Thursday, January 28, 2010

Plodding versus dancing

Musical chairs: isn’t that a game for a five-year-old’s birthday party? Why let the kids have all the fun? It’s much more fun for adults to play and watch!

If you were born on the dark side of the moon and don’t know the rules of musical chairs, here we go. If you have 20 people playing, you need 19 chairs set up back to back. Music, live or recorded, is played while people walk or march around the 19 chairs. When the music suddenly stops, everyone scrambles to sit on a chair, one seat per human bottom. The person left standing is sent to the sidelines, and a chair is removed. This stopping and starting continues until you have two players and one chair. When the music finally stops, the seated player is the winner.

Most of the fun is actually in watching the game and its strategists, however. The players sidle slowly past the chairs, always with their “behinds” pointed at the chairs. When rounding the line of chairs, they hurry around to be near a seat just in case the music stops. This causes collisions and laughter with the folk on the opposite line of chairs.

When it was my turn to provide the devotions at our daily worship time at the ministry where I worked, I arranged for the employees to play musical chairs. Of course, we started the devotions with a hymn, some joyful scriptures, and ended as usual with prayer ministry for those who write or call in with prayer requests. But in the middle 20 minutes, we partied! At the piano, we played bits and pieces of Christian music and stopped every few moments to mix it up. Our friends laughed and cheered, and plotted how best to get that open chair—yet their “luck” ran out and they were sidelined. The winner of the game got a box of peanut butter cookies to share with coworkers later in the day. 

So often, we plod staidly through life, doing what we’re supposed to do, and what’s expected of responsible adults: color inside the lines. Stay inside the box. Act our age – or older! Remember the importance of our tasks and the calling of our ministry. 

But when we’re following Jesus, He counsels joy! Jesus rejoiced, exuberant in the Holy Spirit. “I thank you, Father, Master of heaven and earth, that you hid these things from the know-it-alls and showed them to these innocent newcomers. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way.” Luke 10:21 MSG
Jesus said to His disciples in that highly-charged week before His crucifixion, I've told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature. John 15:11 MSG

Joy? How is that possible? Does this sort of playfulness and laughter, this break from the supreme importance of taking the gospel to the world, really please the Lord? Aren’t there deadlines to be met? What about our stewardship of time and diligent work that shows our respect for financial supporters? Should we really take time away from studying prophecy or learning the way of righteousness? 

Um, yes. Pretty much. 

Make that a resounding yes!

Jeremiah the prophet was not the most cheerful of guys, and who could blame him with all the physical abuse he endured. He wrote “Lamentations,” remember. But he also recorded this message from the Lord: I will build you up again and you will be rebuilt, O Virgin Israel. Again you will take up your tambourines and go out to dance with the joyful... Then maidens will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. Jeremiah 31:4, 13 NIV

One of the many Hebrew words for rejoicing, singing, and sometimes even dancing, is “gil.” That’s a word used to describe the Lord’s strong emotion over you and me! Do not fear, O Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. Zephaniah 3:16-17 NIV

So the Savior sings and dances like a bridegroom at a wedding? Over you and me? Apparently so! Remember the verse in Luke, that He was “exuberant.” That word is defined as “effusively and almost uninhibitedly enthusiastic, abounding in vitality; extremely joyful and vigorous.” 

One final word, friends. We ask you—urge is more like it—that you keep on doing what we told you to do to please God, not in a dogged religious plod, but in a living, spirited dance. You know the guidelines we laid out for you from the Master Jesus. God wants you to live a pure life…Regarding life together and getting along with each other, you don't need me to tell you what to do. You're God-taught in these matters. Just love one another! You're already good at it; your friends all over the province of Macedonia are the evidence. Keep it up; get better and better at it. 1 Thessalonians 4:1-3, 9-10 MSG

So enjoy the fellowship, live a little, laugh it up, love one another. No plodding allowed for a little while—try that living, spirited dance! Go wild with your coworkers at lunch time, and play a rousing game of musical chairs. Play like you’re five again. Have a peanut butter cookie. It’s all good. And Jesus says it’s OK.

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