Our congregation at Broad & Washington is planning to throw a feast this Sunday evening. Although I love a good party (the more, the merrier!), the reality of Syrians and others being gassed and the U.S. government making a case for another “humanitarian” military intervention makes me want to crawl in a hole.
So I’ve been drawing inspiration from Jesus, who is good for that. Not only does he have the final word in all of these matters, he understands suffering and death (see Isaiah 53 fulfilled today on Rosh Hashana) and resurrection. Not only is he present to our suffering, he is actually throwing a party in the middle of the mess. It’s audacious.
1. Expand your guest list to include those you might have pre-screened before. Jesus says, “go out quickly into the streets and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.” (Couldn’t that be me or you on any given day?) If some people make excuses, don’t worry; party on. (Luke 14)
2. Honor the guests. Do the serving and let everyone know they are welcome by giving out the best seats and the tastiest morsels. If people get vulnerable (like Mary who dumped the expensive perfume on Jesus’s feet), make it safe with acceptance. Honor the lavish gifts that each of us brings.
3. Draw attention to the reality that Jesus is here. In the middle of the recorded parties throughout the gospels, and now in the Church, Jesus keeps articulating this comfort: I am here. Here I am. You don’t need to vie for attention or worry about running out of good wine. Here I am, poured out for you. It’s OK to celebrate.
This is my experience all over the world among God’s people. There’s a mysterious magnetism, because Jesus is where his followers are—-as lovely or as messy as we may be. So I’ll be celebrating this Sunday—hopefully with you— in spite of all the reasons not to. The table is heavily-laden with necessities like grace, hope, and joy.