The kingdom of God is filled with celebration. We see this in the prophets, and later in John, as they peer into the heavens. Endless worship and shouts of 'Hallelujah, 'Glory be to God' and 'Worthy to be praised' fills the lungs of all heaven's inhabitants. Jesus himself took up this imagery. He continually spoke of himself as the 'bridegroom.' He imaged the Kingdom of God as a party and invited all to enter into such divine celebration. For Jesus, and for all who take up his invitation, kingdom life is filled with exuberance and joy. It's a wedding feast, an elaborate gala, a relentless rejoicing.
If scripture is filled with such descriptions of what life in God's kingdom is like, from where did we draw the conclusion that life with God is a bore? When did we assume that focusing our life on immersion in God's kingdom meant sequestering ourselves from all pleasures and earthily enjoyments.
Yet so often, this is the very thought we have. We see this particularly when talk turns to the dynamics of Christian discipline, or spiritual practices. After all, how could fasting be enjoyable? Doesn't cultivating a life of prayer involve one's refusal to enjoy everyday life in order to lock one's self indoors and commit to endless navel-gazing? Where is the fun in all of that?
Of course, when we add on the controversies, the back-biting, and the insults that sadly run alongside the christian community, we can see why some would conclude that God has nothing to do with fun, joy, or happiness.
Of course, as we saw above, this is not the case. The kingdom of God is a party, and eternal celebration of the grandest scale. The actives of faith, even the more disciplined ones, only serve to usher us deeper into divine joy and abundant life. As Richard Foster often explains, if the disciplines do not lead you into joy, you have missed the point.
We simply cannot expect to live our lives with any kingdom-focus if we deny the joyous experiences that God leads us into. If we are too busy trying to live the christian life that we forget to enjoy the christian life, then we have failed to truly take up Christ's invitation. The fruit of the Spirit involve love and joy, not just self control. God's presence is intimately found in those times where we laugh and sing.
What is more, the invitation to join God in God's party is to be lived out in our lives. We don't celebrate by ourselves. We engage others. We invite others. We join others. The community of faith is a community of kingdom-focused, Jesus loving, party-goers!
Where can you celebrate? What can you celebrate? Perhaps you should put down your prayer journal, or your disciplined fasting, and your times of service, and find a party? What would happen if you saw the enjoyable things in life, as ordinary as it might be, as a place in which a kingdom celebration could erupt? What if you gathered people together for no other purpose that to enjoy each other's company in the Spirit ofGod.
That is kingdom focus. That is simplicity. It is the willingness to see our lives lived in God's kingdom. And that has as much to do with our smiles and parties as it does our serious spiritual works. So look a celebration and join God's party.