This past Sunday at the church I [Jonathan Storment, @Stormented] serve, we started a new Easter series called “Jesus Throws the Best Parties”
For many people, partying is seen as a way to escape reality or it is reduced to something for 5th grade birthdays or college students with over-active hormones and their parents’ credit cards.
But there are better parties than these. And Jesus knows how to throw them.
As strange as it may sound, parties are one of the primary ways Jesus changed the world. Let me explain…
My favorite hymn of all time is hands down, “O Holy Night.” It is easily one of the most profound, powerful songs that the world has ever sung. Even the lyrics recognize this. “Fall on your knees” is not written as a request, it is as if those who sing this have no choice, in the light of the gospel, but to worship.
Because Heaven has entered earth and now “the soul feels its worth.”
What a great line. The chains are released and the slave is our brother…because the soul feels its worth.
It is one of the best hymns that has ever been written.. And from a historical standpoint it is incredibly accurate.
When most of us think of human rights, when we think of equity and justice and mercy, what we think is almost entirely influenced by the Jesus story. Heaven has intersected earth and changed everything. The soul has felt its worth.
Rene Girard was a French philosopher who taught at Stanford University. He was a brilliant anthropologist who was fascinated with one single question: “Why, in modern times, does the marginalized person have moral authority?” This trend was confusing to Girard because there was nothing comparable to it in ancient literature. In fact, everything was really the exact opposite. The ancient world, celebrates the strong, the heroic, not the vulnerable and weak. And this fascinated Girard, because he noticed that this movement was picking up steam. Liberation movements working for minorities, people working against modern day slavery were growing more and more popular. But where did this way of thinking come from? And that is where Girard’s life began to change. He traced this social phenomenon all the way back to the life of Jesus. He discovered that with Jesus’ birth and death, Jesus introduced a new plot to human history. The victim mattered. The people who were oppressed mattered. And to the confusion of his peers at Stanford University, Rene Girard, this great thinker and secular humanist, started following Jesus.
We live in a world that thinks the most important thing that you can do in your life is take the right position on the right issues. Jesus reminds us that the most important thing is to be standing with the right people. This is how Jesus’ ministry worked. It slowly created a new ethic. God came and celebrated life among the least of these, until everyone else started to realize that they mattered too.And slowly it worked.
Who would have ever thought that sharing water with a Samaritan divorcee, or having a party with a tax collector would have such far reaching significance. Who would have thought that a Judean carpenter, who never wrote a word, never travelled extensively, would so radically alter the world? Jesus’ life slowly deconstructed an economy 1500 years later that was built on slave trading, and after two thousand years impacts sex-trade and human trafficking. And He did it primarily, not by writing books or blogs or preaching sermons.
He did it with parties.
That may sound strange, but it happens all the time. Jesus has awakened us to the reality that the worst lie that someone can believe is that some lives matter more than others. And He does it by standing with all the wrong people. More to the point, he parties with all the wrong people. In fact, here is a good rule of thumb for Jesus’ kind of parties. If you find yourself at a party with all the wrong people, you’re probably in the right party.
A few months ago, the church I serve had a party for Martha. Martha had been in prison for over a decade, and after she was released she had to spend years on probation and parole. On the day her parole finally ended, we threw a party to celebrate Martha’s freedom. She was re-entering society fully, and the church thought that was worth a bit of cake and punch. So we threw a Jesus kind of party and for an evening, people celebrated something really significant. There were tears and hugs and high-fives and junk food.
But Martha’s party really started a few years earlier. When Martha first entered prison, she was incredibly lonely. The other inmates around her were receiving letters from friends and family, but Martha didn’t really have a support group. She was more than incarcerated, she was alone. One day a prison chaplain was talking to her, and suggested that she read the New Testament. Paul wrote lots of letters, just consider those God’s letter to you. And then the chaplain gave Martha a Bible.
Martha, not one for sentimentality, ignored the chaplain. 2000 year old letters couldn’t replace ones from a friend. But a few weeks went by, and eventually Martha picked up the Bible. Initially she was just going to skim through it to justify why she should dismiss it. But one word caught her attention and got her to read the whole letter, which eventually got her to read the whole Bible, and eventually Martha gave her life to Jesus.
The word was in the Apostle Paul’s letters to the Ephesians. The word was in verse one, of chapter one, when Paul was telling them who he was and why he was writing.
“I, Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus…”
And the soul feels its worth.