Faith Matters: So many celebrations today


Pastor, First Congregational Church of Sunderland

Published: 05-05-2023 5:30 PM

There is so much more to celebrate today than I realized. I must mention that today is National Nurses Day since my daughter is a nurse. On a lighter note, though, May 6 is also National Beer Pong Day. I live in Amherst and I can see for myself how much people love competing in this “sport.” I wonder if this National Day has anything to do with National No Homework Day that also falls on May 6. I’ve never played beer pong, but I do hope to honor in some small way today’s National Homebrew Day. And there’s more. The first Saturday of May is not only a “national” day, it is World Naked Gardening Day. This day was created to celebrate the beauty of gardening and also of the human body. Its major focus is to promote body acceptance and positivity in a fun way. In that same vein of body acceptance, today is additionally National No Diet Day.

Beer pong, no-homework, homebrew, naked gardening, no-diet, these may all seem out of place in a “Faith Matters” article. Maybe they are, but maybe they’re not. There is something worthwhile in these national days that encapsulates what the French refer to as joie de vivre, the joy of living. I cannot pronounce the phrase and I would have a hard time trying to live into the phrase, but I so enjoy it when I see it in other people. Their joie de vivre brings me joy in my own reserved way. It’s contagious. But again, why bring this up in a “Faith Mattes” article? For me it has something to do with this strange season we are in right now between Easter and the Ascension.

Jesus’ visible ascension into the heavens on the fortieth day after Easter may be a biblical contrivance since it is only shared in Acts of the Apostles, while other ascension stories are told elsewhere in the New Testament. Additionally, the particular number forty has a significance that would lend itself to its adoption. Jesus, for example, had spent forty days in the wilderness preparing himself before he entered into his public ministry, and then the risen Jesus spent forty days with the apostles to prepare them for their own public ministry, all of which may hearken back to the forty years Israel spent in the wilderness being prepared for their entrance into the Promised Land.

The actual amount of time between Easter and ascension is not all that essential. What intrigues me is this notion that the resurrected Jesus in whatever manner for however long interacted with his followers in some unique way. What intrigues me further, and what also ties in with all of today’s national-day-celebrations, is that the resurrected Jesus never shares a single story about the afterlife. If I put myself into the sandals of one of Jesus’ disciples, I would be so excited to ask the risen Jesus about the blackhole of what happens after death. And yet, not one word is shared.

I find it hard to imagine that such questions had never been raised, especially if we remain with the idea of forty days. This leads me to imagine that the questions were deflected by Jesus. I have often used with children the analogy of trying to explain red to a person born blind. How would it be possible? The afterlife has no adequate analogy from this life. We can imagine various iterations of paradise, but Jesus’ silence may be a testament that definitions of the afterlife are best left to after this life. And more importantly, Jesus’ silence may not only be a deflection, but a redirection. Rather than focus on the afterlife, Jesus’ complete silence on the topic is redirecting us to appreciate this life.

Faith matters because it offers a much needed reminder of the sanctity of joie de vivre. I realize that this may sound strange because for many the voice of religion seems to speak of obligation and commandment, even of anger and judgment. It feels entitled to impose its morality on others even if it is life-denying to them. It legitimates the persecution of people for who they are and demands they live falsely and joylessly, all in the name of the risen Jesus who would have been justified to come back to us with such examples of judgment. Instead, the resurrected Jesus shares a message that is life affirming. This is why faith matters. This is why people of faith can learn from the joie de vivre exemplified in all of today’s national-days. It is the spirit of these days, not necessarily beer pong per se, but the spirit of joyfulness that would serve religion well.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

My Turn: Biden’s record and accomplishments are extremely positive
MIAA Div. 5 boys basketball: Brayden Thayer joins the 1,000 point club in Pioneer’s 65-37 Round of 32 win over Fenway (PHOTOS)
Area sugarhouses start tapping season early after warm winter days
MIAA Div. 5 boys basketball: Dominant all-around performance sends Mahar past Smith Academy, 60-15
State Tournament Roundup: Franklin Tech girls basketball cruises past PV Christian
Psalm 23: The message of the shepherd

Today’s national days of celebration speak of acceptance, positivity and fun, and Nurses Day of caring for others. Maybe they belong in a “Faith Matters” article because they remind us that the resurrected Jesus directs us to see the blessings and joy in this life and each other, and that religion would serve God and us well by better expressing a similar joie de vivre.

The First Congregational Church of Sunderland, United Church of Christ worships on Sundays at 11 a.m. The church’s website and Facebook page are found under First Congregational Church of Sunderland. The church’s phone number is 413-665-7987. To reach Calvo, email him at You are welcome to attend the church’s Book and Bake Sale from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. today, and also to enjoy an outdoor concert by The Over Easy Band from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Bring your chairs.