Party Time

Somewhere in the last 2000 years we’ve missed the point. Church is a solemn and depressing place in many denominational parishes. The quiet “reverence” of the buildings misses the point. Masses in Latin, canticles in old English or the more modern service books all emphasize the necessity to be quiet in God’s presence.

The point is missed.

Jesus was referred to as a winebibber and a glutton.

The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, Behold, a Man Who is a glutton and a wine drinker, a friend of tax collectors and notorious sinners.” Luke 7:34 (Amplified)

A friend of notorious sinners. That would be us they’re refer to. And Jesus came eating and drinking wine. While I’m certain He wasn’t drunk, He certainly wasn’t averse to a party. Consider the wedding feast in Cana. Think about His reputation with the religious zealots. This was a man who was not afraid to have a good time.

He hung out with hookers and employees of the IRS. Today we may not grasp the enormity of the statement, but back in His day the tax collectors were considered even lower on the hierarchy. They were quislings and traitors who were in the pocket of the Romans and robbed their own people to line their own pockets.

And Jesus saw nothing wrong with hanging out with them. In fact, He sought them out. He described them as lost sheep, and pointed out to the religious minded that they were exactly the people He was there for. How things have changed.

There’s an annual event in Cape Town, my current home, called the “Sexpo”. As the unimaginative title suggests, it’s aimed at sexual gratification in all it’s worldly guises. I’m not sure Jesus would have gone along to have a look, but I’m certain a man whose reputation included hanging out with prostitutes and whose closest circle included a reformed hooker would not have been in the mob of zealots outside telling the entrants they’re all going to hell, directly to hell, do not pass “go” and do not collect $200.

Jesus knew how to party. And more significantly, the parties He got involved in were parties that attracted sinners. When was the last time people were lining up to get into your church? How often is the summer fete so jammed full that there’s no space for more? Contrast it with nightclubs and parties where people today have to line up for hours to go in. Why isn’t God’s house a place as welcoming and alive as these places which are so worldly?

The tithe was a great example. If we read the Law books correctly, the tithe was to be gathered annualy for a celebration of God’s goodness – a party. Imagine the scene if it had actually been done that way! Instead of a back-breaking burden, a party where everyone could share in the Joy of being God’s Children! Religious mindsets twisted the intended purpose and wrecked God’s intended plan for His people to remember His Love and Provision for them each year. The Year of Jubilee was the Fiftieth Year when every debt was to be cancelled. Freedom and a way to eradicate poverty in His Kingdom. Small wonder that the religious failed to fully implement it. The rich tend to control the power and they wouldn’t want that power base disrupted.

But we have a God who loves a party. Read Jesus’s description of the Kingdom of Heaven and tell me it doesn’t sound like a party. Celebration of God’s goodness with crowns and True Worship, a place of Joy and Peace with no sorrow and suffering. A real party going on after time itself ceases to exist. As Amazing Grace notes, when we’ve spent a thousand years in Heaven we’ll be no nearer the end than the day we arrived.

Consider the story of the Prodigal Son. The first thing the Father does when he returns home in repentance is throw a feast to celebrate. The story is a parable of how the Kingdom will be, not only acceptance but a blow-out celebration that we’re home. The Bible is so full of images of feasting, parties and celebrations that it’s impossible to quote the passages here. I’d have to copy the entire script – somewhat lengthy.

The only conclusion we can reasonably make is that we have a God who not only Loves us unconditionally, He delights in our happiness and will throw a party any time we give him the chance.

Suppose one of you had a hundred sheep and lost one. Wouldn’t you leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the lost one until you found it? When found, you can be sure you would put it across your shoulders, rejoicing, and when you got home call in your friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep!’ Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.” (Luke 15:4-7 The Message)

“Celebrate with me”. The impression is this is more than a few high-fives in the Heavens if we’re the lost sheep. It’s time to party.

Wouldn’t you like to be a follower of a God who likes to party?

I know I would.

Tony Campolo told a story at Greenbelt in the UK back in 1990 about a time he was in Honolulu and managed to get caught up organizing a party for a working girl. When the owner of the shop they used challenged him about being a preacher his response was something like “I serve a God who throws parties for hooker’s birthdays at 3:30 in the morning!” The reply was immediate. “There is no church like that. I’d join a church like that!”

Wouldn’t we all?

Check it out, Church. If Jesus is alive – which He is – It’s PARTY TIME!