“What constitutes play, exactly, in a busy adult life full of conflicting demands? Who has time just to play?”
This week we’ll wrap up our Healthy Plate Discipleship worship series with a serious look at “Play.” If you count both the noun form and the verb form of the word “play” in the dictionary, there are more than 60 definitions! So, I should probably start with an explanation of why we are using this word to describe an aspect of discipleship. We’re using the word because it describes the enjoyment and lightness of heart that comes from being with others in supportive community.
We have just come through a very heavy, difficult, contentious, and long campaign season. There has been very little playfulness in any of it. So, what now? That’s the question that seems to be on everyone’s lips. It seems to me that we turn now to strengthening the ties that bind us together as a nation and as a community. We need to be together and put aside what divides us so that we can devote ourselves to all that brings life, love, hope, and grace into all that we do. We need to PLAY.
The earliest followers of Jesus enjoyed fellowship together; we even read in the book of Acts that they were devoted to it. Though we may not think of it in this way, PLAY is a part of following Jesus because play brings us together and play is healing and play lightens our spirits and energizes us for the work that is ours to do. This may be something as simple as taking advantage of fleeting moments in our busy days during which we intentionally stop and allow ourselves to notice, experience, and express our joy.
When you look at the life of Jesus, you don’t see him commanding us to play, of course. Yet, when Jesus urges us to “become like a little child,” we can’t ignore the fact that the full-time “job” of a child is to play, and the experience of wonder and joy naturally goes along with it. That’s why our scripture reading is Psalm 100, filled with exuberance: “Serve the Lord with celebration! Come before him with shouts of joy!”
Isn’t it fascinating that all sentient creatures play? For human beings, making a point of taking time just to play brings about the kind of wonder, curiosity, joy — a self-forgetting — that creates space and freedom to let go of our concerns and cares, much in the same way we do when we make time and space to pray.
When you think about it, both of these Healthy Plate Discipleship practices — play and pray — put your mind into a different place. A place of letting go and returning to the presence of God.
There is much more to play with here, and I look forward to exploring the idea of play, playfulness, and making space for joy on our Healthy Plate this Sunday as we conclude our Healthy Plate Discipleship series. We won’t just talk about play, we will play! There will be a Fifth Street Celebration sure to get you started on this delightful aspect of true discipleship!
Grace and Peace,
Dr. Tim Bruster