In Jerusalem, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
will spread a wonderful feast
for all the people of the world.
It will be a delicious banquet
with clear, well-aged wine and choice meat.
There he will remove the cloud of gloom,
the shadow of death that hangs over the earth.
He will swallow up death forever!
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away all tears.
He will remove forever all insults and mockery
against his land and people.
The Lord has spoken!
In that day the people will proclaim,
“This is our God!
We trusted in him, and he saved us!
This is the Lord, in whom we trusted.
Let us rejoice in the salvation he brings!”
Don't worry about what the words to this song mean and don't worry about watching the video. Just put some headphones on and enjoy the ride.
I think it's a common idea for people both inside and outside of the Christian tradition to view the religion as a killjoy.
"If you want to really enjoy life, don't become a Christian because they are going to make you follow all these strict rules that they think keep you out of hell."
"Now that I'm a Christian I need to get my act together and start disciplining myself and I know that means I'm going to have to give up a lot of the things I've loved but I gotta do it because I've turned over a new leaf now that I follow Jesus, even if it means a life of drudgery and asceticism…and no more Led Zeppelin."
If you have had either of these attitudes you are totally missing the point that Jesus was making when he announced himself to the world in a little village called Cana, at the wedding of some no-name peasants when he turned their water into wine. The Gospel of John calls it a sign that revealed his glory. That doesn't mean that we are supposed to look at this and say, "Wow! Look, that guy just did cool a magic trick. Let's follow him!" It's not the act of turning water into wine that revealed his glory and made his disciples believe in him. It's what the miracle meant. It's what the sign "counts as".
So we should ask, what does this sign mean? What does it "count as?"
This is our God.
Isaiah 25 is the answer. When Jesus keeps the party going by bringing out 600 bottles-worth of wine it's his way of saying, "That's right. I am the party! I am the generous host. I am the source of joy. I am all you seek."
The religious institution of Jesus' day hated that Jesus partied so much. They called him a glutton and a drunkard and they criticized him for hanging out with the lowlifes. It was confusing for the establishment because the rules were strict and this renegade Rabbi went around breaking all the rules. To this Jesus would have said, "You think the rules are about the rules?! This is about being truly human!"
At the same time the Roman culture could have looked at this Jewish leader and seen a backwards carpenter who, if he really wanted to party, should come join the decadence of Rome. To this Jesus would have said, "You Romans try at pleasures but you miss by a mile.
Behind door number one is strict religiosity. Behind door number two is the empty pleasures that fail to give any true meaning to life. Jesus offers us door number three, a life of faith where we follow a leader who makes more wine to keep the party going. Door three requires a new kind of imagination because it is so different from the other two doors and those are the paths we are used to going down. A life of faith is nearly incomprehensible. It's so foreign, yet, so winsome, so enticing because we've been down those other roads before and we seem to spend our lives bouncing back and forth between strict religiosity and meaningless, numbing pleasures.
I love the story Jesus tells about the two prodigal sons. One leaves home to waste his life away on the pleasures of this world. The other leaves home by staying close to the rules, strict and proper. But when the father of these two sons says, "Everything I have is yours…come join the party," he shows that they have both missed the point. The party is with the father. The father IS the party.
A life of faith in Jesus means that we no longer "need!" the pleasures of this world. In Jesus, the pleasures of this world find their proper place within wisdom, love and real joy. We are no longer enslaved to them. We no longer believe that they truly offer what they say they offer. They have lost their power.
Also, life with Jesus does not mean taking up the heavy yoke of pietistic do-goodery like, "Don't drink smoke or chew or go with girls who do." Sadly, Christianity has the reputation of being a killjoy religion with lots of (ridiculous) rules that one must do in order to get to heaven. When Jesus said, "My yoke is easy" he really meant it. Those rules are an expression of Wisdom and Love as God guides us through the uncertainty of life, teaching us how to be truly human.
When we find ourselves in the thick of the most pleasurable distractions the world can offer we need to repent that our desires are too small, that what we are really looking for cannot be found in these limited pleasures because we are infinite creatures who can only be filled to completion by The Infinite.
When we find ourselves in the drudgery of obedience we need to repent of our lack of trust that Jesus is preparing us for a party, not for a boring life of sitting on a cloud in a choir gown playing a harp (that might actually sounds like hell to some!) but of real, authentic humanity, full of wisdom and love.
I confess that I am too satisfied with the finite pleasures of this world and I confess that your yoke doesn't always seem so easy. Remind me that in your presence is the fullness of joy. Remind me that you ARE the party, that "everything I have is yours" is true for me. No more tears, no more death, no more sorrow...only feasting and wine and rejoicing in the salvation you bring. Amen.