Whee! We! Wee! All the Way Home: Delight

By: Candace Chellew-Hodge

Preached July 10, 2011 at Jubilee! Circle, Columbia, SC

Readings:
Isaiah 55:1-13: "you shall go out in joy"
Luke 7:31-35: "The Son of Man came eating and drinking"
  Hear this sermon at the Jubilee! Circle Web site.

Our first song comes from a singer and songwriter named Christine Kane. She was born in Fairfax, Virginia, but now lives in Asheville, North Carolina. She founded her own recording label and has moved into doing business on her own as a blogger and life coach. Today's song comes from her 2004 album Right Outta Nowhere. It's called "Overjoyed." Let's try it.

[Verse] The midnight sky all stars and black,
Like darkened glass and glitter
Suggests that I go back inside,
And wait for warmer weather
So here it's New Year's Eve again,
And everything keeps changing
I raise my glass and toast the Gods,
In charge of rearranging

[Chorus] All of the world is designed to remind you,
All of the light you could find is inside
Under all of the noise,
What's it like to be overjoyed
Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters;
and you that have no money, come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
Incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live.

So begins the this ancient Hebrew poem of delight. "Come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price." How can that be? We all know there's no such thing as a free lunch - how can anyone get wine and milk without money? Well, there may be no free lunch, but the Holy knows there's another old adage that is just as true, if not more so - "the best things in life are free."

This is what Yahweh is offering his people, and it's what the Holy continues to offer us today - the delights of this world - all for free. Sure, we can spend money on things that may bring us delight - a fine meal, a fine car, a fine restaurant, some fine clothes - but the things that delight us the deepest, those delights that touch the deepest depths of our hearts and souls, are the ones that come to us for free.

Time spent with friends and family. Times spent in solitude. Times spent in worship. Times spent doing nothing but putting our feet up and chilling. Time spent being amazed, awed by this beautiful creation we get to call home. Delight in the rain that falls, the puddles that we splash in, the mud-pies we can make. Delight in the joyful messiness of our life here on God's blue and green earth.

Delight is free for the taking - just like wine and milk without price. The cars, the clothes, the houses, the stuff, they may all cost money - but true delight is priceless. And the whole world is designed to remind you to be overjoyed.

Easier said than done, right? What is there to be delighted in when people are starving? What is there to be delighted in when people are dying in wars? What is there to be delighted in when people are living in crushing poverty? What is there to be delighted in when greed and power seem to be the only forces out there?

Gerda Weissmann Klein lost her family and home to the Nazis in World War II. She was sent to a concentration camp. She was among 2,000 women forced by the Nazis to walk 350-miles to escape advancing Allied forces. She was one of the 120 women to survive that harrowing march.

Even in the midst of all that suffering, in the middle of all that horror, Klein found a priceless place of delight - "one, exclusive, magical dream" she called it.

"When things go bad -- and they often got very bad -- I used to take out a dream from the very recesses of my heart. It was a picture of a simple evening at home. I prayed as I took this picture out, for one more evening at home with my family," she said.

One more evening with her family - just the memory, the longing, brought her delight in a dark place. There she could buy the wine and milk of delight without money and without price.

Breathe deeply.

[Verse] In spite of day-time planners higher standards,
Dreams defended
There's not a single thing that's turned out
Quite like I intended
And so you learn that holding on
Is nothing less than panic
When big things fall apart
Then hearts get that much more gigantic

[Chorus] All of the world is designed to remind you
All of the light you could find is inside
Under all of the noise
Are you scared to be overjoyed

That's a really important question: "Are you scared to be overjoyed?" If we're honest with ourselves, we'd have to say, "Yes." Being overjoyed can be a scary thing. When we are overjoyed - when we are in the throes of delight - we forget about ourselves. We lose track of time - we lose track of our worries - and we also lose track of our desires and our hopes and ambitions. Delight brings us fully into the present moment - and for many of us it's a scary place.

We rarely live in the moment - we rarely forget about ourselves. No, we must live a controlled life - one that either looks forward to the future, when things will be better - when things will not be as they are now. Or, one that looks to the past, to how things used to be better than they are now. The present moment is fleeting - and it's hard to be here right now, but let's try:

Breathe deeply. Enjoy the breath, feel it filling your lungs, notice the air in the room, the light in the room, the people around you in the room. I invite you to be here now, in this present moment, and be delighted.

