Family Values: Part 1 - 'Celebration'
This Sunday, Peter Roe brings us the talk in the latest of our EBC services. We encourage you to reflect on the bible text and join us in the prayer that follows below.
Here are some questions to consider:
Acts chapter 2 verses 42 - 47
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favour of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Luke chapter 15 verses 11 - 24
Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them. “ Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. “ When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. “ The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ “ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
Prayer and Reflection:
One of the things that we human beings like to do is celebrate – getting together for some special occasion such as a birthday or anniversary. Even at times of loss we gather to celebrate and remember a life. If we can celebrate as individuals or families, why not as a church family? This week at EBC we marked an anniversary as a church - 61 years since our building opened on this site.
Some people think that church is, or should be, sober and serious: a dour, grim place of judgement, full of critical people, perhaps with an emphasis on temperance and an ascetic lifestyle. Others doubt the place of celebration (except in a formal way) in the worship and service of Almighty God.
Here at EBC, we are deadly serious about the message we have for people and the way we should live our lives, but we also recognise the freedom that Jesus gives us and the importance of celebrating together. Based on our five core values we say we want to be “a caring, committed community, celebrating and communicating effectively the love of God in Jesus Christ”.
The early church and Jesus himself are our models. In the passage in Acts, we see that the people did the serious stuff – praying, learning from the teaching of the Apostles – but they also spent time together, enjoying each other’s company, eating in one another’s homes with “glad and sincere hearts” as well as worshipping and developing a strong, generous and supportive community. Plainly they were not being dull because people were added to their number day by day.
Importantly for them and us, Jesus himself set an example of joining in with celebrating and talking about it in his teachings. Jesus kept a wedding party going by turning water into wine. You can read the story in John Chapter 2. Jesus was happy to be part of, and encourage, a celebration and in the accounts of his life we often see him involved in meals and parties, sometimes being criticised for joining in with the “wrong kind of people”. For Jesus, getting together with others and celebrating with them was as much part of his life as were prayer, teaching and caring for people.
And in his teaching, Jesus talked about the importance of celebrating together. In Luke 15 we read three stories that involve celebrating. One, has a shepherd finding a sheep that was lost, another a lady finding a coin lost from a valuable piece of jewellery. The third, is one of the two readings above. Jesus continues the story with the older brother, who comes home, hears the music and dancing and promptly complains that no-one ever killed the fatted calf and threw a party for him. Father replies by saying that everything he has will eventually come to him but for now the son who was lost has been found they have to celebrate.
All three stories end in celebration. In the first two cases, celebrating in heaven. And over what? Over one sinner who repents, a lost child found.
That is what we are about. The good news, that Jesus gave his life to restore our relationship with God and forgive us if we turn around and trust in him.
That is worth celebrating and the change in our lives, the love and freedom that following Jesus brings should make us want to celebrate.
We praise and thank you for all that you give to us and especially for Jesus, his example and his dying for us. We pray that you will fill us with your spirit of joy so that we want to celebrate all you have done for each of us and our church family. Please help us to find good and effective ways of celebrating the good news that will be honouring to you and attractive to others so that they will also find you.
We ask in Jesus’ name.
Questions to Consider
1. What things do you think made the early church attractive to so many?
2. How does Jesus encouragement of celebration make you feel about doing so?
3. We say we want to be a people of “good news”. How do you respond to the “Good News” of what Jesus has done for you?
4. What do you think church should be like? Serious or fun, or a place for both?
5. What do you think of the idea of our church being a place of celebration?
6. As we seek to be “a church that people who don’t do church love to become part of” what might that mean for the way we present ourselves?
7. What ways can you think of that we can use to celebrate the good news together?
Peter Roe, 06/06/2023