This week in worship, Pastor Barbara finishes our worship series, “Tools to Build Your Spiritual Life” sharing the final of the Corporate Disciplines: Celebration. Each spiritual discipline that we’ve looked at through this series are connected and lead us to live a life of celebration.

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The first video below is JUST THE SERMON.
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The video below is the WHOLE SERVICE.

Living A Life of Celebration

This is the final week of our winter sermon series on Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline.  I was struck by how the discipline we are discussing today is the actual title of the book.  CELEBRATION of Discipline.  In the past several weeks we have been learning about different disciplines that should lead us to living a life of celebration.

In the past year we have lost many different celebrations that we took for granted.  How many of us were not able to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas, Birthdays, Graduations or Weddings with family and friends because of the pandemic this year?  Have any of us lost a loved one this year? Did you miss hugging people like I did?

It has been hard to see so many people be separated from their loved ones during the pandemic. Celebration of life services have been postponed for many who have passed away this past year because we crave being together on those important days.

Despite the loss of so many celebrations we can still live a life of celebration.   Just recently several of us here at BBC were blessed by doing a drive by 90th birthday celebration for Bob McKenney.  It was a beautiful sunny day which allowed us to get out of our cars when we arrived at Bob’s house. There were decorated cars, gifts, and joyous singing to Bob.

Not too long ago my sister Diane beat cancer.  She had throat cancer and had to wear this horrible mask every day when she went in for radiation so that they could target the specific spot. I am a bit claustrophobic and there is no way I  could have done what she did without sedation! She is so brave and I am so proud of her and all those who have battled cancer.  That is a REAL cause for celebration but the celebration also happened every day when we remembered how thankful we are to live in a time when this treatment is available. She trusted that God was with her every day in that journey. On both the good days and the bad days.

In the times when we are struggling we can remember the words of Nehemiah 8:10,

“The joy of the Lord is your strength”. 

We can celebrate the fact that the Lord will walk with you and carry you through the tough days.

Our final tool for today is the Toolbox. It is a reminder that we have all the tools we need to help us live a life of celebration.  When we truly learn, understand and practice the different disciplines in Richard Fosters book, our lives will be changed. We have all the directions we need to live a life of celebration in the Bible. So let’s see what God has to say about celebration.

Let’s take a look at some of the many scriptures that talk about choosing joy and celebrating.

Jesus tells us a story about a father and his two sons in Luke 15:11-32.  If you remember this is the story of the man who had two sons. The younger son decided he wanted his inheritance immediately, so the father gave it to him and he left.  The other son stayed and worked on the father’s farm. Well after the first son had squandered his inheritance, he came crawling back and begged his father to forgive him treat him as a worker since he no longer felt worthy to be called son. 

But did the father treat him that way? No.  In fact, he says to his other son who is grumbling, “But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and has come to life; he was lost and has been found.’” The father had a choice in this situation and he chose to celebrate the return of his lost son and rejoice!

I love what is said in the Renovare Spiritual Formation Bible about celebration.  It says,

“Celebration is the utter delight and joy in ourselves, our life, and our world as a result of our faith and confidence in God’s greatness, beauty and goodness.”

Galatians 5:22-23, it says

“the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. When we are living a life like Christ we demonstrate the fruit of the spirit in our life and one of those is JOY!”

There are three times in the Gospel of John when he specifically looks at joy.

Let’s look back at our scripture for today from the Gospel of John 15:10-11,

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.”  

Jesus is our example for how to live a life of celebration.

John continues in Chapter 16: 20-24 saying,

Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. On that day you will ask nothing of me. Very truly, I tell you, if you ask anything of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be complete.”

Jesus wants our joy to be complete! He wants us to be able to live a life of celebration. Jesus took time to celebrate the Passover with the Disciples. He knew that in just a few hours he was about to face the most excruciating moment of his life. He was about to experience immense suffering but still he could speak of joy to his disciples.  Jesus knew that he would see them again and at that time there would be a celebration. Sorrow will be turned into joy.

John 17:13 says,

But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.]

Even until the end Jesus is watching out for us and asking God that we may have “His Joy”.  Wow!  Can you imagine what that will be like?  I imagine the heavenly choir singing, dancing everywhere shouting joyous praise to God! Henri Nouwen says,

“Celebration is not only a part of special occasions, but an ongoing awareness that every moment is special and asks to be lifted up and recognized as a blessing from on high”.

