This Sunday we begin our message series called “Eight Excuses to Party“.
The title might sound a bit cheeky to you… as if I had finally taken the advice of one of my fellow leaders to market our Sunday morning Worship Gathering to Saturday night partiers as “Hangover Church”. (I still don’t think it’s that bad an idea… maybe in addition to Fruit and Pastries we could offer some sort of Advil Platter.)
As an introduction to the series, we chose the topic of “Fun” for our QAF Session last night, and it was there that I believe Gary came up with the title for this post.
In our efforts to understand the stick-in-the-mud stereotype of most religion in this country, we took turns reading verses from Billy Joel’s chart-topper, “Only the Good Die Young”. The key phrase being, “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints, ’cause sinners are much more fun.”
I actually know very few religious folk anymore who completely dismiss the value of fun. “Oh yes, you must enjoy yourself from time to time,” some might say, “but you must do it in all propriety… with proper itinerary, boundaries, etiquette, modesty and safety precautions. This is how God intends Christians are to have ‘fun'”.
In other words, the thought of “cutting loose” is right out.
Loud Music with a Strong Beat? Out.
Raucous Laughter? Out.
Stuffing Your Face? Out. Wait… no, that’s in. If nothing else, Christians are great eaters.
But I’ve got to ask… are we getting these ideas from our inerrant scriptures? Are we turning to the Ultimate Guide for Life as an Ultimate Guide for a Party? I thought for sure that the mantra “Let the Good Times Roll” originated somewhere in Ecclesiastes…
The unavoidable fact is, God is hardcore about a great party. Passover is like Thanksgiving on steroids, with the feasts and the family reunions. And four cups of wine are mandatory. On Sukkot everybody builds little forts and goes camping in them. On Simchat Torah there’s music and dancing in the streets. On Purim everybody dresses up in costumes and finds the most ridiculous and noisy way to retell the story of Esther. The message on Rosh Hoshana is “what happened last year, stays in last year.” On Hanukkah you get to play a minature version of Roulette with all the chocolate coins riding on a single turn of the top. Not to mention the Sabbath day, where chilling out is an order, the Sabbath year, which is the same thing to a lesser degree but much longer, and the Jubilee year twice every century, where all the slaves go free, and everybody heads back to their family’s land to start all over again and see what happens this time.
And then there’s the weddings… Weddings that lasted for days and days, sometimes weeks. Feasting and drinking and dancing and chatting and toasting to the happy couple, who by the way, are commanded not to work until they’ve been married an entire year.
Jesus obviously approved of weddings like that, because his first miracle was to avert a screeching halt to a classic Jewish wedding by producing hundreds of gallons of wine. Jesus certainly did not approve of drunkenness, which is sinful, and was very socially unacceptable at that place and time, but he certainly did approve of a good party.
So many of us see Jesus either with eyes of fire, or eyes of water. He’s either angry, or he’s depressed. But when you look harder into the words and life of Jesus, you see a man with a sharp eye for a pun, a desire to amaze and mystify his followers, and a personal magnetism that is literally legendary.
Yes, life is serious. No, we should not be flippant about the problems of sin, suffering and heartache. Jesus certainly was not.
But God started the good times a-rollin’ thousands of years ago, and Jesus picked it up and gave it a second wind. So far be it from me, a Christ-follower, to poop on this party.
Laissez les bon temps rouler!