Isaiah 6:8

8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Jesus - The Original Party Animal

This past Sunday we celebrated the great feast of All Saints. It’s a wonderful day for our whole church. All Saints’ Day is a day in which we celebrate all Christians across time that form what we call “the communion of saints.” If you trust Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, you are a part of this communion of saints … YOU are a saint in the making!
I want to take a few minutes and look at the book of Ecclesiastes. It is a joyous hymn of praise for heroes. Famous men and women … wise leaders and teachers. Artists, musicians, and writers. People with great reputations who are remembered long after they die. In Ecclesiastes 44:1-10, 13-14 from the
Revised Standard Version we see:
44:1 Let us now praise famous men, and our fathers in their generations. 44:2 The Lord apportioned to them great glory, his majesty from the beginning. 44:3 There were those who ruled in their kingdoms, and were men renowned for their power, giving counsel by their understanding, and proclaiming prophecies; 44:4 leaders of the people in their deliberations and in understanding of learning for the people, wise in their words of instruction; 44:5 those who composed musical tunes, and set forth verses in writing; 44:6 rich men furnished with resources, living peaceably in their habitations -- 44:7 all these were honored in their generations, and were the glory of their times. 44:8 There are some of them who have left a name, so that men declare their praise. 44:9 And there are some who have no memorial, who have perished as though they had not lived; they have become as though they had not been born, and so have their children after them. 44:10 But these were men of mercy, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten;
44:13 Their posterity will continue for ever, and their glory will not be blotted out. 44:14 Their bodies were buried in peace, and their name lives to all generations.

The Church has heroes too … women and men of great faith who have gone before us. The Saints. It is important that at some time during the year we celebrate their lives…these many, special Christians. Each one of them had a unique way of demonstrating what it meant to live in Christ … they were absorbed by God’s love and filled with God’s Spirit. The Saints show us what God does in human lives … examples of the possibilities for each of us as we seek to follow Christ in our time.
But Saints are more than just examples … they are also partners with us in our Christian lives. In Christ we are joined with the Saints in one company of God’s People. Together we praise and glorify God … in our lives and in our worship … and the Saints in their presence with God in heaven. Each time we gather at the Lord’s Table to celebrate Holy Communion we join the Church in all places AND the whole company of Saints in heaven as together we worship and praise God.
The wonderful celebration of All Saints reminds us that as Christians we are knit together in one communion and fellowship as the Body of Christ … the communion of saints in the making (such as you and me) … the great Saints of history … and ordinary saints who have passed on but whose names are forgotten. But…do we live our lives as if we are Saints in the making?
I know you think I have lost my mind but my blog today is really about being a “Party Person!” If you think about a child's birthday party hat...that hat is a simple reminder that being a “Party Person” is a good thing to be. I want you to take that mental picture with you today…so that every single time you think about it or envision it in your mind….you will be reminded…that Jesus….was a Party Person.
In his story, "Party People", Donald Davis tells how a disastrous birthday party enables a child to learn about the Kingdom of Heaven. His mother is anxious about inviting Barbara Blackwelder and asks her husband, "What will we do about Barbara Blackwelder." "Oh, don't worry," he replies, "they won't come. They don't have a car and besides they aren't what you'd call 'Party People.'" When Donald asks his mom about what was wrong with Barbara Blackwelder. His mother replies, "She smells funny." Now he didn’t quite understand. She smelled fine to him. "She smelled just like she was on a camping trip -- a permanent camping trip." And so 14 birthday invitations are issued to each of Donald's classmates including Barbara Blackwelder.
And then about 5 o'clock the day before the party, he got sick. Meal losing sick…you know the kind…losing about a meal every three minutes sick. A virus had gotten him a day before the thing he was most looking forward. He feared the words he heard from his mom, "We'll have to call off the party." And so his mom went to call 14 other mommas to tell them the party was canceled. But she actually called only 13 mommas because the Blackwelder's had no phone. But his father eased his mothers concerns. "That's alright. I told you they have no car -- they won't be here. And besides, I've said, they are not what you'd call "Party People."
The next day about midday there was a knock on the door. There on the porch stood Barbara Blackwelder and her mother. Behind them in the driveway was a taxi. His mother was so embarrassed. I didn't call . . . It's okay, we already knew, Mrs. Blackwelder assured her. Mrs. Jones has a phone and she told us. We wouldn't have come if your were having the party. We never were, you know, what you'd call "party people." We're not coming in. We had Mrs. Jones call a taxi to take us to town. Without a party we knew he wouldn't have any presents. Barbara brought him something. It was a little plastic car kit worth 39 cents. And like that they were gone.
That night at dinner as Donald thought about his day, and the little plastic car he'd worked on all afternoon, he announced to his mother. "Next year I want another birthday party but I'm only going to ask Barbara Blackwelder. They're the only real party people we know."
What Donald learned that day is the infinite mercy and grace of Jesus Christ. What he learned is about the lines you and I draw. Your know the ones -- who's in and who's out; who's with me and who's against me; who's Christian and who's not; who cares for me and who doesn't. What he learned is that Jesus doesn’t draw these lines which in effect makes us all unchristian to some extent. The Beatitudes remind us that Jesus picked out for special commendation not the spiritual giants …but, those people who we quite often ignore. He chose: not the champions of faith but the ones who mourn over their own suffering. not the strong ones but the meek ones in the sense of gentle ones. not the ones who are righteous but the ones who hope they will be one day. not the winners of great victories over evil but the ones who, seeing evil in themselves, are merciful when they find it in others. not the totally pure but the pure in heart. not the ones who have found peace but the ones who try to find peace in their neighbors and in God.
So what we have today is the fact that God is much more generous than we would ever imagine; that God is much more inclusive than we could ever think; that in Jesus Christ, God is more accepting and welcoming than we can ever dream. Jesus hangs around with marginal people. The people we exclude, Jesus includes. The people we don’t invite…Jesus invites those…the ones outside the Law, the deformed, the ugly, the unbeautiful, the scarred to come to the party we call the Kingdom of Heaven.
Where we include a few select, God includes infinitely more. Where we reject others, God accepts them. Where we limit the numbers, God expands them infinitely including people of every tongue, language, color and way of life. How great is our Lord! How great is His mercy! How generous God is!
And that is the message of Donald Davis' story "Party People." Barbara Blackwelder and her family are mere symbols of all the ugliness and sinfulness and hurtfulness and brokenness that people are capable of in our world. In their poverty, in their smelliness, they came to a little boy on his birthday as if to say every one is repulsed but Jesus. They came to remind us that each one of us, some way or another, is in poverty or smelly, or imperfect and flawed; and the only one who looks at our ugliness and sees beauty is Jesus.
When others exclude us, when others reject us, when others do not invite us, Jesus does. When others shun us and turn their backs and reject us and hurt us, Jesus breaks bread with us. When others look at our appearance and are repulsed, Jesus kisses us. In Jesus each and every one of us becomes "Party People."
Each one of those who have gone before us had a unique way of demonstrating what it meant to live in Christ … they were absorbed by God’s love and filled with God’s Spirit. These Saints show us what God does in human lives … they are examples of the possibilities for each of us as we seek to follow Christ in our time. They are the definition of “Party People!”
May we wake up every morning of every day and strive to be “Party People.”
So in the words of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, "Party On, Dudes!" Until next time, Karen

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