[Originally published April 8, 2013]
Sometimes when Christians talk about walking by faith we mean choosing to take a step when we have no idea where we’re planting our foot or what’s going to happen when we try to pull the next foot out of the muck behind us and move it forward–except that we’ll probably have mud in our shoes.
This messy faith I know, and I got to thinking about it as we prepared for Easter, that most spectacular day of the Church’s calendar. This particular year Easter included a gorgeous feast of roast lamb for ourselves and six guests, complete with a 10:00 p.m. Saturday trip to the grocery store for a just-in-case-we-run-out bottle of wine and a new bouquet of tulips to replace the wilted ones I’d bought a day too early.
This particular year Easter also included a week of utter chaos and exhaustion, one I am still struggling to recover from as I rest at my sister’s peaceful home for a few days. On Palm Sunday the kids and I came down with yet another bug. I was stuffy and miserable and achy all week long. Miserable or not, I spent nearly 20 hours over the week, mostly during early mornings and late nights, cleaning an empty house for my landlord.
I had this nagging urge to serve spaghetti and brownies for Easter and be done with it. Neither was it only the exhaustion and preposterous schedule that enticed me to scrap all the elaborate plans. The grocery receipts I rang up for that meal were ridiculous and full of foods I never buy: fine fresh cheeses and meat way over $4/lb. And so much butter.
It felt like foolish extravagance of time and money to mark Christ’s most glorious work in this way, to surround ourselves with our friends and to feed them like royalty to boot. But I couldn’t put the words of Moses out of my head as I argued with myself over all this absurdity. In Deuteronomy 14, he conveys God’s instructions to His people regarding the tithe, requiring them to spend the money (if they weren’t able to travel to celebrate at the tabernacle) on “whatever you desire–oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves.”
God’s people are called to be a celebrating people. No doubt in lean years and among the poor, they faced the temptation to hoard that tithe for their emergency fund or health savings account; to do the prudent thing. I found myself thankful for God’s gracious, explicit commandment to throw that prudence to the wind when the occasion is right and to celebrate before Him.
So I rolled up my sleeves and mustered all the faith and joy I could find. I laughed off the $200 grocery receipt. I ironed the white linen napkins. I burned the midnight oil and I dragged my babies to church at 7:00 a.m. on Easter Sunday.
And now I am recovering, on one hand, and so is my credit card. On the other hand, I am refreshed: filled up by that joy and faith and hubbub; that week when we worked as hard as we could so we’d have something to celebrate with, to see heaven intruding on earth just a little.
In this hard world it’s not effortless and it doesn’t usually seem sensible, but it is good, so good. And in the next world it will be all that’s left.
Christ Has Died.
Christ Is Risen.
Christ Will Come Again.