This is a picture of Mahalia Jackson, my favorite Gospel singer of all time.
I like to think if anyone could have sung the Psalms of David better than himself, it would have been her.
I believe Mahalia knew the “secret” of real worship…the concept of “purposeful celebration”.
“Purposeful Celebration” is the concept of celebrating the arrival of God’s liberating act in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, while remembering the purpose of that liberating act and how it ought to affect us in our daily lives and discipleship. It is reveling in the “joy of the Lord”, while simultaneously “bearing the cross”. It is the result of recognizing the Commonwealth of God within our midst, while still praying and witnessing it into appearance all the while empowered by the grace of God.
Purposeful celebration is a reflection of the realized eschatology of creation.
Perhaps it is necessary to adapt John Calvin’s concept of “spectacles” to better grasp the concept of purposeful celebration. Purpose without celebration is a form of spiritual nearsightedness which sees the situation of humanity close-up, with all its shortcomings, agonies, abuses, and brokenness without clearly apprehending the “new heavens and earth” of God’s redemption. Likewise, celebration without purpose is a horrible farsightedness, a blindness to the present condition of creation in order to merely bask in the pretended glow of some wonderful glory of God that is simply an avoidance of our high calling in Jesus Christ. The nearsightedness of purpose without celebration leads ultimately to a form of grim determination and spiritual nihilism, while the farsightedness of celebration without purpose leads to a wicked form of self-righteousness and spiritual narcissism.
Mahalia Jackson instinctively sensed this. Ask an oppressed person who knows the “joy of the Lord” and they could tell you of the concept, the meaning, and the lifestyle of purposeful celebration. It is the reason why Maya Angelou knows that “the caged bird sings”. It is the means by which we climb Jacob’s ladder, it is the method of active ecclesia, it is communitas and kinetic discipleship, it is God’s plan for priests and prophets, it is God’s mission for the church yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
Purposeful celebration is the summation and integration of the Book of Psalms.
It is the real time actuality of exile and return.
It is the practice of The Way.
There is a path, a Way that we are called to pilgrimage upon. It is the Via Dolorosa of our own lives. It is the death of our selfish egos, the crucifixion of our selfish desires, the vigil of true discipleship, and our resurrection with Jesus Christ into an actualizing awareness of creation, of our neighbor, and of our ultimate calling as human beings and the Imago Dei of the God of all that was, is, or ever shall be.
Come, the table is prepared.
We are called to the conscious party, the purposeful celebration of the Commonwealth of God.