Culture

Known for our Parties? God is!

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It seems that God loves a good party.[1]

In the Bible, God went out of his way to tell his people that He wanted them to have parties on earth; to celebrate and enjoy His good gifts. In the Older Testament, God ordains the entire Jewish religious calendar around ten national parties or “feasts.”[2] These parties were fun gatherings consisting of good food, good neighbours and good times that often lasted for days! [3] 

What if Christians in every neighbourhood threw the best parties?  What if we became known right where we live as those who extended hospitality, were always welcome, generous and inviting? As our neighbourhood has learned to celebrate together in fun, creative and regular[4] ways, we have experienced the Presence and goodness of God. Furthermore, we have learned to never underestimate the importance of a good party as a place and means for holy agency, as Jesus’ life story testifies[5]. If our Saviour and Lord when He walked this earth, was present on such occasions and known as a partier then it follows that He will be present through the Spirit when we ‘party’ today and those in the midst will get a taste of God’s Kingdom for Jesus describes it as a party too![6]

One example of where such holy agency has been unmistakable is at our block parties to which about ten blocks of households are invited. At our first one, neighbours who had lived on the same street for seventeen years (!) met for the first time. Neighbours began to make connections and in the weeks and months to come, everyone felt safer and more comfortable and connected in the community. It was also here that God introduced us to some other nearby followers of Jesus. Thus we have echoed the words of the apostle John, “‘Look! Look! God has moved into the neighborhood, making his home with men and women! They’re his people, he’s their God’.”[7]

Last year’s block party however got off to a slow start. It was rainy and windy at our 3 p.m. scheduled set up time; nonetheless I sat there on my lawn chair with an umbrella over my head while my neighbour sat in her car. As a few others arrived, we persevered in the inclement weather setting up tables and a canopy. Thankfully and to the surprise of many neighbours, within three hours the sky had cleared and there were forty to fifty people coming and going, eating, talking, laughing, meeting with one another, some for the first time, others renewing acquaintances or catching up with closer friendships. As the feasting and connecting continued, some of the teens and young adults got a casual football game going and others joined in including four year olds and our forty-something year old Down syndrome neighbour. It was a beautiful, touching sight as those around began to notice how the ‘strong’ players were watching out for and including the ‘weaker’ ones. Older neighbours commented on how right this felt and that this was the way neighbourhood should be. One retired neighbour who rarely participates in events such as this but who talks with us whenever we’re mutually out and about, came over to me and began to say how much she appreciated all that was going on in the neighbourhood and how wonderful it was to see Marco[8] smiling and embraced in the game. She didn’t finish her sentence. She was all choked up looking out over the gathering and the game and before I knew it, she was giving me a big hug. I believe she experienced a taste of the Kingdom of God that day. “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood. We saw the glory with our own eyes, the one-of-a-kind glory, like Father, like Son, Generous inside and out, true from start to finish.”[9]

Later that evening, as we were back home cleaning up and putting leftovers away, our youngest daughter said to me, “I get it now, Mom. That was so fun…We had so much fun playing football and nobody got mad and everyone was including the little ones and did you see Marco? He was just so full of smiles… I couldn’t stop smiling either… we have to do this again. I get it now.” My daughter too felt the Spirit of God present and at work in our midst as we ‘partied’ with our neighbours, celebrating and experiencing God’s gift of community – the gift of Godself.

Maybe God’s mission and God’s calling begins with loving our neighbors right where we live by celebrating with them. Maybe it’s time you and your neighbours had a block party.

___

Karen is a National Team Member for Forge Canada Missional Training Network and a Missional Leader Developer for the Christian Reformed Church in North America (Home Missions-Western Canada). She is also a neighbour, wife, mom, and pastor of NEW community. She has been a vocational pastor in Edmonton for 29 years and is currently pursuing a Doctorate in Missional Leadership at Northern Seminary. Along with preaching and teaching in numerous places, Karen has written a number of books including Don’t Invite Them To Church: Moving From a Come and See to a Go and Be Church.

 


[1]     Abraham for instance, threw a big party on the day his long awaited son, Isaac was weaned.Gen.21:8 MSG; “Feast there in the Presence of God, your God. Celebrate everything that you and your families have accomplished under the blessing of God, your God.” Deut.12:7MSG “…spend the money for whatever you wish—oxen, sheep, wine, strong drink, or whatever you desire. And you shall eat there in the presence of the LORD your God, you and your household rejoicing together.”Deut.14:26 NRSV “Then you, together with the Levites and the aliens who reside among you, shall celebrate with all the bounty that the LORD your God has given to you and to your house.” Deut.26:11NRSV.
[2]     Exodus 10:9, Lev.23, Nahum 1:15.
[3]     1 Chron.12:39-40 MSG. See also Nehemiah 8:10,12; Esther 9:22b; Psalm 70:4; Eccl.10:17,19; Joel 2:21.
[4]        About once a month, more often in the warmer weather.
[5]     The Son of God did his first miracle at a wedding party John 2:1-10; One of the first things one of his new followers did upon being called to be a disciple was “invite[d] Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners.”Matthew 10:10; Jesus was anointed for his burial at a dinner party. Luke 7:36-50; and was criticized by the Pharisees for being too much of a ‘partier’ Luke 7:34.
[6]     Luke 14:15–24.
[7]     Revelation 21:3 MSG.
[8]        Our neighbour with Down syndrome, name changed.
[9]     John 1:14 MSG.

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