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Making Room for Celebration

Lesson 14 –

Isaiah 25:6-9 NRSV

6 On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
7 And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
8 he will swallow up death forever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
9 It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Today is Easter! We celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior. Although Isaiah is not speaking of Jesus (he wasn’t even born yet!), Isaiah does give us a glimpse into why we celebrate big days in our calendar in general. In this 25th chapter of Isaiah, the prophet speaks about the Lord serving as a “refuge to the poor,” a “shelter from the rainstorm” and a “shade from the heat.” God serves as a protector from deadly conditions. In your personal devotion this week, think about some moments when you have experienced God as a protector. What kind of circumstances were those?

Today’s lesson will focus on making room for celebration. Read the scripture out loud together. When was the last time you celebrated yourself? When someone celebrated you? When you celebrated someone else?

What’s happening during this passage?
The prophet says that the Lord will have a feast of “rich food” and “well-aged wines” for all people. God will destroy the cloud that is cast over everyone and the fog. God will defeat death “forever.” Then, God will comfort everyone by wiping their faces and removing the disgrace from everyone. Above all, the people will recognize this as the Special Day they’ve all waited for. God will save them.

What do you do while you wait?
The most skilled chefs clean while they cook. Or they start the rice before they work on the meat and veggies because the rice takes the longest. The best chefs make use of their time. Likewise, we find something worthwhile to do in our time. We can wait on God while we are working. It will be a waste of our time if we just wait on salvation. As God is working, so should we!

What goes into a celebration?
In this image, God is the host of an incredible party. Rich food. Well-aged wines. And the ambiance is important too! The previous struggles will be eradicated! God will go out of the way to comfort and console the party guests! Everyone is promised a moment of care! Someone is going to wipe your tears, tell you it’s okay, remove the burden of shame, and destroy the fog over our heads. But even more, everyone will participate in this. This celebration is for “all peoples,” not just some. The guest list is expansive!

Why is it so hard for us to celebrate?
The most commonly heard phrase at a repass is, “I wish we could get together outside of funerals.” We always wish that we could spend more time together that did not revolve around death. For the last year or so, this adage has become even more eerie. Funerals are one of the few times people get to be together with other people, and even then there are serious restrictions.

We are so busy in our daily life. Work, school, family, community work, church work, shuffling back and forth to the doctor’s office. We rarely get a chance to sit down and just be, let alone celebrate. This passage reminds us of the sacredness of celebration. It is a Good thing for people to celebrate! Birthdays, weddings, random anniversaries, new babies, new moves, new businesses, all of it deserves cake and music!

What questions do you still have of this scripture? How will you commit to journeying with this text this week?

Connection to Today’s World

In Ava Duvernay’s Queen Sugar, we follow a Black family in New Orleans wrestling with land battles, racism, family struggles, and in this last season, coronavirus. Two of the main characters, Darla and Ralph Angel, have been raising their son Blue together. They had an on-again, off-again relationship. Ralph Angel had proposed to Darla, but due to the virus, they decided to hold off on a wedding. After realizing that the world needed more love and there was no better time than the present, they decided to have an impromptu wedding. They sent out a message to all their friends the same day and invited them to a socially distant, masked-up, COVID-mindful wedding. Family members from across the town looked for something yellow in their closet to match the color scheme of the day. In the midst of so much heartbreak, they decided to have a wedding in the safest way possible.

Sociologists and political scientists predict that living through this era will change the way we do weddings forever. Gone will be the days of exorbitant guest lists; you can’t invite everyone when you’re trying to reduce the spread. Gone will be the days of extravagant weddings; who can afford a $60,000 wedding when everyone is being laid off? Though our celebrations may look different these days, the heart is the same– we get to celebrate the beautiful parts of our lives with the people who matter most.

Journal: What would you like to celebrate this week? It can be as big or as small as you want. Or is there someone in your community you’d like to celebrate?

Closing: Listen to “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God,” Howard Gospel Choir

A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing
Our Helper He, amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing
For still our ancient foe doth seek to work us woe
His craft and pow’r are great, and, armed with cruel hate
On earth is not his equal

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing
Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing
Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He
The Lord of hosts His name, from age to age the same
And He must win the battle

And though this world with devils filled should threaten to undo us
We will not fear, for God hath willed His truth to triumph through us
The Prince of [Evil] grim, we tremble not for him
His rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure
One little word shall fell him

That word above all earthly pow’rs, no thanks to them, abideth
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him who with us sideth
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also
The body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still
His kingdom is forever

Dear God, we are in need of a Holy Party. It’s nice to celebrate the good moments in our lives. It makes life that much sweeter.

You want us to enjoy ourselves. With your power, you raised Jesus up and gave us the opportunity to celebrate another chance.

Throughout this week, help us to listen to every opportunity you give us to celebrate. In the sound of birds, children playing in the street, laughter in the hallway, good news at the workplace. Tune our hearts to the good things going on in our world.

In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen