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“Can I ask you a question about your sermon?”

I was standing in the doorway between the church office and our Pastor’s office. I’m one of those fortunate few worship coordinators whose pastor provides a full script of his sermon weeks in advance. I had just finished reviewing it and was trying to wrap my mind around planning a service that suited it, but I was struggling with the central concept of the sermon: celebrating.

Our pastor had decided to preach a sermon series on the Psalms, integrating and drawing from the work done by CRC’s Faith Formation ministries’ Faith Practices Project. This week’s topic, celebrating, was refusing to solidify in my mind as a faith practice. Celebrating doesn’t seem like a difficult concept to grasp. It certainly isn’t Derridean deconstruction or Heidegger’s phenomenality. But the more I stared right at it, the more it slipped away from me.

What does celebrating mean for faith: how does it affect it and why? What does a daily practice of celebrating look like? Is it synonymous with gratitude, an internal meditative state? Or is it an outward-facing “shout it from the mountaintop” activity? Is it a pause to mark something as significant? Or is it a constant mental posture applied throughout the day. 

My pastor listened to my ramblings with a smile and once I’d trailed off, he cut through all of my theoretical tangles by saying simply, “Well, Bethany, I think that lunch you just ate is something worth celebrating.” We chatted for a bit longer and I sorted out a framework for the service, but throughout the week, his brief explanation came back at unexpected times. 

When I bit into an almond croissant, the flaky pastry crumbled in my mouth while the almond filling, sweet and subtle, triggered memories of a Christmas banket served on a delicate seasonal platter by my much missed grandmother. “Celebrate this,” I thought.

When I held a sun-warmed, over sized tomato fresh picked from my garden and minutes away from being transformed into salsa and felt like I held in my hand the miraculous result of summer’s alchemy. “Celebrate this,” I thought.

When, in the midst of a hellacious day of delayed and canceled air travel, on an overheating plane, my 16-month-old stood on my lap and made delighted and goofy faces at the teenage girl in the seat behind us, making her laugh when she wanted to cry with the frustration of the day. “Celebrate this,” I thought.

When I sat on my front step, engulfed in the humid hug of mid-atlantic morning and watched the pollinators do a drunken and dizzy dance around the explosion of Sunflowers that appeared, unprompted in my front yard garden this year. “Celebrate this,” I thought.

I’m still not sure what it is, this “celebrating” that I’m trying to do. Is it an internal posture of gratitude to God? Yes. Does it prompt external action as well to bring God glory? Yes. Does it mark something as significant? Yes. Does it apply to the mundane minutiae of the everyday? Yes. 

But I’m a little closer to understanding why this has been singled out as a faith practice. Even not understanding exactly what I’m doing, celebrating has brought me back before God at moments I didn’t anticipate. It is as if, with the enthusiasm of a child, I’ve held up the pastry, the tomato, my son, and the sunflowers before God and said, “Look! Isn’t it good? Isn’t it awesome? Isn’t it wonderful? You did this, and I get to enjoy it!” And God said, “yes” and smiled.

Author Bethany Besteman is a worship coordinator at Silver Spring CRC, in Silver Spring, Maryland where she lives with her husband and son. She also works as a writing tutor at the United States Naval Academy.


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