There’s a good chance that tonight after the Super Bowl is over, fans of the winning team are going to drunkenly pour out into the streets, make lots and lots of noise, maybe turn over a few cars, maybe block traffic, and generally get rowdy. The police will be called to keep the peace. The media will call it a celebration.
Maybe there’s a place for that kind of rowdiness (minus the property damage). But I’m not convinced that drinking, blowing off steam, and chest-thumping about a victory against someone else counts as much more than tribalism.
It’s clear that the writer of Psalm 98 was not immune to that kind of thinking. They point to Yahweh’s victory and “vindication” among the nations. The writer calls for celebration because of what God does in the world, and the promise that all wrongs will be corrected. That promise, made in the psalm’s closing is surely worth a celebration among those who are suffering and shackled by injustice.
But not only humans celebrate. Not only humans sing praise and make music and surrender ourselves in joy. All the earth joins in. The seas and the floods and the hills. Everything and everybody celebrates the astonishing gifts of life and the presence of the Holy in the world.
A spirit of celebration and joy emerges naturally from all the beings of creation.
All the cosmos, and all of its human inhabitants, celebrate.
A spirit of celebration dwells and moves within all things. Naturally. Freely. Flowing.
Celebration shows up throughout the scripture. Folks dance and feast and sing and play music. Jesus provides wine for a wedding feast and gets criticized for enjoying himself too much. All of Christian faith points toward celebrating new life in the world.
As a general practice, we honor accomplishments and milestones. With others, we mark births, graduations, marriages, new jobs, retirements, recovery from illness, excellence in performance or athleticism or art. And so on. That kind of honoring is celebration.
We celebrate with music and song and art and poetry and good conversation and laughter and food and dance and sometimes just basking in a circle of love.
And it’s hardly ever much of a celebration if we’re doing it alone. The speaker in today’s children’s story makes that point at the beginning: even though she’s in the desert, she’s not alone. Her surroundings provide a lot of company. Nature joins in the song. Often.
Psalm 98 (and other scriptures) and today’s story hold learning and encouragement for us. A spirit of celebration flows naturally in the world and within ourselves; we need only to be open to it. Surrender to it, even. And be open to small, daily reasons to celebrate.
We all can trust the Spirit present with us and abandon, once in a while, our reservations and self-consciousness and cynicism and see what happens. Perhaps we would find more moments of celebration to sustain us. Together. In community.
At its best, celebration is rooted in connection, and awe, joy and openness, and a humble recognition of the gifts offered to us every day within this wondrous creation that celebrates with us.
Scripture: Psalm 98
-Rev Ruth Moerdyk