LESSENING STRESS THE LORD’S WAY – VALUE PLAY!
March 3, 2019
Over these past few weeks we’ve been discussing what it means to lessen stress the Lord’s way. Jesus teaches us that we can find relief from the strain of everyday life through identifying roots, ascertaining purpose, pinpointing motives, establishing priorities, maintaining connection and by seeking support. These are all serious, sobering topics.
In comparison, today’s concluding message in this series seems frivolous and even sacrilegious. Could Jesus be teaching us that stress is relieved through valuing play?
Let’s take a glance at the occasion of the first recorded miracle of Jesus we find in the gospel of John:
1On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, 2and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. 3When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” 4″Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied, “My time has not yet come.” 5His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
6Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water”; so they filled them to the brim. 8Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, 9and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.
Then he called the bridegroom aside 10and said, “Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now.” 11This, the first of his miraculous signs, Jesus performed in Cana of Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him.
DOES JESUS REALLY LET HIS HAIR DOWN???
Every generation believes it has a tougher life than the previous. And yet, truth be told, our everyday life in no way compares to the stress and strain of what things are like in Jesus’ day.
It is a hand-to-mouth, day-to-day struggle just to survive in 1st century Palestine. Work is backbreaking, food can be hard to come by, disease is rampant, death is frequent, days are long and monotonous.
And that is why the wedding of a young couple is such a welcome, break from stressful times.
In accordance with Jewish law, the wedding ceremony is held on Wednesday evening, preceded by a feast for the couple and their relatives. After the rabbi gives the pronouncement of marriage, the young couple is then escorted by an entourage carrying flaming torches and making a ton of racket on a parade route winding through all the major streets in the village.
They are treated like Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, with friends, curiosity-seekers and paparazzi all in tow. The townspeople turn out to see this raucous affair and to shower well wishes upon the couple.
It’s now late in the evening when the entourage arrives back at the couple’s humble home. Do they get to now spend some quality time alone? No, indeed! For it’s time for the reception to begin.
We’re not talking about some cheesy, chintzy two-hour long catered affair at Cross Keys, my friends. Weddings in these days are week-long festivals! Yes, you heard me right—the party lasts an entire week, with people from all over town dropping in to greet the couple and to enjoy good food and wine!
And guess who one of the invited guests to the party is? Nah, it can’t be!!! But it is!!! Yep, there’s Jesus of Nazareth, God one and only incarnate Son, over there in the corner of the reception barn swapping backslapping tales with the groom. And He’s brought along his new friends, his new disciples, the Bethsaida Boys: Peter and Andrew, James and John, Philip…and probably Nathaniel, too, since Cana is his hometown.
Yes, Jesus is at the party! And he is very much welcome!
Now that may come as a shock to many of you this morning…but is it not true that you can always trace Jesus’ whereabouts by the trail of joy he leaves behind? Wherever he goes, sorrows are healed, shadows are lifted, diseases are cures, spirits are raised.
One of the harshest accusations his enemies raise against him is that Jesus is always letting his hair down…that he seems to always be having too good a time to be taken seriously as a rabbi. He’s always mingling with the wrong kinds of people at the wrong kind of occasions– laughing, living life as a divine gift. And this rubs the so-called pious, pretentious, holy religious folk the wrong way.
I suspect it rubs many of us pious, pretentious, holy religious folk the wrong way also…we who like to picture our Lord as some Cosmic Killjoy. Jesus, God’s Son, at a party? That can’t be!!
And yet, it is…Jesus maintains a balance, an equilibrium to his demanding life as a messiah…he makes downtime, he relaxes, he has fun, he is the life of the party!
Jesus often reminds us that God’s eternal kingdom is like a wedding feast to which we have been invited! His favorite metaphor for the Kingdom of God is a banquet—yes, a bodacious banquet!
Now, there’s an interesting side note here. While the reception is going on, it seems there is a development that threatens to throw a blanket of shame upon this young, peasant couple’s reception. The wine, the symbol of ancient Jewish hospitality, has run out. It is the ultimate humiliation. They now face the prospect of telling their family members and friends to go home. Turn out the lights, the party’s over.
Jesus’ mother tells him to do something. And he does. Six large water pitchers, filled with 20-30 gallons of water, miraculously are transformed into wine. And it’s not Boone’s Farm or Two Buck Chuck either…it’s good stuff.
And the wedding party resumes. This very relieved young couple is able to save face, and continue to welcome guests to their reception throughout the remainder of the week.
