Monday, 19 May 2008
My pastor told this story in his sermon several weeks ago and I thought I would share it with you. It is a true story (although it has been posted online as a few variations) that happened to Dr. Tony Campolo who is a well-known Christian author and professor at Palmer Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA.
The story was retold by Brian McLaren in one of his books and that's the version I'll share with you today:
My friend Tony Campolo tells a true story that also serves as a great parable in this regard. He was in another time zone [from other accounts, it was Honolulu] and couldn't sleep, so well after midnight he wandered down to a doughnut shop where, it turned out, local hookers also came at the end of a night of turning tricks. There, he overheard a conversation between two of them. One, named Agnes,said,"You know what? Tomorrow's my birthday. I'm gonna be thirty-nine."
Her friend snapped back,"So what d'ya want from me? A birthday party? Huh? You want me to get a cake and sing happy birthday to you?"
The first woman replied,"Aw, come on, why do you have to be so mean? Why do you have to put me down? I'm just sayin' it's my birthday. I don't want anything from you. I mean, why should I have a birthday party? I've never had a birthday party in my whole life. Why should I have one now?"
When they left, Tony got an idea. He asked the shop owner if Agnes came in every night, and when he replied in the affirmative, Tony invited him into a surprise party conspiracy. The shop owner's wife even got involved. Together they arranged for a cake, candles, and typical party decorations for Agnes, who was, to Tony, a complete stranger. The next night when she came in, they shouted, Surprise! and Agnes couldn't believe her eyes. The doughnut shop patrons sang, and she began to cry so hard she could barely blow out the candles. When the time came to cut the cake, she asked if they'd mind if she didn't cut it, if she could bring it home - just to keep it for a while and savor the moment. So she left, carrying her cake like a treasure.
Tony led the guests in a prayer for Agnes, after which the shop owner told Tony he didn't realize Tony was a preacher. He asked what kind of church Tony came from, and Tony replied,
"I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for prostitutes at 3:30 in the morning."
The shop owner couldn't believe him.
"No you don't. There ain't no church like that. If there was, I'd join it. Yep, I'd join a church like that."So maybe we don't all go to the same church, but we are part of the universal church.So, what does that church look like?
How do others see our church and us as Christians?I'd like to write further on this, with a specific issue in mind. But you first. What are your reactions to this story and my questions?