Children laugh and play with puppies and hamsters. Boys and girls twirl and dance in the rain, squeal in the mud, and swim in public pools in the summer and in snow piles in the winter. They play tag and hide-and-seek. They run and evade and hunt.
Often play requires little more than a soccer ball, football, baseball and bat, dodgeball, or tennis ball. Our kids play organized sports. And for fun we attend and watch amateur and professional athletes in large stadiums and on national television.
“Play began in the presence of God, perhaps within the triune God. Play predates time and creation.”
Play is not a limited phase for kids. Adults have their own play — in pools and lakes and oceans and in slow-pitch softball leagues. Hunting and fishing are considered sports for a reason. And healthy husbands and wives regularly “laugh together” (Genesis 26:8).
Play is not the product of a particular culture. God wired play directly into us, across all societies and cultures, as a native impulse to run and twirl and laugh we learn to express before we can learn to speak or read. All of this laughing and twirling and dancing naturally expresses God’s creative design in his creatures.
Animals, kids, adults — we all were made for play. Wild animals play in the woods (Job 40:20). Leviathan plays in the waters (Psalm 104:26). David plays during worship in ways you’d never see inside our less expressive church services on Sunday (2 Samuel 6:14). And Zion will be “full of boys and girls playing in its streets,” and when they bore of the streets, they will play in the fields and harass snakes (Zechariah 8:5; Isaiah 11:8).
In the Beginning: Twirling
The apparent frivolity of play, I suspect, scares off a lot of serious thinking about the subject, and that’s unfortunate, because when we talk about play, we talk about something deeply embedded in God’s created world.
When he assigned to the sea its limit,
so that the waters might not transgress his command,
when he marked out the foundations of the earth,
then I was beside him, like a master workman,
and I was daily his delight,
rejoicing before him always,
rejoicing in his inhabited world
and delighting in the children of man. (Proverbs 8:29–31)
This poetic interlude takes us back to the triune drama of creation in the rejoicing of play, better interpreted as twirling or tumbling.
We meet two characters here: “he,” a father figure (the LORD) who creates, and “I,” a child at his feet — perhaps a co-craftsman, certainly the father’s object of delight. There are two ways to see the twirling child.
Pre-Incarnate Christ or Female Child?
Is the Wisdom character here an appearance of Christ? Consider four pointers in this direction.
One, some commentators like Roland Murphy notice a doubled “I am” (or “I was”) in verse 30, suggesting this child figure is divine. Second, commentators see the delight of God in the Wisdom character to echo the Father-Son delight we see in the Gospels. Third, many commentators have suggested that Proverbs 8:22–31 is the backdrop for Paul’s christology in Colossians 1:15–17. Fourth, commentators also connect personified Wisdom here to the personified Logos in John 1:1–5, who is Christ.
“Have our responsibilities to produce lost their power because we can no longer play as we make?”
In his act of creation in Proverbs, this pre-incarnate-Christlike figure stands in the presence of his Father as they unfold creation together in a blend of craftsmanship, art, and play. If this is the case, if the pre-incarnate Christ stands at the genesis of the cosmos, he participates in the story, not merely as an observer, but as the master builder, laboring as he sings and dances in joy like a twirling child, thrilled with the unfolding wonders of creation, all leading to his being filled with delight in the people designed.
But this Christological interpretation is inconclusive. Other commentators, more careful here, suggest that the “he” is God, but the “I” should not be seen as anything beyond a female character — a youthful, child-aged form of Wisdom personified, and leave it there.
Five Ways We Play
We can debate this, but less debatable is the proximity of play in this creation account of Proverbs 8:29–31. We see it in at least five ways.
1. Play Is Creational
Playfulness finds its place in the act of creation itself. Creation is make-believe that actually makes — a play that crafts. The holistic nature of play is hardly better put than in a hymn by Gregory of Nazianzus, who picks up on the Wisdom-Logos relationship when he writes, “The Logos on high plays, stirring the whole cosmos back and forth, as he wills, into shapes of every kind.”
Play is not mere frivolity; it’s creational.
