Lord's Day Liturgy

Post-Party Depression

I had no idea just a few weeks ago that the coronavirus would give me such a great angle on baby showers. But here we are.

What I have been trying to do is get us to consider some of the principles and priorities of living together and rejoicing with others who rejoice. Baby showers are a good case study, and they are an actual thing that many of the ladies at our church are working through, but the application is not limited to new-little-life parties, or even just to moms and future moms.

So far I have tried to point out that while every new life is special, the celebrations for special things do not have to be the same, and the guts of celebration are pulled out if we look at how someone else got celebrated with envy. “She had a three cake party, I only got one cake.”

I’ve also pointed out that trying to make something “perfect,” or worse, expecting to be made much of perfectly, is a set up for post-party depression; it’s like post-partum, but after all the labor all you have to cuddle with is your bundle of complaints.

Last in this series, for now, is a question that the coronavirus puts into relief: is there a bad time to have a baby? Jesus said yes. “Alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days” (Matthew 24:19). The Great Tribulation will be rough on motherhood.

Otherwise, are there bad times? It depends on how much honor you require, right? It’s tougher to party when an unanticipated global pandemic causes governments to shut down meetings of more than 10 people. It is also tougher when 10 (or more) women are due within a month of each other. Is less party-blessing per mother better or worse for the blessing of the church and community?

These questions remind us to be careful in what we pray for. I pray that Marysville will become a destination, and I have to remember that while I’m sitting in traffic that didn’t used to be. Will I regret having my #blessed bumper sticker not yelling at the other drivers, or will I realize that what I really want doesn’t always look like how I thought I wanted it, and it’s even better?

Lord's Day Liturgy

Perfect as the Enemy of Celebratory

There is a surprising amount to say about baby showers. Today I’m going to connect them with the coronavirus, and baptism. Just watch.

Previously I illustrated the principle that special things do not necessarily require a certain amount of time or expense to celebrate. Think of our celebration of the Lord’s Supper; it’s meaningfulness isn’t measured in minutes. Likewise, special celebrations do not need to be the same in every way. Think of family traditions for holidays and birthdays. Such diversity in the world created by our Triune God is glorious, not injustice.

It is also true that seeking a “perfect” celebration is almost certain to spoil it as a “joyful” celebration. God expects us to obey perfectly, but we don’t, which is why we need His grace. He also sets us up to be not perfect in a thousand non-sinful ways. We all must learn, grow, mature, physically and mentally.

Take a believer’s testimony in baptism as an example. Being baptizied is commanded by God through Christ and His Spirit. An obedient disciple is a baptized disciple. But baptism is one and (most of the time) done. You get one shot. And based on the commands to believe and be baptized, infering that a long duration between the two is not expected, one’s profession will never be as perfect as it could have been. You will not give God the most knowledgable, most theological, most mature expression of glory. If you wait for those things, you’ve not been perfect because you’ve delayed in disobedience. God is pleased with humble faith, publicly professed, in various circumstances.

Is your baby shower, or that of your closest friend, or that of the lady on the fringe that you care about, required to be more “perfect” than the ordinance of baptism?

This does not argue for carelessness. It argues for not freaking out. If 20 people wanted to be baptized, we would, for practicality, encourage them not to give 20 minute testimonies each. And if there comes a time when we have 20 pregnant moms due in a short window, let’s say, around nine months from our current in-home quarantine, each mom may not get two exclusive hours in the spotlight. Is it because we have too many baptism candidates? Ha, no! Is it a problem pressing a standard of “perfection” that makes it easier to judge than rejoice? That is a different infectious disease.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Better Than Fingernail Clippings

As I mentioned last week, I have more to say about our hearts through a case study of new-little-life parties, a.k.a., baby showers.

The plethora of new life among us is nothing but blessing to Marysville, to TEC, to our families. There is no way that all this fruit is a judgment, though we can fail to handle the fruit in a Christian way, both in our parenting and even in our partying.

We are potentially on the cusp of having even more newborns expected and arriving. In the future, when there are 30 babies born among us in a year, which ones are special? Ha. They are all special, as in they are all gifts from God.

Let me switch the subject just for a moment. What is the most special part of our corporate worship? Jesus is the most special, yes, but what piece of the liturgy recognizes Him the most? While we don’t have Jesus apart from His Word, it is the Word that both enables and leads us to fellowship with Jesus in communion. Communion is both what Christ accomplished for us and the eternal aim of our salvation. It is special.

But in our liturgy, the celebration of communion does not take up very much time. We have small pieces of unadorned, though slightly sweetened, bread, (which is better than the typical fingernail clipping sized cardboard crackers), with cups for the wine that aren’t even kiddie size. Can we make a big deal out of our glorious eternal life, through the atoning blood of Jesus, in a few minutes with miniature elements?

We do.

The principle applies to family traditions, too, say for birthday celebrations. How the Joneses do birthdays is not how the Jeffersons do them, and either family would be foolish to say that theirs is the only way to make it special. “How dare you not serve your child chocolate sheet cake! What do you mean that you didn’t celebrate on their actual birthdate? What kind of a heartless monster-mother are you?!”

The principle is to show honor, and that can be done in a variety of ways. Those ways do not necessarily need to be in a particular order, or at a high expense, or done exactly like everyone else.

Lord's Day Liturgy

Knitted Onsies and Latte Punch

Once upon a time in a small town of orchard farmers there was a great plague. The plague did not affect the fruit. In fact, there had never been such an abundant harvest in living memory. Fruit just kept coming, and grew so much that people started to wonder what was in the water.

The fruit kept coming, but because of the bounty, some methods of picking it and carrying it and storing it became more pronounced. Whether because the people were so much more busy that they lost time for patience, or because they were that much more proud of their produce, conflicts started to grow like invisible weeds. Rather than a cause for rejoicing, the plenty turned into a crop of resentment and suspicion and hurt feelings.

Laws were considered, along with possible enforcements, but none of those would deal with the heart plague. When the harvest is plentiful and the laborers are many, it is a time to give thanks, not to complain about laborers laboring a different way.

This short anecdote has many applications, but in this particular season of our church, I’m squeezing the juice to talk about the fruit of babies, and especially baby showers.

Over the last few months I have heard some surprising, and terrible reports about the preferences of some, and pettiness of others, when it comes to the “proper” procedures for new-little-life parties. So I’m going to take a few exhortations to talk about it, with an eye both to the particular and broad applications of how we love one another in a community full of blessings.

Husbands, this is just as much an area for you to be involved in, even if you are not asked to knit a onesie or to pull shots for the latte punch.

Loving life, and loving the fruit of the womb, is terrifically counter-cultural. Envy and pettiness in how we celebrate is not counter-cultural, and when we find sin, we need to pluck it up from the roots.