Come, celebrate! This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. This is what the psalmist in Psalm 118 invites us to do. Rejoice! Party! Have fun! In a few weeks we will all meet and celebrate our first joint worship service with St. AuV. We will get together, sing, worship, and most of all eat and drink.
Aren’t the Israelites doing the same? They are also celebrating. They feast, sing and worship. And they are celebrating God in the midst of uncertainty and fear. And still God is getting angry with them. Why? Aren’t the Israelites showing good spirits in the middle of difficult times? What is so wrong about their celebration? The calf?
In the ancient world gods were depicted by pictures or statues of animals, mountains or trees. And the sign of the God of the Israelites was a calf or bull. What is wrong with having a symbol of God around when the person, Moses, who always spoke with God, is seemingly lost somewhere on Mount Sinai?
Don’t we do the same? We have symbols of God all around us. We have the cross, that reminds us of Jesus and his death and resurrection for our sake. We have the altar that reminds us of the table Jesus and his disciples sat at during their last supper. We have candles, a font, stained glass windows and even special clothing that reminds us of our baptism.
Do we have to get it of those symbols as well? If a cross is OK, why isn’t the calf?
The problem is not in the symbol but how we use it. Did you hear what Aaron was saying: “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.” (The translation here is a bit misleading. The Hebrew word for God elohim can be both singular or plural. So Aaron could have said: “These are your gods!” or “This is your God!” Since they only have one calf, it probably means: This is your God!) But is the calf their - and our God? Is the cross, the altar or the pulpit our God? Is this building our God?
We can easily fall into the same trap as the Israelites. We know this building isn’t our God. But sometimes the upkeep of it takes so much of our strength, money and time that it almost feels as if we are serving this building instead of a living God. (For which this house with its furniture is just a reminder and symbol.) We can confuse our symbols that remind us of God for God Godself. And so we can get upset when things change. Change like the one we are experiencing right now. A few weeks ago I came down from the pulpit and used the music stand for preaching. That was a change. And today there is even more change. The pulpit is moved. Moved from the place we were used to see it for so long. This change will help us to remember that it is the living God who cares for us and not the symbols we have around us that point us to God. But the change is doing even more: the change enables us to hear God’s live-giving words in our midst. Instead of being far away and removed from you, the pulpit and God’s word are now closer to you. God’s word is in our midst instead of being removed from us. Isn’t that a wonderful symbol?
We tend to build golden calves and confuse them with the life-giving God. We yearn for power, money, new cars, better houses and fancier clothes. We hope they will be able to give us the life we want. We hope our money, power and possessions will secure our today and pave us a smooth future. But the financial crisis showed us that all those things we deemed to be secure just deliver an illusion of security.
And sometimes we know that God is our only security and life-giver. And so we want to do things that are pleasing to God. But instead of following God’s agenda, we tend to follow our own. 9 Years ago we witnessed the terror attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. This was not God’s work or will. God does not ask any of us to abuse people, to kill people or to mistreat other religions. God does not call us to terror and war and God does also not call us to burn the Kor-an as an act of revenge. Our fears and our feelings of insecurity are leading us to it instead.
But what is God calling us to? Instead of living a life marked by voilence God’s invites us to a life of feasting. And this is a special fest! Instead of celebrating the golden calf of those things we deem important Jesus sits down with the sinners, outsiders, and disenfranchised and celebrates life with them. Jesus is not just sitting down with the sinner in all of us but with those not accepted by society. Despised tax collectors, prostitutes,the homeless, and those from other religions than our own found a seat at Jesus’s table.
Could we do the same? Could we sit down and feast with those on the edge of our society? We have a huge and beautiful kitchen. Have we ever thought about using it to feed the hungry and needy around us? We have beautiful green land outside. Have we ever thought about using it as a community garden to plant food for those who hunger?
God invites us today to go out and feast with those in need. We all have already been found by God. We are the one coin, the one sheep that was lost. We have been found, together with Jesus on that cross. And we have been found with the resurrected Christ on Easter. God has given us a new life. A life that is connected with all of God’s children. Those already safe in the barn and those still list in the wilderness. And because of this gift of new life we can reach out to those still lost. We can share God’s grace, love and care with all people: those we know, love and cherish and those we tend to overlook. We are free to give up our golden calves and celebrate the living God in the only way we can and know: by serving our brothers and sisters wherever we meet them.
We will feast today: at this table. We will come and celebrate forgiveness and new life. We will meet Jesus in bread and wine and will be strengthened by God’s love. And when we go out we are invited to feast even more!
We can feast, because like to the Israelites, God has shown mercy to us. We can let go of our golden calves because we have been found!
So come now! Today is indeed the day the Lord has made. Now let us rejoice and be glad in it!