Celebration is a spiritual discipline and one that we need to practice. So how can we practice living a life of Celebration? There are five ways that Richard Foster suggests for how we can live a life of celebration.

The first way to practice celebration is through singing, and dancing and shouting. I know this may sound foreign to some people but this is something that speaks to my soul. I love to sing and praise God through worship. Look at the book of Psalms and how often David sings for joy in praising God’s name.

Psalm 150:3-6 says,

“Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp! Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!Praise him with clanging cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that breathes praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!

Let’s look at how children celebrate. 

How do kids celebrate?  They make NOISE! When they are happy, they sing and dance.  Have you ever heard the song, “If your happy and you know it?  Are they whispering this song? NO! They sing, “If you are happy and you know it, clap your hands, stomp your feet or shout AMEN!” How about this song, “I’ve got the Joy, Joy, Joy, Joy, Down in my Heart”? Sing it with me (first verse).  We need to be like those little children who came to Jesus.  I can’t wait to have my BBC Kids back here in this building so that they can once again sing with us in worship!

The second way to practice celebration is through laughter.

I can think of many movies that make me laugh but one of my favorites is “Mary Poppins”?

Do you remember when Mary, Bert and the children went to visit Uncle Albert?  He starts singing “I love to laugh” and it is contagious, and they cannot stop laughing. Laughter is infectious and has medical benefits for us. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter allows us to intake more oxygen which benefits our organs and decreases our stress level which lowers our blood pressure.

In his book, Anatomy of an Illness, Norman Cousins discusses how he used laughter as therapy to battle a crippling connective tissue disease. He would watch old Marx Brothers movies and Candid Camera shows. Ecclesiastes 3:4 says there is, “a time to weep, a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance”.  The next time you are a little down I highly recommend looking up the American Film Institute’s 100 Top Comedy movies and find one to watch. I think you’ll be glad you did.

The third way to practice celebration is to access the creative gifts of our imagination. Do you remember the 1934 movie Miracle on 34th Street? There is a great scene between Kris Kringle (played by Edmund Gwenn) and little Susan (played by Natalie Wood) about imagination.

 “- Kris Kringle: You know what the imagination is?
– Susan Walker: Oh, sure. That’s when you see things, but they’re not really there.
– Kris Kringle: Well, that can be caused by other things, too.”

God might give you an idea, a ministry, a focus by allowing yourself to dream. When we share our gifts with others, we will bless them and that is a time to celebrate. Just look at 1 Corinthians 12 to read about the gifts of the Holy Spirit. During the past year we have all come up with creative ways to do online ministry, to do our jobs, to teach, to learn.  God always challenges us to find new ways to reach more people.

The fourth way to practice celebration is to appreciate the creativity of others. 

I remember a recent summer here at BBC when we had works of art created by those in our church congregation on display in Fellowship Hall.  It was a tangible representation of the gifts given to many sitting here today. Dwight and JoAnn Ritter painted the mural in the Children’s Lobby. I remember seeing beautiful bird carvings made out of wood by Charlie Howes and so many other creative works.  My point is we have a lot of talent to celebrate here in this church.

We can also creatively celebrate the milestones in our lives like birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, dedications and marriages. I love that in Fosters book he shared about a couple who plant a tree every year on their anniversary as a living celebration of their life together.  After this past year of pandemic we have realized how important it is to treasure our loved ones and to make time for these markers of life. Can you imagine having a living reminder of a couple’s love or maybe your best friend? Long after they are called home that forest will be tangible reminder of that relationship.

The fifth way to practice celebration is to take advantage of the festivals of our faith and celebrate. We can celebrate Christmas in many ways. In the past our church goes Christmas Caroling to seniors and shut ins and I guarantee that we are celebrating.  We have a Women’s Christmas Communion Service and as a part of that we celebrate the lives of all of those who have been called home during that past year. 

Let’s not forget that next week is Palm Sunday and the following week is Easter.  We celebrate the power of Christ’s resurrection and the fulfillment of scripture.  Because of His grace, our sins are forgiven and we have the privilege of receiving abundant joy for all the days to come. We sing for joy that Christ has taken on our sins, paid the debt and had victory over death.  Amen!  On Easter morning we will celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus either here in person or at home.

