What if somebody threw a party for you, not to celebrate your birthday or retirement or any other significant milestone or achievement, but just because you’re you?
Would you be suspicious, looking around waiting for the other shoe to drop? Wondering what’s really going on here?
Jesus told a lot of stories that involved parties. My favorite one is in Luke 15, the parable of the lost son. The father in the story throws a party for his long-lost younger son who comes home. The jealous older son stands outside sulking. He seems to think his young brother is unworthy of celebration. So the father goes out to try and bring his pious first-born inside. He wants everybody to enjoy the party, the self-righteous as well as the unrighteous.
The author of Psalm 40 seems to make the point when he says to God,
“Doing something for you, bringing something to you — that’s not what you’re after.
Being religious, acting pious — that’s not what you’re asking for.
You’ve opened my ears so I can listen…
And I’m coming to the party you’re throwing for me.”
(Eugene Peterson’s translation of Psalm 40:6-7 in The Message)
The lesson seems to be that God is always anxious to have a party in our honor. Not because we’ve done anything spectacular. Not because we’re smarter or better than anybody else. But just because He loves us.
Why is that so hard to accept? Why can’t we just relax and enjoy instead of keeping a critical eye on who the Doorman is letting in?
“Talk doesn’t cook rice.”
That Chinese proverb resonates with me because I’m an introvert and don’t especially enjoy chit-chat. I’m a get-it-done person who’s much more comfortable with checklists and action plans. When I’m “just talking” it feels like I’m not doing anything. I think I should be out there doing something and not just talking about it.
Nevertheless, I must admit that while it doesn’t cook rice, talk is necessary to create the environment and circumstances in which rice does, in fact, get cooked.
I’ve been doing a lot of talking lately: with potential donors, partners, crew and cast members… essentially anybody who’ll sit still long enough to hear me tell about the film we’re working on, “Shooting the Prodigal.”
The conversations are mostly invigorating. But I often feel the need to take a nap afterwards. I get emotional when I talk about the spiritual implications of Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son – the subject of our film. My voice starts to quiver and I have to take a long, embarrassing pause before I can continue.
Most of my conversation partners are kind, patient and understanding… thankfully.
They often respond with wide eyes and enthusiasm. Not because I’m eloquent, which I’m not. But because of the inherent truth and power contained in the story.
When Jesus talked, people listened. And for those with ears to hear, his words changed their lives. They went out and cooked rice with new purpose and meaning.
I pray that our telling of the story has the same effect.