07 October, 2007


OK. I absolutely have to turn off KB's Impossible Dream recording. I cannot type while enthralled. [And while I'm mentioning things KB, his session with Jon Stewart is incredible, too. I know I'm supposed to be all conservative and all, and not like ol' Jon, but the man is brilliant, funny and honest. If you didn't see him gut, fillet and grill two conservative talk show hosts some time last year (I remember neither the show, nor the hosts, but I remember he single-handedly took them off the air with his one interview) then you've never seen the power of wit. Not quite Man of LaMancha stuff, but worthy of respect.]

I cannot hear The Impossible Dream without wanting to change the world all over again. And what's more, I cannot want to change the world again without imagining a way to try. I will fail, but I wouldn't bet a stale donut against me presenting this post to my pastor before too very long. Or writing a book with Celebration as its theme.

Let me start with the back story.

I went to the opera with two young couples from the church Friday night. Puccini is a little light for me, I think, but that's not much of a surprise. Granted, most people probably think having the heroine die of TB at the end of La Boheme is anything but light, but I want tragic tragedy! If I wanted conversational opera, I'd stay home and chat with my buds. I want climactic agony, and notes that reach the depths. I grant that Puccini shifted gears quickly, within the space of even a single line going from conversational to epic in tone, but when I find a composer that stays in high gear the whole way, I'll have found true love. The fever-pitch of Impossible Dream sings right to my heart.

The interesting thing about the evening, though, was the people with whom I attended. I was dressed in my best business casual, since I own nothing else. I wish I could have been more dapper because the sisters were dolled to the nines, and pumped. Both of their guys were dressed smartly, but trepidacious. They didn't get it. Opera was to them both boring and intimidating, and they made it clear that they would rather be watching football while we the torture was still hours away.

OK, so young men are boors and act boorishly to their significant others. This is not news. I think I was able to keep their macho negativity in check and everyone enjoyed the evening, even the poor disappointed ladies. (It's really cool being the old guy.) What's more, I think lessons were learned by all.

But there's something bigger in this than just boorish guys and disappointed ladies. Those ladies were living out an important part of being human that those young men failed to perceive. When we say, "Moses," we tend to think of a certain 10 (or maybe 630-ish) commands, and that is appropriate. Still, there are two other things I wish we'd think of when we remember him, Worship and Celebration.

Worship because of the tabernacle. Every provision of God for all of history is portrayed in that tabernacle and its duties. Huge pages of Leviticus are taken up in the description of that badger-hide tent, because it was a mobile memorial of the exact ministry of heaven. Hidden within the lists of things the tabernacle did for Israel, things the priests did for the tabernacle, and things the people did with the tabernacle was everything the Father, Son, Spirit and bride are doing today and will do forever. Displayed before Israel was everything the Son would do on earth, and everything He continues to do in heaven.

The law tells us about God, but the tabernacle tells us about relating to God. The one teaches us His holiness, and the other teaches us His care. When we balance the teaching of the law and the tabernacle, we need not argue that our God was nice even in the old testament. His care cannot be missed.

Celebration because the largest portion of Israel's interaction with God was celebratory. Almost 2/7's of every obedient Israelite's life was spent celebrating. Every 7th day and every 7th year and every 7th - 7th year + 1 (every 50th year) was spent celebrating the end of God's labors and end of their own. And 7 times every single year, Israel celebrated some victory of God's, both visible and invisible. Celebrating the Passover, for example, was celebrating the moment of deliverance from Egypt. At the same time, though, it was celebrating the yet-to-come deliverance of all God's people from sin forever in the Lamb.

Dressing up for a night of high entertainment is a deep part of being humans. Celebrating each other, high art, and the Most High God all spring from the same fount of God's image within us - or could if only we had the imagination. If the Israelites could build booths to God and in their millions shout at once with upraised palm-branches to God, could we not do something high and glorious to celebrate our Ascended Lord of Life? Could we not conceive of a celebration to transcend weekly liturgies, and declare with exuberance and passion the glory of the Reachable Star?

Our churches languish because we fail to reach for God, to declare Him in all the richness we can risk. Until we relate to Him in holiness, worship and celebration together, we'll remain boorish young brothers, afraid to leave behind our veneer of machismo. We'll pass the years of our Christian walk stuck in our blue-jeans and t-shirt relationship to the Most Elegant God, hoping He'll just accept what we find courage enough to give Him.

But one liturgy's not good enough for the God of all variety, is it?

