One of my favorite short films of all time is Rik Swartzwelder’s The Least of These. Rik does a masterful job of cinematically telling Tony Compolo’s story about a party he threw for Agnes, a low-rent hooker who had never had a birthday celebration.
The crucial moment in the film comes not as the party goers yell “surprise!” or as shocked Agnes carries the cake out of the diner. It comes when Tony is found out to be a preacher, and the incensed diner owner demands to know what kind of “church” Campolo belongs to.
“I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3:30 in the morning.
The reaction retorted by one can be seen in the faces of all those who gathered, “No you don’t. There’s no church like that. If there was, I’d join it. I’d join a church like that.”
After that powerful line, I always end up asking myself, “Would I join a church like that?” Would I seek it out? Where is the church that parties with prostitutes; banquets with the broken; and raves with the rejected? Or maybe the more subtle. . . where’s the church that loves the lonely, the losers, and the left-out?
The Least of These draws it name from a powerful passage in Matthew 25:40 “inasmuch as you did it to the least of these My bretheren, you did it unto Me.”
The Lord of the party, delighted in throwing shin-digs in the most unlikely places. Wherever there was a cook-out, you would always find Jesus hanging out, with the most unlikely crowd. Weddings, tail-gating, country fairs, and graduations, Jesus likely was in the crowd. . . the wrong crowd. The New Testament makes it repeatedly clear that “The Way, the Truth, and the Life,” was also the Life of the party.
Jesus reveals the Kingdom of GOD is a party. Christ came to create a church that loves to party. He loves to surprise the unsuspecting with awesome gifts.
And His church parties hard– in the hard places with the hard people who have certainly found it hard to have anything to celebrate.
May I belong to a church that throws parties for the poor in spirit–prostitutes, preachers, and politicians.
May I belong to a faith that loves to party.
May I belong to the Lord of the party.
encounter: Read Matthew 25:31-46 then reflect on the following questions with others or on your own (You are always welcome to post your reflections):
- Growing up, who did you typically invite to your parties? What was the criteria you had in mind when thinking who to invite?
- When you throw a party for someone, how are you hoping the party will make them feel? What does it say about your relationship to that person?
- Closer to home than the prisoners and prostitutes “out there,” who are the “least of these” that you know and have relationships with? Beginning with those you know, what will you do today for them in honor of the “Lord of the party?”
- What kind of church do you want to belong to? Explain.