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Let Us Party

Alex Awad

Let Us Party!

Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast—as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth. 1 Corinthians 5:7 NIV

Paul wrote to God’s people in Corinth and he encouraged them to keep the Festival. Speaking to our generation, he would probably say, Let us have a party! What kind of party was Paul suggesting and do we have a reason to celebrate?
Some of us may respond to Paul with, “If you know what I am going through, you will not invite me to your party.” I certainly understand but I may not agree with this response. From my perspective here in Jerusalem, I can point out many reasons why we should not have a celebration. In the last few months hundreds of Palestinians and scores of Israelis have been killed or injured in the political unrest that hangs heavily over the hearts of all the people of Israel/Palestine. The 8-meter-high wall that the Israelis have built around Palestinian towns and villages is choking their livelihood. Unemployment is very high among the Palestinians and the Gaza Strip has become a virtual open-air prison for about 1.5 million people. The Israelis, on the other hand, and, in spite of their overwhelming military strength, wealth and the support of the United States, continue to feel insecure. The church in the West Bank is fast diminishing while the threats of war are on the rise. We can complain that “The wheels of justice are square”, more so in this land than others. If that is not enough, spring rains have been few and far between, and the land is already very dry. So we may be entitled to a sobbing session instead of a party. Yet, I still think, that we can have a party! Let us go back to the apostle and ask him why we still have a reason to celebrate?
First Cause to Party: For Christ, our Passover Lamb, has been sacrificed. Paul uses an Old Testament feast, the feast of Passover, to illustrate to us why we are entitled to party. As God’s people were about to escape slavery in Egypt, God asked them to sacrifice a lamb, called the Passover Lamb. This sacrifice would reconcile them to God and make them his people and assure their salvation and freedom. Once the sacrifice was offered, the people miraculously escaped slavery, crossed the Red Sea and began celebrating their salvation and newfound freedom with dancing and songs of praise.
Even though Paul borrows the images used in the old Passover story, he directs our attention to a new sacrifice, a new lamb--Jesus Christ who died on the Cross to liberate us from sin and reconcile us with God. Today, thousands of people come to Jerusalem to take part in the party and millions around the world celebrate as they reflect on the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Paul suggests that the sacrifice of Christ is a cause for celebration. It is not the pain, agony and death of Jesus that we celebrate, but we party for the knowledge of what His death has accomplished for us. Shouldn’t we party for the awareness that due to the sacrifice of Christ . . .
our sins are forgiven?
we are fully reconciled to God who loves us?
we have become children of God and members of the family of God?
we have moved from death to eternal life?
Some may say, but this did not change my terrible circumstances! I agree but proclaim, “Your terrible circumstances and my terrible circumstances do not alter the fact that your sins and my sins are forgiven and that we are fully reconciled to God, having been adopted as children of God and miraculously transformed from death to eternal life.” Learn to celebrate the love of God that was revealed to you at the Cross in spite of your harsh circumstances and sing with Paul:
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8: 37 NIV) ---In other words don’t miss the party!
Second Reason to Party: Christ our Passover Lamb has risen from the dead! Often volunteers at the Garden Tomb come to worship with us on Sunday morning. These dedicated servants take tour groups and pilgrims to show them an empty tomb that looks identical to the tomb of Christ as described in the Gospels, and with joy and a sense of celebration they tell the story of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Paul writes to the Corinthian Church that the resurrection of Jesus is a cause of celebration:
"Death has been swallowed up in victory."
"Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?" The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Cor: 15:54 NIV)
Why should the resurrection of Jesus be a reason to party? Paul explains that the resurrection of Jesus infuses life into all those who believe on him. Because He lives, we live and have abundance of life. We also party because through the Power that comes to us through the resurrection of Jesus, we can ourselves rise over all the challenges of life. Yes, we can rise over:
The economic woes
The political unrest
Environmental challenges
Health problems
And social and family disappointments.
Whenever scientists and researches discover a cure or a treatment for a disease that causes death and agony to millions of people, they celebrate and party even before the drug or therapy reaches the hands of the people who are eagerly waiting it. The death and the resurrection of Jesus is God’s cure for the spiritual ailments of humanity. Let us put on a big party and have the whole world learn why we celebrate.
Let us party and keep the Festival in the face of all of our adverse circumstances because Christ who was sacrificed is alive within us.
How to party?
Party in ways that will bring joy to your heart, to the hearts of folks around you and to the heart of God.
Paul suggests to party: not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.
In other words Paul is saying, in your partying do not sin. The party begins as we in “sincerity and in truth” honor, praise and serve God and his children through the power of the resurrected Christ. This power can harness every challenge that we face.
This Easter, we will party with Palestinian and Israeli believers as we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus at the Garden Tomb, and we will party when we join a Messianic Jewish congregation in Rehovot and eat a Seder Meal with our Jewish brothers and sisters in Christ. The party will continue to warm and gladden our hearts whenever we reflect on the death and resurrection of our Lord.
Rev. Alex Awad
Jerusalem, Easter 2008