And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved. [Acts 2:46-47]
When you think of the earliest Christian Church, the word party probably doesn’t come to mind. Trials, persecution, martyrdom … sure, but party? Not usually. But read again the above passage from Acts, describing the life of that early church and it doesn’t sound all that bad to me! Food, and fellowship, glad and generous hearts … it sounds a lot like a party to me. If only we all had to suffer such trials more often.
This month marks what many consider to be the birthday of the New Testament Christian Church. It also, as it just happens this year, to mark the beginning of what we in my household like to call our little season of birthdays. First up is Dad (me) followed in pretty quick succession by Daughter #1, Daughter #2, and the one and only Son. It is safe to say that our house will see its share of parties over the next couple of months.
And the parties will be as different as the birthday boy or girl. Mine will have lots of chips and some quiet activities (board games anyone?). Others will have lots of sweets, no cake, extra ice-cream, NO chocolate, plenty of friends, swimsuits, movies, outings … and who knows what else!
And each will also come with its own set of trials. Some of us are getting older and finding it harder to keep up with (and relate to) the younger ones. Some are still trying to find a place to fit in. Others are trying hard to carve out their own space, separate from their siblings. One is the lone male (except for dad) in a sea of estrogen and hair accessories, and princesses.
Yet there is one thing that they will all have in common. For each, true happiness is enjoying where you are and what you have. Thankful for those around you, and sharing the blessings that make you unique with those who have helped to make you who you are. That’s what makes parties so interesting. Even if you have all the same elements, no two parties will be identical.
It is much the same for the Church and her celebrations too. She may face trials (as she always has) but these don’t define her. She may struggle to find her place in this ever-changing world, carving out her own space in the public square. She may have to stand alone in a sea of changing opinions. She may feel her age from time to time. But still she knows how to party!
With glad and generous hearts, through time together in prayer and worship and fellowship. Sharing all the gifts that makes her unique, with those who have made her who she is. There may be many guests, or only a chosen few. The celebration may be quiet and contented, or exuberant and busy. Yes the celebrations may be as different as the congregations who hold them, but the underlying joy is the same.
And if we approached this thing called church, more like we do our own birthday celebrations (and less like a chore), people will be drawn to it! They were back then. After all, who doesn’t like a party?