The first Sunday in an African church will rock your world. There is dancing, loud music, chickens, potatoes and cabbage being auctioned off for tithes, toddlers running around, grandmas praising the Lord with their whole heart and a lot of passion. But, if you’re like me and only speak a few words of Swahili, that four hour church service will give you a lot of time to spend in stillness with the Lord. While I was sitting in the wooden pews that Sunday, the Lord reminded me what celebration looked like. As I reread the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15, my eyes were opened more to the character of God. When the prodigal son came home it says that “when he was a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him” (Luke 15:20) Later in the parable, the father says “Let us have a feast and celebrate for this son of mine was dead and is alive again: he was lost and now he is found.” What a beautiful picture of how our heavenly Father celebrates us: he meets us where we are.
Free. A word that is thrown around so often that we miss the fullness of the meaning in our life. If we look up the definition of free it says “to set at liberty; to rescue or release from slavery, captivity or confinement.” For so long in my life, I have been held captive: captive to fear, insecurity, striving and people pleasing. But mostly, I have been held captive to the mindset that I will be forever enchained to these things. The prodigal son could have been held captive to guilt and shame, forever trying to repay his father. Instead, he let his father embrace him and celebrate him.The celebration that he was once lost and now he is found. When we are celebrating the fullness of our identity as sons and daughters of Christ, there is no room for being held captive.
In 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 it says “But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And, we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory which comes from the Lord who is the spirit.” We, as covenant sons and daughters, have the freedom to remove all masks. We have the freedom to come to Christ with our shame-filled, messy, sin-filled hearts. Our Father meets us where we are, celebrates us, and sets us free from anything that holds us captive. He releases the chains of guilt and shame, people pleasing, striving for perfection, anxiety and fear. We, who were once victims of this world, now have the opportunity to claim victory in Christ. So let’s celebrate this victory, because the Lord has released our chains, opened our jail cells, and, now, have the opportunity to walk in triumphal freedom.