Let's find a way to reach for true celebration of Him.


tari said...

Beautiful thoughts, and a very moving plea.

tari said...

Oh...and that clip with Jon Stewart interviewing Chris Matthews about his new book was just priceless. I hardly ever agree with Jon's "politics", but I love his honesty. He's a straight shooter.

Kansas Bob said...

Thanks for the link CP. I showed the Stewart interview to my wife last night in the hospital.. just as good the second time around. You got me to relisten to the song ... still recovering and getting my composure back.

Celebration has become a somewhat overused word these days - I used to attend a church with the word in it's name. Somehow I think that we religious types have morphed the word into something weird calling unemotional staid meetings 'celebration services'. Alas, I guess it is just the nature of the religious beast.. and don't get me started on the 'w' word :)

Milly said...

First of all I’m a fan of Puccini. His life story reads like an opera. One that he could have written only with his sweet music. Give me Madam Butterfly and a box of tissues any day. I cry at the first note. I so want him to really love her like she loves him. Puccini’s operas aren’t dudes operas I suppose. I loved Don Giovanni, dudes might like that one more. Don loved the women and there is that going to hell thing. Macbeth is a good one. Reading this post made me realize my son has missed out on going and at almost 14 he needs to sit next to me at the opera. We listen to the music but I have yet to take him.

So you know others felt that Puccini wasn’t in the same class as the heavier operas. I care not one bit.
Oh wait this post isn’t about the opera. I do so get going where that’s concerned. I’ll put my beaded purse and long gloves away.

I’ll be spending some time typing a note to you as to why I’m unhappy with the lack of celebration in our hearts at my church. It’s a deep reminder of where our priorities need be.

codepoke said...

Thanks for the kind words, Tari. I'm with you on Jon. Honesty is worth an awful lot.

codepoke said...


> morphed the word into something weird calling unemotional staid meetings 'celebration services'

Believe it or not, KB, my most recent post was all down here in the comment field for a moment. Then it dawned on me that that was a little ridiculous.

I could not agree with you more that our average celebration could barely be distinguished from a public reading of the town charter. Mayhap the Lord has something better for us somewhere over the rainbow.

codepoke said...

Milly, Milly, Milly :-)

I've never seen an opera not by Puccini, so I don't know. Who is the acknowledged most over the top, romantic opera dude? (And what's the right name for an opera dude?) I would like to hear him, and compare him to Puccini.

When I listen to Les Miserables, I can't stay dry, but Puccini can have the sweetest little girls dying in the least fair of ways, and he just doesn't get to me. I expect Wagner would have gotten to me in my youth, but I think I'd be too leary of his idealism now. Surely somebody has written something that can compare to the death of Fantine? (Not that anything could ever touch "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables" - ever. That is the greatest song ever sung, and the greatest subject. But then, I've sat at empty tables and mourned the loss of much loved brothers. The funny thing is, I'll never be sure who died to whom.)

Here's praying your young man learns what it is to be at the opera with a lady in long gloves and beaded purse.

Lynne said...

Fascinating! I love the concept of really celebrating our God, and I think it's something that generic evangelicanism is very bad at (one reasone why, every so often, I have to go and get a high church Anglican fix (they may be formal to the point of stilted, but at least they appreciate the drama of worship). Some of this proposal wouldn't translate well transculturally -- I couldn't imagine a bunch of Australian churches getting into flags, for example. And I, for one, don't EVER do 7am starts!! :) (especially if I have to make time for make up, formal wear etc. When i've got time (i.e. not when i have assignments due) I'll have to think through further about how some of this stuff would translate into an Aussie setting. We do have some interchurch stuff already -- the night of the Gay mardi gras each year there's always a big rally, with heaps of singing, called Sydney Belongs to Jesus. It's held at one of theindoor olympic venues, on a Saturday night , with heaps of praise and worship and prayer for our city. . not quite a celebration, but I think there's some clues there. just pondering ..

codepoke said...


> I couldn't imagine a bunch of Australian churches getting into flags

Can you be so sure? I've only known 4 Aussie Christians, but they'd've jumped all over this. As I was typing it, I was actually picturing the Maori chant-offs, whatever they're called. (Granted, they're Kiwi, but mayhap they would apply somehow?) Perhaps picturing a rugby throw-in with dudes on each other's shoulders will help you find a more appropriately Australian style?

I know nothing of Australian women, but appealling to Australian men's instinct to team and triumph should be child's play.