It's difficult. What makes it so difficult is that we don't practice it often enough. We're always coming from somewhere to get somewhere else. Rarely do we enjoy the present moment. This is where true delight is found - right here, right now - even amidst the sorrow and the pain of life - true delight invites us to come to the waters and drink. Don't bring any money, it's no good here - just bring your thirst, and be satisfied and delighted.

Breathe deeply.

Another thing that keeps us frightened of being overjoyed is God - or at least our images of God. Anyone raised in a more conservative religious tradition probably has an image of God as someone who is stern and humorless - someone who certainly doesn't give away free wine and milk, but instead demands a steep price for any blessings.

Matthew Fox writes that we've created several of these images of God. One is the "Peeping Tom God who plays a role in the bedrooms and back seats of cars." There's another image of God as someone who keeps "little black books for the awful times of 'judgment.'" Then there's the God dressed like Father Time with the long, white beard humorlessly counting down our days. In short, Fox writes, God more "resembles a wire-tapper than a lover."

None of these images capture the reality of the Holy, Fox argues. Instead, he asks: "What does God do all day and all night? She enjoys himself!" The Holy is a pleasure seeker and has created us to be as well. As an Episcopal priest friend of mine once told me, "God created us because she thought we might enjoy it!"

Oh, but how we fear really enjoying our lives - really taking pleasure in the gifts and treasures around us. But, this is what the Holy invites us to do, because this is what the Holy does all day - takes pleasure in all of creation - including us.

As Julian of Norwich reminds us: "It is God's will that we have true delight with God in our salvation and that we be mightily comforted and strengthened. And so God wants our souls to be occupied joyfully with God's grace. For we are God's bliss, for God delights in us without end, and so, by God's grace, will we delight in God."

[Verse] It used to be a race to see
Just who'd get there the fastest
But this frozen night it's only right
To consecrate the madness

[Chorus] All of the world is designed to remind you
All of the light you could find is inside
Under all of the noise
Here's your chance to be overjoyed

Here's your chance, Jubilants to be overjoyed - to experience the delight that makes us say "Whee! Wee! We! All the Way Home!"

You may delight in long walks on the beach, long walks in the woods, long walks with your loved one, long walks with your dog, even longs walks off short piers. You may delight in your partner's smile, your dog's kiss, a baby's breath, the touch of your parent or child. You may delight in the feeling of grass between your toes, or a tickle on your nose, or water from hose, or just seeing how life goes. You may delight in a dance, you may delight in a song, you may delight in the sound of nothing at all. You may delight in the day, you may delight in the night, you may even have an afternoon delight - complete with skyrockets in flight. No matter how you get your delight on, Jubilants, know that the Holy delights in it just as much, if not more, than you do. And not only that, but the Holy delights in your delight.

Breathe deeply.

Our next song was written by Hoyt Axton, but was made popular by the band Three Dog Night. They called this "a silly song" but "Joy to the World" topped the U.S. and Canadian charts in 1971 and has been around in various forms since. You may know it better as "Jeremiah was a Bullfrog," but whatever you call it, let's try it.

Jeremiah was a bullfrog
Was a good friend of mine
I never understood a single word he said
But I helped him to drink his wine
And he always had some mighty fine wine, singin'...

CHORUS: Joy to the world
All the boys and girls
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me

In our Jesus story, we find our guy talking with the crowds about his cousin, John the Baptist. Before his speech in tonight's reading, John's followers want to know if Jesus is the one they've been waiting for, the Messiah that will finally show them how to truly delight in this world. Basically, Jesus tells them, yes - he has come to set the captives free, to heal the sick and open the eyes of the blind. The sad thing is, those he came to free have little interest in being freed.

He compares the people of his time to children sitting in the marketplace calling out to one another: "We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not weep. For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, "He has a demon"; the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, "Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!"

What he's saying here is that nothing really makes us happy. People rejected John, who abstained from bread and wine. He preached judgment and people called him a demon. Then Jesus shows up and starts preaching about all this free love and taking delight in the Holy, and he gets accused of being a glutton and a drunkard.

