Many are aware that today is the day of rescue for the 33 miners in Chile, having been trapped for some 69 days underground. You can watch live news updates just about anywhere, but here are links to CNN and the BBC.
My words in this post are not so much about what would have been going through their minds as they awaited rescue for over 2 months, being underground since 5 August. Rather, my thoughts come in regards to the post-celebration of the event of their rescue. In the CNN article, I was specifically gripped by these words below:
In the capital Santiago, hundreds wept and embraced as they watched the rescue on a flickering big screen TV set up in a square. Corks popped and champagne flowed at the Chilean embassy in Washington, D.C.
For some, the second half of this statement might be words of a mere ‘secular’ world celebrating, marked by the phrasing of ‘corks popped and champagne flowed’. But I believe these are important words at a time like this. These are not simply the actions of an ‘ungodly people’, nor are they simply descriptive words with little importance. I believe they are an appropriate response to the situation of real life. And, even more, I see these as an appropriate response able to teach the people of God about celebration.
I love the direction of the Lord in Deuteronomy on how to celebrate the tithe. In advance of entering the promised land, the people of Israel were instructed to bring their tithes of grain, wine, oil and the firstborn to the place where the permanent structure of worship was to be set up (see Deut 14:22-23), that later becoming the city of Jerusalem. But, if they could not make the trip with all of their necessary tithe because of the extreme length of travel, God directed them to sell what they did have and bring the money with them to the place of worship. It continues on with these specific words:
24 And if the way is too long for you, so that you are not able to carry the tithe, when the LORD your God blesses you, because the place is too far from you, which the LORD your God chooses, to set his name there, 25 then you shall turn it into money and bind up the money in your hand and go to the place that the LORD your God chooses 26 and spend the money for whatever you desire—oxen or sheep or wine or strong drink, whatever your appetite craves. And you shall eat there before the LORD your God and rejoice, you and your household. (Deut 14:23-26)
Did you get that? Bring strong drink. I am thinking this is not unfermented stuff.
Celebration was to be celebration, which includes celebrating with a meal capped off by strong, or fermented, drink. From a biblical culture, it was part and parcel to celebration. Roast the best lamb, bring out the best wine, and gather the community of people together!
Or what about these words following the rebuilding of the walls of the city of Jerusalem:
9 And Nehemiah, who was the governor, and Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, “This day is holy to the LORD your God; do not mourn or weep.” For all the people wept as they heard the words of the Law. 10 Then he said to them, “Go your way. Eat the fat and drink sweet wine and send portions to anyone who has nothing ready, for this day is holy to our Lord. And do not be grieved, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” (Neh 8:9-10)
Absolutely fantastic! The holiness of the Lord and celebration connected together in such a unique way. God’s holiness does not always call for a response like that of Isaiah’s, as we read in Isa 6:1-5. At times, it certainly does. But at times, even when we catch a glimpse of God’s complete holiness and otherness from His creation, it calls for us to celebrate. And, again, we see both good food and good wine involved. Are we seeing a biblical pattern here?
Here is the thing. I am not sure we know how to celebrate. I don’t know how to celebrate. I mean really celebrate like we read in the two examples above. And those words are there for our instruction, are they not? (See Rom 15:4.) I suppose that is why Richard Foster lists celebration as one of the disciplines in his book, Celebration of Discipline. We almost have to discipline ourselves to properly celebrate.
Now, I am not saying celebrating is intrinsically tied into the strong drink of our choice. But celebration, as I understand it, allows for the eating of good things from God’s good creation and the drinking of good things from God’s good creation. And that includes grapes that have gone through the press and left to ferment, as well as the fermentation of malted barley. Those are good things from God’s good creation. And they should be celebrated as good, while also assisting us in the act of celebrating.
So, today is a day of celebration as 33 lives are spared after an extremely long period of waiting underground. I cannot imagine what these past 69 days have held for them. And with the popping of corks, I think our God smiles upon such methods of celebration. My hope is that we, as the people of God who have everything to celebrate, would learn just a little from the response to this day of celebration in Chile and abroad.