Who would have ever thought that the first miracle of our Lord would have been performed in a backwoods village on behalf of a young, rural couple? And at a wedding party, of all things!
Jesus is having a good time, enjoying a break from the backbreaking, soul-sapping stress of life…and he is determined that his friends might have that joy as well!
Guess what, we are Jesus’ friends also.
And he offers us…
A VITAL P.S. ON LESSENING STRESS
No one ever had inscribed on his or her tombstone, “I wish I had spent more time on my job!” We, especially those of us who are of the Type-A inclination, need to heed what Jesus has demonstrated for us. Yes, work hard! But also find time to play, to stop and smell the roses, to recharge the heart and soul. Jesus would have us do this.
Make Room for Recess
I consider myself to be a fairly intelligent person. Yet, can you believe I attended a podunk elementary school where we had one hour of recess every day?! Totally unstructured. The teachers would throw us a ball and go around the corner of the school for a smoke break. And we had to make up our games, our rules, choose up sides. We ran and created and breathed fresh air, and when we went back inside we were ready to learn.
Maybe there’s a lesson in all that. Maybe we need such regular times of recreation in whatever form they present themselves in order to recoup from the stress.
If you are a journalism major doing newspaper design, one of the first principles you will be taught is the importance of margins. You cannot cram pages full of text. There has to be white space on the sides and between columns to help you comprehend the stories, to give your eyes and mind a chance to rest.
The same is true with our lives. We have to have margins, times of space, times of relaxation and renewal.
Yes, Jesus teaches us to make room for recess… and to also
Loosen Up and Laugh
It has been well-documented in medical circles that not only does laughter protect you from stress, it also strengthens your immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain and can even prolong your life.
I hit the big 6-0 last week. And the birthday cards were brutal…captions like:
- You’re so old, you have an autographed Bible.
- You’re so old, the candles cost more than the birthday cake.
- You’re so old, you walked into an antique store and they kept you.
- You’re so old, you DJ’d at the Boston Tea Party.
- You’re so old, “Getting lucky” means you find your car in the Food Lion parking lot.
And those were some of the less crude ones!
Yep, they hurt my pride but they did make me chuckle!
We need to learn to loosen up and laugh more…and especially at ourselves.
Don’t put Periods in place of God’s Commas
It is sad how we often view each day and each week as a series of self-contained, self-confining compartments. For example, we have our one hour compartment of worship right here, right now. But tomorrow will be a totally different compartment as we deal with the demands of work or school. And then there’s the compartment of a neighborhood meeting tomorrow night. And so on and so forth…. I don’t know about you, but I would hate have to wear one of those 24 hour EKG monitoring devices on my heart as I jump frantically from one compartment into another.
Jesus views all of life as a gift from his Heavenly Father. We see that his communication with his Heavenly Father, his hands-on healing and teaching, his bantering with his disciples and with folks who interrupt his travels, his moments of humor and relaxation…they all seem to flow seamlessly and effortlessly together throughout each day. There are no periods, only commas- pauses- and life keeps moving on at a steady, sure and calm pace.
Life is a marathon journey, not a sprint race, and we need to embrace all that God has to offer us in the ebb and flow of each day!
Yes, Jesus values play. He often lets his hair down. EWHe makes time for recess. He loosens up and laughs often. He never places periods in place of God’s commas, grabbing all the gusto of each day as he journeys through his earthly life. And so should we.
It was one of those “aha” moments in your life that make you take a long, hard look in the mirror at who you really are and how you are living. I was out hurriedly changing the church sign on a blustery spring day at Verona UMC before I had to get to a district meeting. The kids in the church’s day care program were out on the playground swinging, riding tricycles, throwing sand out of the sandbox.
One little girl, Sierra, stood in one corner of the playground twisting and twirling and swirling in dizzying circles. She swung her arms around and around as she giggled gleefully, her long hair and frilly dress billowing in the wind.
I asked Sierra what she was doing, and she replied, “Mr. David, I’m dancing with the wind! You wanna dance with me?”
For just a brief, fleeting moment I almost gave into impulse and joined Sierra in a spontaneous little jig, but I quickly came to my conventional senses and told her gruffly, “Sorry, Sierra, I’ve got work to do….Get on back over with the other kids…come on, move it!”
The happiness drained a bit from Sierra’s eyes as she asked me an odd question, “Mr. David, you work for Jesus, don’t you?” “Yeah, I do,” I replied.
“That must not be much fun,” Sierra commented, as she took off for the other side of the playground.