Friday, October 24, 2014

Sorrow In Celebration

Lately, I have been faced with many ministry challenges. Once again I find myself at a crossroads where I have to make a decision about the future of serving the Lord in a pastoral role as I continue to run into endless roadblocks in my efforts to fully use my gifts. The Lord has allowed me to process such issues through meditations on art work in which I can express my thoughts through my journaling. I confess that initially I did not want to journal in the midst of my pain but by the end of my writing I sensed  a grace given relief. Today I share with you a meditation on Pieter Bruegel's "The Elders Wedding Dance." The picture is somewhat on the small side so some of the details I describe are hard to detect. I recommend googling the picture to get a closer look.

"I feel joy. I am drawn to the joy taking place in the picture. It is a celebration! A celebration of life , of relationship, a celebration of union between two people and to me a union with God. The colors are bright and festive. The couple kissing may be the bride and groom, delighted that their friends and family are sharing in their joy. There seems to be no real distinction between who may be wealthy or poor. I notice two men standing with their hands behind their back. The man in black looks somewhat sad. The man in orange seems to put on a slight smile. Yet they both seem disconnected from the circle. I wonder what they may be thinking. Do they feel they don't deserve to be a part of the festivities? Are they waiting for someone to recognize them and invite them to participate? There appear to be other instances where folks around the nearby trees are being invited to participate somehow. I identify with those standing outside the circle. Somehow not feeling like I fit in. A part of the community but not really being recognized. Waiting, hoping, longing for the invitation that doesn't seem to come. Participating from the outside. Jesus, You are the Lord of the dance. You want everyone to come to the celebration just as they are, bringing only themselves. I notice the musician and ironically by his side is a weapon. It is interesting that amidst this celebration there is the potential for danger. It reminds me that the enemy is ever lurking near, especially when you are being celebrated. The need to always be ready, to put on "the full armor of God" as Paul states. The reality that there is joy mixed with sorrow in this world. There are so many different people doing so many different things. The surrounding landscape is green and full of life. The picture itself is bathed in light. It is symbolic of Your church where men and women come together without distinction, without being less than but united in Christ. But sadly there are those who remain on the outside because the church has not invited them in. That's where I remain Lord, on the outside because the church has not invited me in. There appears to be another musician in blue with eyes closed. Is he lost in the joy of the moment? Thankful that his gifts are contributing to the joy of this occasion? I know the gifts You have given me have contributed to the joy of many occasions. Even in the midst of sad occasions people have been joyful over Your word spoken. As I look again, perhaps the bridegroom and his bride are the couple in the middle of that circle of dance. Whether they are the kissing couple or the couple in the middle, there is love demonstrated on top of the joy. Are those not the first two fruit of the Spirit? (love & joy) I see You, Jesus, in the face of that couple in the middle. With tenderness, You hold the hand of Your bride, the church, joyful to be united with her. I feel Your Spirit bidding me to see myself as that bride whose hand the Savior delights in holding. Communicating that I belong in that circle of love and joy with Him, despite the other's efforts to exclude me. The bride almost seems to have a look of wonder and amazement on her face. Me, Lord? You see something in me? You see beauty? You see gift? You delight in being with me? In the midst of the joyful celebrants there is a moment of intimacy between the bridegroom and his bride. It is as if the bridegroom says, "I am surrounding you with joy because my heart for you is full of love." I am special to Him and He wants me to know it. Where Oh Lord will I find the community that invites me into the dance? Where Oh Lord is the place where the gifts we share are celebrated? Where can we be united and not divided? Yes, this painting reminds me of what the church can be, a foretaste of heaven albeit an imperfect one. Yet this is the foretaste I am drawn to, the one I delight in, the one I desire to experience. "You (Lord of the dance) prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." (Psalm 23:5-6) Amen. (italics mine) 
Pastor Sheree

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