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Bad Birthday Party

This week is a special week in our family as my granddaughter turns three. Plans are being made. All the grandparents will be there. Her aunt and uncle are coming up from Alabama. Friends and family will be coming together to celebrate in "Minnie Mouse" fashion (my granddaughter's favorite right now). What could possibly go wrong?

Whether it is bad weather such as rain or excessive heat, or whatever food is being served, I am quite sure that presents will prevail and our granddaughter will be happy no matter the weather or the food, just bring on the cake and presents!

Have you ever tried to put together a birthday party? Whether it is a surprise or not, the "best laid plans" as they say, may not come to fruition in reality. Case in point: Here are some "horror stories" of birthday plans gone bad.

  • A family decided to throw their 8-year-old daughter a surprise party, only to see her burst into tears when everyone yelled "Surprise." She sniffed that surprise parties "made her heart hurt."

  • One party hired a clown to entertain a bunch of 5-year-olds, only to discover that half the kids screamed in terror when they saw him. The parents had to ask the clown to leave. We get it: clowns can be creepy.

  • At one of these fun outings, one of the kids showed up with a stomach bug and began puking in the middle of the ball pit, on the cake and even on the gifts. As a bonus, everybody left with the party favor of their very own stomach bug to take home.

  • And don't ever, ever try to keep up with celebrities birthday parties for their kids. When Suri Cruise, daughter of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, had her second birthday, the couple spent $100,000 on her party. The party was catered by Wolfgang Puck, and the cake alone was $5,000!

As crazy as Suri's party was or the bad luck the other parents had, I can offer you a birthday party that may be the ultimate "bad birthday party." In Mark's gospel (chapter 6) we read the story of John the Baptizer who had been attacking the way Herod Antipas had been not only ruling, but also his lack of moral character. Antipas had an affair with his niece, Herodias. He divorced his first wife, and then married her.

Herodias saw John the Baptist as a pain in her aspirations and wanted him dead and out of the way. King Antipas, on the other hand, feared and protected John because he was a holy man and he liked his preaching even if he didn't quite get it.

The kind of kingdom and power that Antipas desired was nothing compared to the one who would usher in the kingdom of God. The king would be confused about Jesus until the end. When the king's birthday rolled around, he decided to throw a party for himself and invite the rich and powerful members of his court. The party had too much drinking, Antipas got quite inebriated and Herodias saw her chance to get rid of that annoying prophet, John. She had her daughter dance in front of the king, and of course, he went all gaga over her, and granted her any wish. With her mother's prompting, she asked for the head of John the Baptizer served on a plate.

Not exactly cake and ice cream. And you thought your birthday plans may have gone off the rail!

I suppose the moral of this bad birthday story is this: Following Jesus,the true king, as Mark alludes to, is a costly proposition.Following Jesus might mean that when we reach out in faith to do his ministry in the world, we may find ourselves sideways with the political and social forces that seem to govern our culture. Speaking the truth to power may mean we may get pushed aside or ignored.

The good news for us is that Jesus invites us to a different sort of party. While Antipas threw a party in honor of himself, Jesus invites the poor, the hungry, the disenfranchised. Jesus invites all of us to the party to beat all parties! At this party, life is offered, not death. Our tasks as disciples of Christ is to invite people to that party!

As I shared last Sunday, I will be attending my grandson's dedication this coming Sunday. Pastor Lauri Allen will be bringing the message. You can read a brief bio about her below.

Lauri Allen frequently fills in as a supply pastor for churches throughout Prairie Association of the Illinois Conference of the United Church of Christ. Lauri was the pastor of Peace UCC in Genoa from 2011-2015, and covered an extended leave at First Congregational Church of Geneva in 2017. Lauri earned a Certificate of Theological Studies from Chicago Theological Seminary, and is a graduate of the Wisconsin UCC Lay Academy. During the week, Lauri works full time for a medical practice as their Accounting Manager. Lauri lives in DeKalb with her cat Harlowe and her dog Oscar.

Pastor Steve

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