We will be reflecting this week on that odd first miracle of Jesus: the changing of water into wine. That story reminds me of one told in an interview with an accomplished interim pastor who helped a church through a healthy transition to closure. This congregation had tried many revitalization ventures with no results and had decided to cut their losses while they still had assets to convert into other, more sustainable mission ventures. They had worked as a team to inventory their spiritual and material gifts, shared financial legacies with neighborhood non-profits and their denominational body, documented their history and cleaned the building for sale.
Then they threw a party.
It started on a Sunday morning when just the members gathered to worship together one last time. That afternoon, they invited in hundreds of people from their urban neighborhood, sister churches and ecumenical partners for a celebration of the church’s ministry. Finally, the guests went home and the movers showed up to carry out some large furniture going to another church. The Session members gathered for one last meeting, at which they celebrated this bittersweet day by breaking open a case of beer.
Yes, they all had a beer together, right there in front of God and everybody.
When one of the movers walked by, he saw them drinking and said, “Boy, if I’d known this church had beer at their Session meetings, I would’ve become a member.”
Everybody laughed. And somebody probably cried. But despite a few tears in those beers, I think they did the right thing to drink a toast to the past and the future.
From the first birthday party attended by kings in funny hats to the last supper when everyone got a foot washing; from the first miracle at a wedding to the last breakfast party on the beach, it has always been part of the Church’s job to party: to celebrate–not just what we have done, but what God is doing among us.
No matter what is happening in your life or your church, there is a great party being planned, at which all our ordinary sorrows will be drowned in extraordinary joy. Christ is the host, and he apparently knows his spirits.
So, bottom’s up, everyone!