God mandated that Israel celebrate as a nation at least three times a year with a national party. They called them Feasts. But they were just big parties; lots of eating, drinking, singing, dancing, telling stories to each other and celebrating God, family and friends.
Jesus came and framed much of his ministry as an expression of a banquet (a party; used twenty times in the gospels) and taught most of his deepest truths to persons at parties. Let’s not forget that His ministry began at a party—the wedding in Canaan.
One of my professors at Eastern Mennonite Seminary wrote, “Much of Jesus’ ministry, both before and after his resurrection, took place at the table. Most striking is how ‘wildly inclusive’ he was in the companions he chose. When Jesus ate and drank with ‘sinners,’ he did so with clear intent to extend shalom to outsiders. When he fed the hungry, he demonstrated the very present goodness and justice of the reign of God. Jesus’ table practices were inseparably linked with his mission to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind. The early church continued Jesus’ table practices in their community gatherings, frequently ‘breaking bread’ together, welcoming outsiders who were drawn to the goodness of life in Christ. And as they participated around the Lord’s Table, they remembered Jesus’ death and celebrated his living presence made known to them in ‘the breaking of the bread.’”
When we invite persons to a party we say, “We value you and are interested in knowing you for who you are and not for what we can get from you.” Throwing a party is a culturally acceptable way to express gratitude to God (we are sharing out of the abundance we feel we have received from God) and to be hospitable to our neighbors (the second greatest commandment). Is it any wonder that God mandated the Israelites to throw parties often so that they could remember and practice these two important parts of our faith?
So what should you do? Throw a party as a spiritual practice. Some ideas follow:
1. Think of people that you appreciate. Invite them to your home for a meal. It is simple. But intentionally invite one or more persons that you might not normally invite and that may not be known by the others. By doing so you are showing them the hospitality and love of God. You are also foreshadowing what the Kingdom of God will be like. Everyone gets invited to the table.
2. Some people regularly throw parties for their immediate family. But suppose you threw a party for your neighbors.
3. Is there someone that you know at church that may not have a large community around them? Could you choose to use your birthday to throw them a party? Or something like that?
4. Consider looking at Sunday morning worship and Wednesday Night Out as a party where we celebrate God and each other. What might change if we came to church with that type or attitude?