2. Play Is Productional
We remember the repetition of God’s declared “good” in Genesis 1 as he looks over what he crafted, and we can imagine, in light of Proverbs 8, this “good” spoken in a playful tone. This is not a deadpanned, quality-control employee at the end of a conveyor belt looking for flawed widgets. This is the Creator of all things looking on with delight.
“Sports are most fun when the rules are clearly marked and fairly enforced. Boundaries are where play flourishes.”
Yes, our work is now under sin’s curse, and God’s work then was not. But we adults tend to divorce our craft from our play, and at the beginning of creation, we see them closely linked in God’s activity. This reality asks all of us adults to consider whether our responsibilities to produce have lost their power because we can no longer play as we make. Are we too serious to make as God made?
3. Play Is Relational
The interplay between the “he” and “I” — however we finally interpret the persons — reveals a relationship mediated in the play. It’s the context of the relationship as creation unfolds.
Play has been, from the beginning, a potent social connector between persons, even at the divine level, within the triune God or in his relationship to personified Wisdom. And when God delights in you, how can you not play before him?
4. Play Is Restrictional
Play is provoked by boundaries. Putting off childishness is not putting off play; it’s putting off foolishness (1 Corinthians 13:11–12). To be fully wise — to embody Wisdom — is to be easily made appropriately playful.
The ethical edges of wisdom unleash our play. Sports are most enjoyable when the rules and boundaries are clearly marked and fairly enforced. Watching a sprinting wide receiver make a one-handed catch with one foot inbounds and the toes of his other foot sliding on the turf as the body falls out of bounds is exciting because of the imposed restriction.
Play flourishes within plain boundaries. It’s why, as G.K. Chesterton comments, “children will always play on the edge of anything.” Fools are hypocrites who make-believe outside the boundaries. The honest soul is wise because she knows the best play is found inside the parameters of God’s will. No one is better suited for play than Wisdom.
5. Play Is Immortal
“Wisdom knows the best play is found inside the parameters of God’s will.”
When time began, play had already begun. Play began in the presence of God, perhaps within the triune God. Play predates time and creation. If there is whirling and laughter in our sports and on playgrounds and in running through mud in the rain, it’s not because the scenario made the play, but that the scenarios of life give expression to the primordial desire to play hardwired within us all, and our world, by God himself.
Play can become frivolous, but it is not itself frivolous. Play is divine. God not only created play, but we can say that the act of creation was in some sense an act of play itself. Play is creational, productional, relational, restrictional, and immortal. The cosmos was created as play, and it was created for play, a grand theater for our sporting. And you indeed were made to play.
We make our beginning in the Name of God the Father and in the Name of God the Son and in the Name of God the Holy Spirit and all those who are not just about confessing and receiving forgiveness, but also about true repentance on their part said … AMEN!
Every Sunday we start worship with “Confession and Absolution”. We start with confession, we want to start our worship in a way that we’ve dealt with the sins of the past week, that we recognize that we need to start this time of worship truly opening up to God, knowing that we have failed, that we have offended Him through the week, and we want to deal with that before we start, we want to know we are worthy to be in God’s presence. We are sinners, but we are affirmed and forgiven in Christ, that we can come into the Father’s presence knowing that we are worthy, in Christ, to be in His presence. All that we’ve done in the past week to separate us from the Father, we come before Him now completely forgiven in Jesus. But there seems to be an element that is missing. You are completely forgiven in Jesus. I’ve had this discussion with the local parish priest. One of the issues Luther had was the idea that we are not completely forgiven in Jesus, that there still is this one extra element on our part in order to seal the deal and that is penance. As usual, when something is at issue, we lurch from one silly extreme to another, and we simply ignore that element which is in dispute. “If Jesus died for my sin and I confessed my sin, as we are told to do in James: “ESV 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” We are told to confess to one another, but there is still a little something missing. You’re not any less forgiven, you are completely forgiven, but… there’s a lack of intent on our part, when we omit our repentance. That we are truly sorry for our sin, that we want to do better. In our liturgy for individual confession, there is a place made for that. On page 292 in your hymnal, you will find “Individual Confession and