As we wrap up this sermon series, I want to thank those who were in touch with me about how this sermon series impacted them.  I want to share a few of those comments with you. One person shared how much reading Fosters book together impacted their small group.  They now have a deeper connection with each other. The way that they interact with other people has changed. They have found the disciplines helped their focus to be more outward.

Another person spoke to me about the discipline of Submission who said, “Being in control for me is both a strength and a weakness. This person said that studying submission enabled me to look at control objectively and allows me the freedom to put others first. Submission is the gateway to service.”

Another person said “during this pandemic year, with all its isolation and challenges, something has shifted within me. Richard Foster’s book has changed the direction it has set my feet. Week by week, chapter by chapter, embracing each newly understood discipline has added dimension to the relationship with my Father. The focus on knowing God and experiencing how deeply he loves me and each of us. This book has had the biggest impact on my spiritual journey since the day I decided to follow Jesus.”

These are just some of the stories and I am sure there are more out there. We would love to hear your story of how this book impacted you. Please send them to us in the office. I have read this book three times in my life and each time a different discipline has spoken to me and helped refine my journey of faith.

Finally, I want to remind you all how each spiritual discipline is connected and leads to living a life of celebration.  Foster says, “We have seen how Meditation heightens our spiritual sensitivity which, in turn, leads us into Prayer. Very soon we discover that prayer involves Fasting as an accompanying means. Informed by these three Disciplines, we can effectively move into Study which gives us discernment about ourselves and the world in which we live.

Through Simplicity we live with others in integrity. Solitude allows us to be genuinely present to people when we are with them. Through Submission we live with others without manipulation, and through Service we are a blessing to them. Confession frees us from ourselves and releases us to worship. Worship opens the door to Guidance. All the Disciplines freely exercised bring forth the doxology of Celebration.

Isn’t that amazing? We have a blueprint on how to live a life of Celebration. During this season of Lent is there a discipline that is calling you out of your comfort zone? I challenge you this year to lean into that discipline. It is easy to do the things we love but harder to work on something that makes us uncomfortable. When we choose to step out of our comfort zone in faith, we often will be blessed.

 To live a life a celebration is a choice.  God gave us free will and allows us to choose how we will live our lives.  It doesn’t mean that every day will be easy. We know that we will experience pain in this life.  We are still living through a historic pandemic.  We often get caught up in the negative experiences in life, but we can also choose to flip the narrative and remember to celebrate the blessings we have. 

We live here on Cape Cod! We have access to some of the most beautiful vistas in the world. Celebrate that the next time you are out having a walk. Have you noticed the birds singing and announcing their return? I love listening to them sing with joy. The crocuses are waking up and starting to bloom reminding us of rebirth that comes with spring each year.

Finally, remember the words of Hebrews 12:1-2,

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake ofthe joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God”.

As we leave here today, I hope you choose to live a life of celebration and remember that in the good days and bad days ahead that God will always be with us.

Questions for Reflection

Read John 15:10-11 aloud. We have clear directions on how to live a life of celebration. What is it that makes living a life of celebration difficult for you?

Pastor Barbara shared about five ways to help us live a life of celebration. Which one resonates with you and why?

Which do you like better, spontaneous bursts of joy or a planned celebration? Why?

Is there a Spiritual Disciple that you tried for the first-time while reading this book? How did it change you?

As we finish Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline, what is one discipline that you want to continue to work on in your life?  How will you incorporate it in your daily walk?

Study Guide Questions

  1. Do you enjoy God?
  2. There is a body of teaching that instructs us to praise God for all things; there is another that urges us to praise God in all things. Do you feel that the difference between these two bodies of teaching is significant? If so, why?
  3. Imagine that some close friends in your church have just received the news that their eight-year-old daughter has been killed in an automobile accident.  Should your attitude with them be, “Weep with those who weep”? Or should it be “Rejoice in the Lord always: again I say, rejoice”?
  4. Why do you think a wholesome evening of side-splitting laughter with friends does you so much good?
  5. Why do you think human beings often find celebration so difficult?
  6. Which do you like better: spontaneous burst of joy or planned expressions of celebration?  Why?
  7. If you are in a study group, would you be willing to devise together some hearty holy shout and try it out together before dismissing the meeting?
  8. How about planning a family, nonholiday celebration this year?
  9. Do you find it easy to laugh at yourself?
  10. At the close of this study, what covenant must you make with the Lord?
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