Tony Campolo, a Baptist minister came out with a book a couple of years ago called “The kingdom of God is a party” which raised a lot of eyebrows among those who think church and religion should be serious-all work, no fun, no joy just boring. Tony points out that the kingdom is not only a party but it is open for all especially for those on the streets and considered the least in society.
Tony tells one story of a trip to a corner bar and grill where a lonely woman named Agnes would come everyday and she was sad because tomorrow was her birthday and she had no family, no friends to celebrate it with. Tony got the bright idea to get everybody in the bar to throw her a big party and invite everyone. The next day the whole bar and grill was decorated with party favors and happy birthday signs plus there was a big birthday cake for Agnes. The whole place was filled with not only the patrons but the door was wide open to everybody walking through even prostitutes in the area to celebrate with Agnes. Agnes was so overcome with shock and surprise that she did not want to eat her cake but keep it to remind her of this great celebration in her honor. Tony ended the time with prayer, which shocked the bartender who asked you are a preacher in which he responds, yes the kind that celebrates birthdays in bars along with prostitutes.” The bartender replied “I would like to join that church but there is no such thing.”
My reading of Matthew says that the bartender's comment is a heavy conviction of life in the Church. I don't read this, as some of my Lutheran friends might, as theology of glory or as happy-clappy theology. We we start behaving like Tony's type of Christian, we will find crosses aplenty to carry -- the right ones this time.