Today I thought it would be more beneficial for us to experience the sermon than just listen to it so we have been celebrating Vacation Bible School because celebration is an important principle of leadership. While some people may think it’s a waste of time, energy and resources to celebrate when we have accomplished something wonderful in our lives, businesses, families or church – it’s not. Celebrating is important and as leaders we need to learn how to celebrate and what real God-honoring celebration is all about. There are three parts of true celebration that we have experienced today and these three things need to be part of every celebration: Savoring the achievement, Honoring the work of others, Praising God
These three components of celebration are found in one of the great celebration stories in the Bible, the story of Nehemiah who organized a huge celebration after they rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem. Nehemiah was a man who used the position and influence he had as a cup-bearer to the king to ask the king of permission and resources to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem which had been destroyed during a war. Nehemiah gathered materials and people and even though they faced strong opposition from their enemy, together they rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem – which was a huge accomplishment.
After seeing the walls of Jerusalem myself this year, it added a whole new dimension to this story.
|Walls of Jerusalem|
While these aren’t the walls Nehemiah helped rebuild because those walls were torn down later in history, just seeing the terrain of the area, and the size and scope of the city made me realize that what Nehemiah accomplished was significant and important. The walls were needed to protect people so they could return to Jerusalem, live in safety, rebuild the Temple and establish worship and life for the people of Israel.
Once Nehemiah completed the project it says that they spent time celebrating their work. Nehemiah called together musicians and formed two choirs and then led all the men to the top of the walls where they surrounded the city and sang songs of praise. The women and children sang from inside the walls and when they all gathered together it says that the sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away. Not only was there singing but God’s word was read and the stories of how God cared for and provided for his people were shared and remembered and then Nehemiah told the people, go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks and send some to those who have nothing for this day is sacred to our Lord. Do not grieve for the joy of the Lord is your strength. (Nehemiah 8:10)
What Nehemiah did was have the people savor their achievement by taking the time to stop and reflect on what they had done and this helped them see how their lives and work was just an ongoing part of the larger work of God. What God started when he led his people out of slavery and through the Red Sea and into the promised land was continuing on in their lives. They are part of God’s work and movement in the world and taking the time to reflect on this reminded them that God was still with them and for them. By savoring this moment they remembered how God had been with them in the past and how God would be with them in the future.
This is what it means to savor the achievement. We need to stop and reflect on what we have done, where we have come from and where we are going. Whether it is as a business or family, church or community – we are all part of something larger than ourselves and it is when we stop to savor the work we have done that we begin to see that. These times of joyous reflection helps us see how far we have come and it gives us the energy and encouragement to keep going – after all, why would we want to stop now.
Seeing the joy and energy of children this week, why would we want to stop now – we need to keep going! Raising over $2,000 for a school is Sierra Leone is fantastic, why wouldn’t we want to keep going. Think what God can do in us if He did this in a few days! Savoring the achievement helps us not only tell the story of what God is doing in us and through us but it helps keeps us going.
Celebration also honors the work of others and Nehemiah did this. In fact, I can guarantee that Nehemiah 12 will never be read in worship because there are over 100 names listed and I can’t and wouldn’t try to pronounce any of them, but by listing these names Nehemiah is raising up the work of the people. Nehemiah honors the work of others and makes sure they are part of the celebration. For Nehemiah, the celebration isn’t about what he has done – it is about what others have done and will do. He names workers, singers, choirs and those who will lead God’s people in the future. He names families and clans and those who will return to the city to help rebuild the Temple and storehouses so life can resume in Jerusalem. Nehemiah is honoring the work of others and that needs to be part of our celebration.
We have done that today with VBS , but now let me honor all of you by saying that you all support this work through your prayers, money, patience, smiles, enthusiasm and encouragement. I was stopped in the grocery store twice this week by people telling me how great the sanctuary looks and how great our volunteers are working with the children. Not every church would allow all this to happen but you do because you know the story – we are touching the hearts and lives of children and families and they are touching our lives and together we are experience the power and presence of God. I honor all of you for what you do not just with VBS, but with everything you do and everything you allow God to do in and through you. That’s what it’s really about. It’s not about what we do but about what God wants to do and is doing in us and through us. That’s what we need to honor, the gifts of God we see in others.
And that brings us to God. Real celebration is all about God. It’s praising God for what God has done and is doing. What we are able to do in VBS could not be done without God. God gives the creativity and passion, God gives the talent and abilities. God gives the finances and resources. God provides people to walk with, love and work with the children. God provides the food we serve, the music we sing, the voices we use, the bodies we move, the hearts that love and the faith we share. God is the one who brings it all together by helping us come together and work together and God is the one who holds it all in balance. God is the one who gives the patience when we get on each other’s nerves, the forgiveness we share, the inspiration we provide, the laughter that encourages and the energy that ignites the passion in others. No one person does this and honestly – no group of people does this – it is God who does this through all of us and we can never forget that.
Nehemiah knew how everything came together to rebuild the walls, how they were able to do the work while under verbal and physical assault and how quickly they were able to get it done was all because of God’s power and help. Nehemiah knew God would be the one to do it all which is why before he did anything – he prayed. Nehemiah prayed for God’s vision and God’s passion to become a reality – which it did. The walls were rebuilt, so the celebration wasn’t just of what they were able to accomplish together, but of how God made it all possible.
Today, we have been praising God because all of this is from Him. We praise God because who we are today and where we are going reminds us that we are just part of God’s larger story of how He works in the world. We need to savor this today because being part of God’s story and God’s movement makes all the difference in our live. We are part of something much larger than ourselves and together we can accomplish even greater things. We praise God for being able to honor the work of those God has brought together today because it is only together as the body of Christ that we are able to do these things.
Savoring the accomplishments, honoring the work of others and praising God is what it means to celebrate. Nehemiah celebrated thousands of years ago because they did something great and rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, and we celebrate today because we know that we are part of God’s ongoing story. We are rebuilding the walls of faith and inviting people to experience true life by experiencing the power of God and the grace and love of Jesus Christ. So all I can say is let’s keep celebrating now and forever.
Leadership Principles ~ CELEBRATION
God honoring Celebration includes:
Savoring Achievement-Identify an achievement in your life, family, church or community that you can savor. Sharing this with others.
Honoring the Work of Others-Identify good work, gifts and talents in others and find ways to honor them this week. Send a note or gift of appreciation. Say thank you. Share the story of their work with others.
Each day this week read about celebrations in the Bible and celebrate God’s goodness and love in your life.
• Monday – Nehemiah 8 and 12:27-47
• Tuesday – Psalm 145
• Wednesday – Isaiah 35
• Thursday – Matthew 22:1-14
• Friday – Luke 5:27-39
• Saturday – Luke 15:1-31 (especially 22-37)
• Sunday – Revelation 19:1-9
Throw an party! Here are some things to celebrate:
Today is National Lollipop AND Ice Cream Day
Wednesday is National Hot Dog Day
July 28th is National Chocolate Milk Day
July 30th is National Cheesecake AND Father-in-law’s Day.