Summary: Fellowship is fine, but the miraculous joy of Easter requires something more.
Please note: The “Party Rules” herein referred to are taken in large part (and without permission) from P.J. O’Rourke’s Modern Manners, Chapter 19: Real Parties.
We still tell the story in my family of how my great-grandfather and my great-grandmother -- Dad Benson and Mama Benson -- John and Alma -- met. They were at the steamboat landing, they met, and Dad Benson and invited Mama Benson to a party that was being held that evening. Then he ran home and organized the party.
Now, there is everything right and nothing wrong with the sort of regularly scheduled fellowship we enjoy here together, at Family Luncheons, after Sunday school, and generally whenever we get together, but none of that should be confused with a PARTY. And, as my great-grandfather realized, there are times when only a real party will do. To have a real party, you have to have some rules.
First, a real party never has to have a theme or a fake reason for being. It just IS. If you are forced to do the hokey-pokey, it is not a real party. If you do the hokey-pokey of your own accord, then it might be.
We in the church ruin a good party when we feel like we have to make people behave a certain way, or say certain things, or when we feel like we have to do something “WORTHWHILE” to earn our keep. We don’t have to make excuses for ourselves. We’re The Church. The Church doesn’t have to be a day care center or a food bank or a soup kitchen to justify being here. Those are all good things and I’m glad the Church is doing them, but mostly, we are here and together because God brought us together though the grace of Christ, and this is where the salvation is, and we want to be here. That’s good enough.
A real party needs some food, like corn chips or gummi worms or Slim Jims or M&Ms, but the important thing, the CRITICAL thing, is drinks. Kids will put up with sub-standard cheese curls or cheap store-brand imitation Oreos, but if you get the wrong flavor Kool-Aid, you could have a riot on your hands. Kids are like that. PARTIES are like that. So, yes, the church feeds us with spiritual food, and good wholesome spiritual milk, and it sustains us with the waters of life, but it goes way beyond that.
The church provides its own intoxicant, the Holy Spirit. In the book of Acts, when the spirit was upon the disciples, onlookers thought they were drunk. That is no coincidence -- that’s what the Holy Spirit DOES! Why do you think they call them spirits?
But the the Holy Spirit goes beyond mere INTOXICATION. It makes us ECSTATIC. It draws us OUT of the STATIC -- out of BEING IN PLACE -- and brings us into the life of the spirit and God’s love, where a second is long enough to experience an eternity of joy, and that joy doesn’t get old after a thousand lifetimes.
Which brings us to the next rule: Parties happen WHEN THEY HAPPEN. If Dad Benson had been worried about protocol and printed invitations and how long it would take to set everything up, he and Mama Benson never would have become sweethearts, one thing WOULDN’T have led to another, and I never would have been born! All because that party wouldn’t have happened. You’d be sitting here listening to a wise and prudent preacher talking about responsibility or something.
Parties don’t keep schedules. In the Church we often hear talk about the hour growing late, and how we are drawing close to the end of the age, and all that. Well, it’s time to take advantage of that. It is never to late to have a good party. Never too early, for that matter. Because once it starts, all the problems you thought were so important will no longer matter to you. We are no closer to the end of the age now than when our Lord rose from the dead, and we are no farther from it than we will be when the final trumpet sounds. It can end ten minutes from now or ten thousand years from now.
“Don’t be anxious for tomorrow,” Jesus said. It will be here soon enough. Or it won’t. Either way you win, because you will know you lived in the joy of the moment the risen Christ has given you.
And this is my favorite part: A real party needs at least one person who will be deeply shocked and disturbed and annoyed at what is going on. There is no problem here; we’ve got half a world full of people who look at the church and get disturbed.