Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Power of Party

For several weeks now, we've been making our way during worship through the Exodus story. I have noted that God periodically calls the people to stop their ordinary work, and take time to rest, worship, AND have parties.

In New York City this past weekend, my youngest son, Daniel, married the lovely Ashley.  Despite working with a very tight budget, they decided to throw great parties for family and friends, many of whom traveled significant distances for the wedding.

Dan and Ashley also had a lot of apprehension about the gatherings, as it necessarily included people who have been estranged from each other. Both sides of the families had experienced divorce, and there were unresolved feelings and unhealed relationships floating in the air.

Also, with Daniel's family from the Dallas area, and Ashley's from Florida, and the wedding in NYC, few immediate family members had met one another. Ashley's mother and I made our first acquaintance on the day of the rehearsal dinner.

The wedding and the reception were held in a loft in mid-town Manhattan. High ceilings with windows all around permitted light to flood the space; ancient but still workable plumbing and lighting fixtures set the scene. Everything: floors, chairs, tables, were painted or covered in white, which set off the simple flowers chosen for decor. It had a funky elegance, and was very welcoming. 

A photo of my oldest son, Jonathan, and his wife, Adrian, from Colombia.

They splurged on a caterer, and the food was fabulous. Inexpensive but drinkable wines and beers were freely available, along with plenty of non-alcoholic beverages. Sound from Dan's IPOD provided the dancing music over a good sound system.

I sat at a table with my Colombian in-laws, loving the opportunity to catch up with them, even with our mutual language limitations. From there we watched the dancers, briefly joining them. Periodically, one of us would move around the room, chatting with long-unseen relatives, and introducing ourselves to new acquaintances.

Nearly everyone there is a church-goer of some sort. My two NYC sons are involved in planting a new congregation in Manhattan and many of their friends were in attendance. The Colombians  are all Roman Catholic. Daniel had attended Baylor University, and many of his Baptist friends were there, as well as Baptist relatives from his father's side of the family. My sister and her husband are members of the Anglican church.  

Despite the differences, for the time of this celebration we were a unified group.  Disagreements and misunderstandings disappeared in the moments of joy. We joined together to honor the holy covenant that Dan and Ashley entered.  

This is the purpose of party. Party connects us to one another. When we see God as a holy party-pooper, and suggest that we must always be serious and sober-minded and overtly religious and hard working, and sure we've got the final answers to life questions, we dishonor God's name. Yes, life is often serious and we must approach many of our challenges with our faith informing the hard work before us. 

However, life loses flavor when we leave behind the need to party and play and laugh and and connect despite our differences and disagreements. 

In the Christian year, we have now entered Lent, a time set aside for more sober thinking about ourselves and the sins that bind us and keep us from holy freedom. I would suggest that one of those sins is our refusal to receive from the hand of God times to rest, worship and to party. Easter Sunday, the day of resurrection and new life where only death seemed possible before, is the day of ultimate party.  Let's prepare ourselves for that day and see how we can receive it most fully and with the greatest of joy.

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