No wonder Jesus was a little frustrated here. The people around him were like obstinate children who couldn't be pleased by any game. We're just like that today. There are plenty of people who believe we should deny ourselves the pleasures of life - because enjoying life to its fullest is somehow sinful. They believe God cannot come to us in pleasure because they confuse it with licentiousness. Instead, they put God in a box and say God can only bless us if we sacrifice, if we do our duty, if we live our lives in misery, denying ourselves and flogging ourselves for being such miserable sinners. We must sit on the sidelines while the flutes of life play a dance, and we must endure the trials of life with stoicism - not weeping when hear others wailing in grief.

Instead of sitting on the sidelines refusing to enjoy the pleasures of life, Jesus calls us to be delighted - to learn to recognize the surprising and sometimes even scandalous ways in which God is at work in our time and reject conventional expectations that may prevent us from responding to God's call to join in the work, struggles, and celebration of the kingdom.

R. Allan Culpepper asks: "Who are we, obstinate children sitting in the marketplace who refuse to play, or the children of wisdom who are ready to play God's game, regardless of whether it is the game we expected?"

Embrace the unexpected nature of delight. Do not fear it, and do not refuse to join in when we hear it's seductive flute inviting us to the dance. Instead, let us help Jeremiah drink his mighty fine wine of life.

If I were the king of the world
Tell you what I would do
I'd throw away the cars and the bars and the wars
And make sweet love to you, sing it now

CHORUS: Joy to the world
All the boys and girls
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me

Jesus was no stranger to the "Whee!" of life. He lived life to the fullest and took delight in the creation and the people around him. In the Gospels, we find him always out on the lake, hiking in the mountains, and taking in those sunny days and star-filled nights in Palestine. Jesus also liked to hang out with his friends. We see him at many meals, including at the house of his friends Mary and Martha.

In that episode, we see him telling Mary that she has chosen the better part as she relaxes with Jesus and his friends, delighting in the company of others instead of toiling away in the kitchen. In this instance, Jesus invites us into the "We-ness" of life - calling us together to delight in each other. It wasn't just Mary enjoying Jesus' company, but Jesus enjoyed being there with her as well. He truly delighted in that "we" moment of togetherness - receiving the pleasure of another and giving that pleasure back.

Jesus, too, enjoyed the pleasures of food and drink. This is what got him labeled a glutton and a drunkard. He wasn't afraid to share a meal with people - even with outcasts like tax collectors, and even with the in-crowd like Pharisees.

He delighted in the company all the same. Jesus enjoyed the simple pleasures of life - those "wee" gifts of food and drink and good company - because he knew those blessings would be enlarged in the world.

How would it change the way you lived if you believed life was a gift to be enjoyed - to be delighted in - every moment of the day? How would it change the way you lived if you truly believed that God has created you to be a delight to him? How would it changed the way you lived if you believed the purpose of your life is to bring delight to others in this world?

Jubilants, we were created out of God's infinite "Whee!" - the Holy's everlasting joy. Let us celebrate that joy in many small, "we-full," ways, and live our lives in delight. But, let us also remember the "We-ness" of life and work to ensure that others can live in delight as well.

"For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands."

You know I love the ladies
Love to have my fun
I'm a high life flyer and a rainbow rider
A straight shootin' son of a gun.
I said a straight shootin' son of a gun.

CHORUS (2x): Joy to the world
All the boys and girls
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me

Joy to the world
All the boys and girls
Joy to the world
Joy to you and me

CHORUS: Joy to the world
All the boys and girls
Joy to the fishes in the deep blue sea
Joy to you and me

Oh, Yeah!

Candace Chellew-Hodge is a recovering Southern Baptist and founder/editor of Whosoever: An Online Magazine for GLBT Christians. Her first book, Bulletproof Faith: A Spiritual Survival Guide for Gay and Lesbian Christians, published by Jossey-Bass is now available at http://www.bulletproofbook.com. She currently serves as the pastor of Jubilee! Circle, a progressive, inclusive community in Columbia, South Carolina. She is also a spiritual director and is currently taking on new directees. She blogs regularly at Religion Dispatches. She can be reached by email at editor-at-whosoever.org or by using the suggestion box.

Copyright by the author All Rights Reserved

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