Sociology is basically the study of how humans relate to other humans. Of course, humans have developed many hundreds if not thousands of unique cultures, so picking one way to relate to everyone isn’t that plausible, EXCEPT when it comes to food.
I’m not sure if we realize that the gospel of the Kingdom of God is a culture in and of itself. The reason Jesus was so excited about sharing the Good News (gospel) was because it told the story that the way things are in God’s original created order can be visible here, now. This is why Jesus said, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 4:17). He was declaring that a new way of life was available to anyone who would stop living their way and instead live his way.
Heaven began to invade earth and the culture of the gospel started to ooze into our human cultures. And since celebration, community, love, and food are in so much of God’s original design and heavenly reality, we have to learn to see food, family, homes, friends and community through this new gospel lens. Jesus’ gospel culture gets to win over every culture—including our own.
This is why the scriptures say to “practice hospitality” (Rom 12:13). Practice implies we need to do a little work, blow the dust off, wade in up to our ankles, and at least give it a try.
Picture in your mind what good ‘ol fashioned Midwestern values are. It’s probably safe to say that most people picture good, wholesome, church-going folk who live life in the context of family. Sounds great, right? Well, as we were planting a church in Denver, we found these folks the toughest to move toward the mission of God. What got in their way? Sunday dinners with their family.
“This is “our” space, and those we may “invite” into that space are carefully chosen based on whether they will upset the delicate status quo, inconvenience us, or pose a threat to our perceived safety. In other words, visitors, especially strange ones, stress us out. And while this is in some sense culturally understandable, the negative result in terms of our spirituality is that the family has effectively become a pernicious idol…. Culture has once again trumped our social responsibility. In such a situation, missional hospitality is seen as a threat, not as an opportunity to extend the kingdom; so an idol is born. It’s not hard to see how this is absolutely disastrous from a missional perspective. Our families and our homes should be places where people can experience a foretaste of heaven, where the church is rightly viewed as a community of the redeemed from all walks of life. Instead, our fears restrict us from letting go of the control and safety we have spent years cultivating.”
This is why I claim that party is a sacrament. Sacraments are those deep, long-held practices that hold the church together and set her apart from the common fray. Like baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and marriage, I think Jesus would say, “Oh, and add one more thing I really want you all to do if you’re going to be my disciples. I need you to throw the best parties on the block.”
Hugh Halter is a friend of Q Place and author of many books, including his latest small work, Happy Hour, Etiquette and Advice on Holy Merriment. The above is an excerpt from that book, which Hugh gladly permitted us to use here because of his deep belief that believers should be among the most welcoming people on the planet.