Sunday’s Scripture ~ Luke 5:27-32
This past weekend I had the privilege of celebrating two important events:
1. Andrew’s 29th Birthday! We went to the beach early in the morning so he could work out with his Cross-Fit buddies in a Beach-Work-Out-Of-The-Day. They ran relay races, completed calisthenics in the wave break area, and competed in tug-of-war! Andrew dominated the tug-of-war. He’s the KING!
What did I do during all of this? Sat under the umbrella and read a book. I do yoga people!
2. We left the beach and trekked up the Florida Eastern Seaboard to Jacksonville to celebrate his aunt and uncle’s 50th wedding anniversary. It was a surprise party!! Aunt Vivian and Uncle James were completed surprised and amazed to be surrounded by family and friends from all over the state and from all moments of their life together as a couple. We hugged, we laughed, we ate so much food. Everything a party should be.
Before we shared cake at the anniversary party my sister-in-law, Vivian – named for her Aunt Vivian – and my mother-in-law Dale offered toasts to the happy couple. Both were sincere and full of love. Collectively we all shed a few happy tears.
Dale’s toast, however, stilled my breath in my chest. You see, Dale’s father died at a very young age leaving his wife and four children behind. Dale’s mother soon became very ill and lost both her hearing and her eyesight. She died at a young age as well. The two oldest children – Vivian and Jimmy were already out of the house, working full-time. Vivian married the love of her life, James. After seven months of marriage their mother died, leaving the two youngest children, Dale and Glenn, without parents and without a home. In those days there wasn’t really a proper foster-care system in place, meaning that Dale and Glenn would have been left to the streets.
Well Vivian, she wasn’t having any of that.
She took in her sister and brother and raised them. She did not go to college so that she could ensure her younger siblings had everything they needed for school and meals and clothing. She sacrificed her personal dreams so that her siblings would be able to achieve their dreams.
Dale looked at her sister in the eye and thanked her for taking her in. Without that gift neither she nor her husband, nor her three kids, nor her daughter-in-law (me) nor her son-in-law would be in that place, in this family, today.
I was standing next to Andrew. By the end of her toast I was holding him close.
Vivian sacrificed or gave up what she had in mind for her life to follow a new path that opened doors for her, for her family, and for her faith. I cannot help but think of her – and James – when I consider the text for this week. Matthew, also called Levi, sacrificed the life he had come to know to follow a new path – the path of Christ – and following that path surely opened doors for him, for his family, and for his faith.
I am sure that he experienced some internal struggle as he considered how he would negotiate the relationships he had before knowing Christ with the relationships he has now that he knows Christ. So instead of going all “United Methodist” and establishing a committee to figure out what to do next, he hosted a party. At first this might not seem like the best decision, but it worked. He got everyone together – from his past and in his present – to celebrate the transformation he had experienced at the hands of Christ’s forgiveness.
Established friends and new friends – together – celebrating, connecting, communicating, collaborating. The party was an opportunity for people to gather, to rub elbows, to meet new friends, to start new relationships, to listen and respond to the leading of the Spirit, to point to where God is already present, to walk across the room.
I can always find a reason to celebrate…and celebrations are always better with friends. So plan one, host one, invite the people important in your life, growing and potential believers alike! Celebrate and talk! Talk and celebrate! If someone asks you why you are celebrating, share like Dale did – from the heart – about the difference someone made in your life, whether that person was God or someone in whom you feel God’s presence. That witness is powerful. That witness is life-giving. To someone hearing you, that witness could be eye-opening and even life-saving.
Have a Matthew Party. And walk across the room.
Prayer: “O use me, Lord, use even me, just as thou wilt, and when, and where, until thy blessed face I see, thy rest, thy joy, thy glory share.”* Amen.
*”Lord, Speak to Me,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 463.