So this Saturday I went to the new Cowboys Stadium to see my Razorbacks beat the pants off of Texas A&M in the largest stadium known to man. People were cheering like we had won the national championship, at one point I hugged several total strangers. There was a drunk, fraternity guy in front of us we nicknamed Captain Affection, because he kissed several people, hugged everyone, and I think was eventually kicked out of the stadium. I thought the game was going to be the highlight of my week.
But I was wrong.
I will never forget yesterday’s church service. Even if I tried I don’t think it’s possible.
Sometimes the power of Scripture is lost because we have developed these creative hermeneutical loopholes that make the Bible about another world. We exegete and explain away passages that don’t fit what we are comfortable with. Especially with stories about God’s goodness.
Yesterday Atchley preached on the Prodigal Son. And his main point was that as scandalous as the Father accepting the son back was, people could have probably accepted it. It was after all the Father’s son coming home. But what was truly scandalous about this story is the way that the Father accepted the son back.
He threw a party.
This Father, who’d just taken a serious hit toward his net worth, dipped into the savings once more for his youngest son and threw a party. And not just any party. It was one for the entire family, for all the servants, and the entire village. The Father fed everyone, there was music and dancing (pay attention to those words) and for a moment everything was right in the world.
And so yesterday, RHCC did more than just tell this story. We practiced it.
We passed out 4,000 noisemaking, party favors. Had the Jr. High students re-teach us how to dance to the Happy Song, and bought cake for everyone. For an hour after the assemblies you could see people eating cake and hear those annoying birthday party noisemakers.
And it sounded like gospel noises.
I think this is perhaps the main thing that our Western churches are missing. We are anemic from lack of partying. We have bought into the idea that partying is a secular thing, and have made our churches just as somber and serious as we know how. So we read the Prodigal Son as if was about something other than the unbridled joy of God’s reconciling love. We leave the partying to the people who really don’t have that much to party about.
Soren Kierkegaard spoke about our trivial parties well:
“Last night I went to a party. Everyone admired my wit and
sophistication. All agreed that I was most entertaining. And
I returned to my apartment, closed the door, held a gun in
my hands and thought about ending my life.”
I want you to think about this. Most of the time in our world, parties have a hedonistic bent to them. That is to say, we party just to celebrate ourselves. So we party about the most meaningless things. I have seen grown men cry from joy because a man ran down the field with a ball made from pigskin, and celebrate something that will not matter in one week (this doesn’t apply to the Razorbacks, that was obviously quite important).
There’s a reason that a huge chunk of Jesus parables are about banquets, or weddings, the party scenes of his day. It’s because the Scriptures are trying to paint a hope for this world that is so big, so tremendous that it’s a heresy not to party.
Because what that Father did for the Prodigal Son, God is going to do for every single molecule of creation.
God is reconciling all things to Himself.
So we eat cake to celebrate the time drawing near where no one will be hungry. We make noise to celebrate the time when justice will roll forward like roaring waters. We dance because the Shalom, our “this-world made new” hope is coming. We party, to practice.
And with each movement toward drawing all things back to Himself, Heaven celebrates.
So our churches need to stop slaving. It’s time to join the party.