Tony Compolo tells the story of a time when he was in another town on a business trip. He couldn’t sleep because of the time change and so he went on a walk and found a diner that was opened. He went in and decided to get something to eat. While he was sitting there, a group of women came in. He could tell by their conversation that they were prostitutes who were working and came in for a break and something to eat. He overheard one of them stating that tomorrow was her birthday. The rest didn’t seem to care and joked with her, asking her, “what do you want us to do? Throw you a party or something?” “No,” the woman replied, “I’m just saying it’s my birthday, and why would I have a party? I never have had a birthday party…” The conversation changed to something more shallow and soon they all left. Tony got an idea and asked the guy behind the counter, Harry, if these women came in frequently? Harry replied that yes, they came in around the same time every night. Tony then asked, “what if we were to throw a birthday party for the one whose birthday is tomorrow!?” Harry loved the idea, even offering to bake the cake.
The next night came and Tony arrived early, decorating the diner with balloons and streamers, and a huge “Happy Birthday” banner. The diner staff were all there, and the cake was decorated, and they waited. Sure enough, about the regular time, the women could be heard nearing the diner. Everyone crouched down and got ready. As the women opened the door, everyone shouted “Surprise!! Happy Birthday!!” and began to sing Happy Birthday as the cake, with candles lit, was brought to the woman for her to make a wish and blow out the candles. But she just stood there. Her knees got wobbly and her friends helped her sit down. She began to cry. The Happy Birthday song soon ended, and the awkward silence began to build, so the cook told her to blow the candles out. But she couldn’t – finally Harry did it for her. Harry then told her to cut the cake, but she looked at Tony and askd, “Is it ok if I don’t cut the cake yet? Can I take it home? I want to show my mother.” Tony told her she could do what she wanted with it – it was her cake. And so she picked up the cake, stating that she would be back with it, and walked out the door. Everyone stood in stunned silence. Balloons and streamers still boasting celebration. No one knew what to do, so Tony, not knowing what else to say, asked, “Can we pray?” And so there in the diner, in the middle of the night, a prayer group of prostitutes, kitchen staff and Tony prayed for the woman who was celebrating her life. When Tony said “Amen”, Harry asked him, “you sound like you’re a preacher. What kind of church do you belong to?” And Tony replied, “The kind of church that throws birthday parties for whores at 3 o’clock in the morning.” To which Harry replied, “No you don’t, cuz if you did, I would go to a church like that…”
Wouldn’t we all?
(To hear the story from Tony Compolo, check it out here:)
Think about it briefly: What is your church known for? Is it known for LOVE or for creating controversy? Is it known for being creative in ways to help others and relieve suffering, or is it stifling creativity and creating suffering? Is the church known for being inclusive in its LOVE to ALL humankind, or does it pick and choose who has the rights and authority to be within its ranks? If Jesus were to walk into our church today, would we recognize Him? Or have we already asked Him to leave our church hundreds of times, since He disguises Himself as “the least of these”…. (Matthew 25:40) In the next couple of posts, I will be sharing my thoughts along this subject and I invite you to join me in dreaming about what it would look like if we actually loved radically the way Jesus did! And maybe our dreams together can turn into a revolutionary reality of LOVE!
“‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to one of the least of these my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to Me!’” – Jesus, Matthew 25:40