Because of these angels, and others like them, we began Jesus Parties several years ago as part of our church life. A Jesus Party is simply a party for people that we believe Jesus would invite to a party today. Our Jesus parties are for mentally and physically challenged adults in the Abilene, Texas area. They're mostly a time for these folks to visit, dance, have refreshments, and visit with friends. We have at least four per year. They are great fun.
After a recent Jesus party, Donna and I were quite tired and decided we would stop by a coffee shop for a little quiet conversation with each other. We were out of our house for a week while some work was being done on the floors and were living with my folks. We just needed a little quiet time together just to visit.
As we came into the coffee shop, a young Down's Syndrome man came up to us and started visiting. I had met him before. His name is Eddie — not his real name, of course, but we'll use it for the article. Eddie came up with a big smile on his face and reached out his hand to shake mine.
"HI!" Eddie excitedly shouted.
"How you doin'?" I asked Eddie, trying to remember his name and where I had met him before. Had it been another of the Jesus' parties or somewhere else?
"You're the preacher!" Eddie said. "Church. Church. Southern Hills."
"Yes, I'm the preacher at Southern Hills Church," I replied. Then I introduced Eddie to my wife.
"Sign my book!" Eddie said, and shoved a little notebook with names and phone numbers in Donna's face. She signed her name and mine.
"Church. Church. I'm seeing you at church tomorrow." Eddie continued. "Can I pray?" He asked.
"Sure, during the Garden of Prayer, just come down to the front and we will pray together," I answered.
"No. Up front! Up front!" He insisted.
I wasn't sure if he would be there or which service he would be there and I sure wasn't sure about turning him loose to pray in front of a big group of people on Sunday. But that was tomorrow morning and I didn't need to worry about it because I wasn't even sure he would make it. Donna, Eddie, and I visited for about forty-five minutes and then we left to go to my folks, offering Eddie a ride home.
"Nope. Don't need it." Eddie said.
We hugged each other goodbye and we headed to my folks place.
Donna and I had gone into the coffee shop to have some alone time — to rest and relax from a busy week and a night filled with ministry.
"Yeah, this has been a night with angels," I replied.
We were tired and sweaty and full of joy.
Oh, and as our second service came to a close the next morning, Eddie joined me on the podium and prayed. I was a bit nervous, not sure how long he would pray. I didn't want it to seem contrived or manipulative. But, we had just been talking about how fun the Jesus Party had been and Eddie walked to the front to pray. It was short, sweet, and a taste of heaven. We were sent home from church with the prayer of an angel.
Over the years, I've gotten some ugly and snide cards from church folks who have visited our congregation and didn't like this or that — don't get me wrong, the vast majority are nice notes, but I have a tendency to remember the ugly ones. The one that hurt worst was one that said, "Jesus Party. How sacrilegious!" It didn't hurt my feelings, but hurt me for the person who wrote it — how sad to think that they had missed Jesus completely, just like many of the religious folks in Jesus' day missed him. How do we help our churches become more a place of joy for folks like Eddie and his family than a place of overly-critical complainers who rarely crack a smile? I'd love to hear your take on this on my blog! Let me know what you think!I'll leave you with these words of Jesus:
"How shall I describe this generation?" Jesus asked. "With what will I compare them? They are like a group of children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, 'We played wedding songs, and you weren't happy, so we played funeral songs, but you weren't sad.' For John the Baptist didn't drink wine and he often fasted, and you say, 'He's demon possessed.' And I, the Son of Man, feast and drink, and you say, 'He's a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of the worst sort of sinners!' But wisdom is shown to be right by the lives of those who follow it." (Luke 7:31-35 NLT)