Absolution”… wonder how many of you knew that was in there? The penitent can, if they wish, list out the sins that they are confessing, that are most weighing on their heart. Then: “They conclude by saying, I am sorry for all of this and ask for grace. I want to do better.” Generally that part gets omitted from our “corporate” confession, because we want to be good Lutherans and emphasize that we are forgiven and absolved in Jesus and we are! But that one little aspect of genuine repentance on our part, true regret for the things that we have done that are an offense against God, that do separate us from a truly, completely, holy God, we sort of omit them and decide that we’ve been forgiven, we can just move along until the next time. Gosh, I’ve done what I could, so let’s not dwell on it. What’s missing? Any thought of genuine sorrow and … how am I going to live my life in terms of not committing that sin, or any others in the future? The old man is always in us, our old human nature is always going to lead us to sin. We all know; “none are righteous no not one…” by the same token treating it as “drive by” absolution; I’m covered until the next time and I will just get forgiven then, that’s not being faithful in Christ, that’s not showing any desire to grow as a true disciple of Christ. What the rest of the world is about, “go along to get along”, then we wonder why nothing ever really changes in our life, why we always seem to be stuck in this spiritual adolescence. We’re all guilty of it, but it is how we deal with it. Judas and Peter, both deeply sinned against the Lord. Judas’ was straight out betrayal. But… Was it the unforgivable sin? No, not really. Peter also betrayed the Lord. A little girl confronts him and he almost hurts himself saying he has no idea what she is talking about, or who this Jesus guy is. One was forgiven… Peter! Peter is on notice, the angel tells the women go to the disciples and Peter, why is Peter singled out? Ya, Peter you messed up, your sin was very grievous, you denied me. My disciples are called to proclaim me and you ran away, the big tough fisherman, ran away like a frightened little rabbit. But who does Jesus take aside on that day on the beach and says “Feed my sheep”. Jesus is making sure that Peter knows he is being given an enormous responsibility. And Peter is obviously repentant. Judas? What did he do? Did he stay faithful in that room, in that period after the resurrection, waiting for the Lord to come back, trusting Jesus’ words in His resurrection? No! Judas didn’t even see the resurrection, he ran away too, but in a weaker way. He didn’t try to go back to Jesus and ask for forgiveness, to show repentance, genuine or not so genuine. He takes the issue into his own hands, he decides for himself that there is nothing left and he goes and hangs himself. Peter goes to Jesus in repentance, hangs his big head in front of Jesus and gets whacked right in the head… right? No, Jesus gives Peter a little poke, but much more importantly Jesus reorients Peter right away, gets him back on track; “Peter feed my sheep, get out there, do what you’re called to do, what you’ve been prepared to do for the last three years and bring My Word, My guidance, My Lordship and salvation, My resurrection to everyone the Holy Spirit guides you to, so that they will know “life and life more abundant”, go and build My church, with the other disciples, those who are here and those who to come, that all may be saved in true baptism, with My Body and Blood in My Church, My Body on earth, composed of all those who are saved in Me and who come together in My Church to reach out into the dark, sinfilled, death filled world. Bring the hope and promise of My Lordship and salvation to a hopeless world, with no promise other than death.
How did all that come about? Peter was repentant, he came back to lead, to wait on Jesus’ resurrection, trusting in Him, and not in his own opinion. Judas decided, by himself, he was beyond forgiveness, maybe too proud to go to Jesus in repentance, to truly trust that Jesus would forgive him and restore him. Judas, not Jesus, decided that Judas was irredeemable and the only result could be his death. That Jesus’ forgiveness did not have the power to forgive, at least not this sin. This was a really bad sin, so Judas decides on his own, that Jesus can’t help him and that he will now take matters into his own hands and decide the issue, once for all, to all eternity. Judas was guilty of the horrible sin of betraying the Lord, he was truly despicable. He was furthermore guilty of his lack of faith, that Jesus couldn’t redeem even this horrible treachery. Peter, in faith, humility and repentance returned to Jesus and was restored by Jesus. How many of us take the Peter way out, truly repent and look for restoration in Jesus? How many of us take the Judas way out, decide they aren’t going to repent, maybe they think repentance or anything else they do won’t be sufficient in order to restore us in Jesus? I’d say the majority of, even Christians, just decide to resolve the matter their way and not to trust in Jesus’ forgiveness. What way do you think truly works out?
