival is much more than that. It celebrates our history, our heritage, and it promotes a strong sense of community and a spirit of service within it.

Festival is just a fun word. From the Latin word for “feast,” the root word is defined as “cheerful and jovially celebratory.” Who doesn’t want that? That’s one of the reasons Wendy and I wanted to get married on New Year’s Eve. What a great evening to celebrate our lives and love through time.

I find it interesting that God would program into His people’s calendar a series of “festivals.” At the top of the list is the weekly day of Sabbath or rest. The weekly day of rest was supposed to be a festival, but over time the religious people turned it into its own version of burdensome religious toil. Jesus got more grief from religious leaders about breaking Sabbath rules than anything else He said or did. The uptight religious people had perverted a festival of rest into a weekly religious burden. That was never its intention and Jesus knew it.

I can’t say that the institutional church and Jesus’ followers have done much better with our weekly day of worship which was moved from the Jewish sabbath on Saturday to the day of Jesus’ resurrection on Sunday. Each Sunday is supposed to be a festival of resurrection, but I wouldn’t describe the weekly mood in many churches as “festive.”

I knew a family who decided to try and instill this understanding of Sunday being a festival of Jesus’ resurrection in their young children. They began early in the week looking in anticipation of Sunday as a special day of celebration. Every Saturday night (the eve of Resurrection Day) they had a special family meal that the children helped plan during the week. Guests were invited to join them. They decorated with bright colors and had special desserts. There was a large brass chandelier fixture in their dining room with long swooping arms. At the end of the weekly Resurrection Eve dinner all of the meal participants would stand with a party popper, point it at the chandelier and pull their popper so that the colorful streamers would hit the chandelier and get caught on the arms. There the streamers would stay so that each week day the children would see the colorful remnant of their weekly feast and look forward to the next.

The family celebrated getting to worship on Sunday and celebrate the Resurrection. They planned special moments together on Sunday as well. Believe me. The day I was a guest in their home, the children couldn’t wait for their weekly Saturday night and Sunday festival.

This morning I’m thinking about the fact that we don’t do more to make personal festivals a way to mark special days, seasons, heritage, and history that is meaningful to us and our loved ones. Festivals are fun as well as meaningful. Who doesn’t love a nice feast in which to be cheerful and jovially celebratory? Let’s plan a little festival and invite our loved ones.

chapter a day banner 2015

Featured image by metku via Flickr

Urban Legend in a Small Town

source: simpleinsomnia via Flickr
source: simpleinsomnia via Flickr

Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”

He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.

My town is a fascinating place. Founded by a charismatic Pastor from the Netherlands, his talented child bride, and hundreds of his staunch Dutch Calvinist followers, I am continually amazed at how its founders continue to mold and influence our present. If you move to Pella you will likely be warned by someone not to mow your lawn on Sunday or to be prepared to face the social and religious wrath of your neighbors. I’m not sure if you can all it an urban legend in a town our size. Legends are often rooted in some truth, and at one time I know that mowing on Sunday would incur a neighbors wrath – though I’ve not found that to be the case today.

For good, or for ill, you’ll find religious conviction still plays a huge role in our community. As President of our local community theatre I get to read and respond to the letters our merry stage troupe receives each time we offend one of religion’s perturbed minions. A few years ago Wendy and I were in a play about a radio station in northern Minnesota that was run out of a corner of the local tap, called Carl & Lena’s Place for Beer. The commercials for this small station were jingles sung live on the air and, in our production, the jingles were all sung to the tune of old hymns. Apparently, some of our religious audience members were offended in “hard liquor” being served on stage and the sacrilege of the “great hymns of the faith” being parodied to sell Ole’s ice hole augers.

In my graciously worded responses, I explained that no hard liquor is served on stage (it’s usually ice tea or apple juice). I also tried to provide a history lesson. The truth is that many “great hymns of the faith” started out as bar songs which the hymn writers stole because they were catchy tunes and the they wanted to appeal to guys like Sven sitting down at Carl & Lena’s Place for Beer. In a way, we were simply paying homage to the original source of some of those hymns and besides, I did not add, it was really funny!

I’m quite sure my letter was unappreciated, and my history lesson fell to blind eyes.

Jesus was dealing with the same kind of staunch religiosity back in his day. Religion has a way of obfuscating the simple, productive intent of God’s prescriptions for life and churning them into a weighty, prohibitive volume of institutional regulations. The religious rule keepers of Jesus day were more concerned with his “working” to heal someone on the Sabbath day than they were with the fact that a paralyzed man was healed.

The truth is, I don’t mow my lawn on Sunday unless there’s some extenuating circumstance. This is not because I’m afraid of the religious wrath of my neighbors, but because I’ve come to really appreciate the quiet on Sundays. I like taking naps during the Cubs game and it’s nice not having the din of a hundred mowers disturbing me. Jesus also said in today’s chapter, “Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.” I try to respect the Sunday naps of my neighbors.


Sunday with Kev, Beck & the Kids

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In light of the craziness, it was nice to enjoy a little Sabbath rest with Kev, Beck and the kids after church. My message at Westview went okay. In 20/20 hindsight I realize that I prepped for about 60-90 minutes of material and then once I started I had to immediately beginning cutting content on the fly. The result was a bit of a meandering mess. As Wendy said of my message, “It wasn’t a home run, but but it was a solid base hit single.” My wife uses baseball metaphors. I love it. I guess the podcast will not be ready until next week. I’ll post it when I have it.

We grilled burgers for lunch and ate on the patio. It was a PERFECT summer afternoon. We were invited to their neighbor’s pool to bask in the sunshine. We enjoyed conversation, as always, and got to meet a wonderful host of new friends. A few of our new acquaintances had Pella ties, so we played Dutch Bingo for a long while and laughed at what a small world we live in.

It was a wonderful window of rest between trips and deadlines.

Chapter-a-Day Numbers 18

jeans for men
Image via Wikipedia

Make sure that God’s portion is the best and holiest of everything you get. Numbers 18:29 (MSG)

When I was a child it was a weekly customer for my family to dress in our “Sunday best” for church. Dad would put on a suit, mom a dress, and the four chidren would be dressed in our “nice clothes” for our weekly trek to Sunday School and worship. I can remember that blue jeans were an absolute no-no.

Somewhere in my high school years there was a shift in thinking. As I read God’s message seriously for the first time I realized that God was much more interested in the condition of my heart than in my Sunday wardrobe. I felt it hypocritical to dress up on the outside for church in a show of impressing God and others. What did God care if I dressed up my body if my heart was in rags?

I remember attending a different church one Sunday. I wore jeans to the service. At that time it was considered disrespectful by many people to do so. An older woman sitting in the pew in front of me turned around to introduce herself during the “meet and greet” part of the service.

“I noticed you’re wearing jeans,” she said with a smile and a wink. “Don’t worry,” she added. “It’s doesn’t matter what you wear. We’re just glad you’re here.”

Years later I still don’t really care about what others wear to church. It has been a long time since I put on a suit to attend a regular Sunday service. In fact, I would stand out if I did so. I wonder, however, if the pendulum has swung too far the other way in our hearts. I wonder if we have lost sight of the truth that God wants the best we have to give. Instead of giving God the first and best, we give God our leftovers. Perhaps our relaxed attitudes on the outside have translated into relaxed attitudes about the inside.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not advocating going back to a Sunday morning fasion show. It’s not about the clothes. It’s the attitude and condition of the heart that is still the critical question in my mind. I want God to get the best of all I have to offer, not a portion of the leftovers after I’ve squandered the rest of my time, energy and resources.

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