Repentance is from the Greek word meta,noia the Greek word means: “a change of mind, as it appears to one who repents, of a purpose he has formed or of something he has done” you also see it translated a “change of direction”, I’m not following this route anymore, this constant sinful practice that I pursue as much as daily. That I am going to change that practice. Now, how do we really change? In our own strength? No… Jesus is faithful to us, the Holy Spirit does dwell in us and has been pushing us to realize our sin, to bring us not just to confess the sin, to acknowledge it, to put it out there to be forgiven. The Holy Spirit is also moving us to change our direction, another definition of meta,noia to go in a different way, a way that is 180 degrees the opposite of where we’ve been going. In a way that changes from offending God, to pleasing God. We can only do this through “repentance”. This is a concept that we as the church don’t emphasize, that doesn’t mean the church doesn’t condone repentance, it just doesn’t emphasize it, that we should be doing what we can and trusting in the Holy Spirit that He will lead us to true change and away from those things that do cause us to sin.
Here are some examples of, let’s say non-genuine repentance, in the sense I’m saying sorry, but I’m not really saying I’m sorry, no less making any meaningful personal change. The first one is not attributed, but is certainly illustrative: “I am very sorry if I called you bloatie, and booger faced, buttface, jerk, stupid, numskulls, what were you thinking if you had a brain, fur face, Lord bless me you stink so bad you make me faint, I’m sorry.” Not genuine repentance, it is taking a further shot. Just wanted to make sure that was clear for everyone. In case we are not clear on this concept, allow me to give another example of what repentance is not, this is from Ty: “I’m sorry for kicking you with a feather. Kicking is not okay, because it hurts people. Also don’t forget about the time when you were a baby-crying little devil, but I liked you and now you still are a crying little devil who gets away with everything…” Again, not genuine repentance. One more from Liam: “Miss P made me write you this note, all I want to say sorry for is not being sorry cause I tried to feel sorry but I don’t.” I can see a great career in law, international diplomacy or corporate finance for Liam here. We don’t really come in true repentance, to church, to those around us, to ourselves in terms of doing anything for any meaningful change in our lives. We engage in drive through confession, expect to be given a clean slate when we pull up to the window and then decide to worry about it the next time, next week, next month, next Christmas, that we’re in church and have to deal with the pastor standing up in front of you and saying, “we rise for Confession and Absolution”. In your prayers let’s not make it just about confession, but Lord please change my heart, move me to change to be more pleasing to you and to those around me.” For Him who chose death on a cross, all of what He endured for us so that we would be forgiven and in relationship to God the Father. From now on, what did the Holy Spirit put in your mind to see forgiveness for and what did He put in your mind to lead you from your sins, to repent after He has forgiven you?
The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amin and Shalom He has risen! He has risen indeed! Hallelujah!
First Saint Johns Lutheran Church was originally founded by German Speaking Lutherans and worship was conducted in German up until the 1940s. We continue that tradition by conducting a German language Christmas and Easter service. Rev Adam Koontz pastor of Mt Calvary Lutheran Church in Lititz, Pa, has been conducting the German language worship service for 4 years now.
That there is any similarity between the “Christian” churches of today is usually only coincidental. What serves for “Christian” ranges from the legalistic, to entertainment, to self-help, to sitting around and sharing opinions. Listen as Pastor Jim Driskell talks about the Acts church, it couldn’t afford to be anything but the genuine church of Jesus Christ in a very difficult, hostile world. Worship at First Saint Johns 140 W King St, York, Pa. Sunday morning worship at 10:30, ample parking.
Boston nostalgia memories of a simpler time including favorite restaurants no longer there, family road trips, media, hometown Boston area memories.
I’m not exactly sure when I first put the pieces together that leading is difficult…even when we think it’s going to be difficult. Big things are difficult: Turnaround churches Planting churches Focusing on the future…those outside the church…and not the past. Not just us. Difficult! And all more difficult than I might have imagined. Seemingly … Continue reading →