Two Parties—or what’s true religion?
The next party Tony
related took place in Hawaii.
He had arrived in Honolulu late at night,
ravenously hungry. At 3:30 in the morning, everything was closed except a side
street café—“one of those sleazy places that deserves the name ‘greasy spoon.’”
Not wanting to touch the filthy menu, he ordered a cup of coffee and a donut.
The solitude of the early morning was broken as
the door of the diner swung open, and, much to his discomfort, in marched eight
or nine provocatively dressed and boisterous prostitutes.
It was a small place and their talk was loud and
crude. Feeling completely out of place and just about to make his getaway, he
was suddenly stopped in his tracks when he overheard the woman sitting beside
him say, “Tomorrow’s my birthday. I’m going to be thirty-nine.”
Her “friend” responded in a nasty tone, “So what
do you want from me? A birthday party? What do you want? Ya
want me to get you a cake and sing ‘Happy Birthday’?”
“Come on!” said the woman sitting next to Tony.
“Why do you have to be so mean? I was just telling you, that’s all. Why do you
have to put me down? I don’t want anything from you. I mean, why should you
give me a birthday party? I’ve never had a birthday party in my whole life. Why
should I have one now?”
That conversation changed Tony’s plans. Waiting
until the women were gone, he inquired of the man behind the counter whether
the women came in every night.
“Yeah!” he answered.
“The one that was sitting right next to me, does
she come here every night?”
“Yeah!” he said. “That’s Agnes. Yeah, she comes
in here every night. Why d’ya wanna
“Because I heard her say that tomorrow is her
birthday. What do you think about us throwing a birthday party for her—right
A smile slowly crossed the owner’s chubby face
and he answered enthusiastically. “That’s great! I like it! That’s a great
idea!” “Hey! Come out here!” he shouted to his wife, who was cooking in the
back room. “This guy’s got a great idea. Tomorrow’s Agnes’s birthday. This guy
wants us to go in with him and throw a birthday party for her right here
His wife, obviously happy about the idea,
exclaimed, “That’s wonderful! You know Agnes is one of those people who is
really nice and kind, but nobody ever does anything nice for her!”
“Look,” I told them, “if it’s okay with you,
I’ll get back here tomorrow morning about 2:30 and decorate the place. I’ll
even get a birthday cake!”
“No way,” said Harry. “The birthday cake’s my
thing. I’ll make the cake.”
At 2:30 the next morning Tony was back at the
diner. He had picked up some crepe paper decorations at the store and had made
a sign out of big pieces of cardboard that read, “Happy Birthday, Agnes!” When
the diner was decorated from one end to the other, it really looked good.
Word must have gotten out, because by 3:15 it
seemed like every prostitute in Honolulu was in the place. It was wall-to-wall
prostitutes … and Tony!
At 3:30 on the dot, the door of the diner swung
open and in came Agnes and her friend. Tony had everybody ready. “Happy
Birthday!” they all screamed in unison!
Never had anyone been so flabbergasted … so
stunned … so shaken. Her mouth fell open. Her legs seemed to buckle a bit. Her
friend grabbed her arm to steady her. As she was led to one of the stools along
the counter, everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to her. The fight to hold herself
together was lost when the birthday cake with all the candles was carried out,
and Agnes broke down in huge sobs. Finally composing herself, she looked down at
the cake and slowly and softly said, “Look, Harry, is it all right with you if
I … I mean is it okay if I kind of … what I want to ask you is … is it okay if
I keep the cake a little while? I mean is it all right if we don’t eat it right
Harry shrugged and answered, “Sure! It’s okay.
If you want to keep the cake, keep the cake. Take it home if you want to.”
“Can I?” she asked. Then looking at Tony she
said, “I live just down the street a couple of doors. I want to take the cake
home and show it to my mother, okay? I’ll be right back. Honest!”
Getting off the stool and picking up the cake
like it was life’s dearest treasure, she walked slowly toward the door. As they
all stood there motionless, she left.
When the door closed, there was a stunned silence
in the place. Not knowing what else to do, Tony broke the silence by saying,
“What do you say we pray?”
Tony prayed for Agnes. He prayed for her
salvation. He prayed that her life would be changed and that God would be good
to her. He prayed for the salvation of the others. When he finished, Harry
leaned over the counter, and said, “Hey! You never told me you were a preacher.
What kind of church do you belong to?”
In one of those moments when just the right
words came, he answered, “I belong to a church that throws birthday parties for
whores at 3:30 in the morning.”
Harry paused a moment, then he answered, “No you
don’t. There’s no church like that. If there was, I’d join it. I’d join
a church like that!”
Tony summed up his story this way. “Wouldn’t we all?
Wouldn’t we all love to join a church that throws birthday parties for whores
at 3:30 in the morning? Well, that’s the kind of church Jesus came to create.
He doesn’t know where we got the other one that’s so prim and proper. But
anybody who reads the New Testament will discover a Jesus who loved to party
with whores and with all kinds of left-out people. The publicans and sinners
loved Him because He partied with them. The lepers of society found in Him
someone who would eat and drink with them. And while the solemnly pious could
not relate to what He was about, those lonely people who usually didn’t get
invited to parties took to Him with excitement: Our Jesus was and is the Lord
of the party.”
Tony added as an afterthought, “Now it seems
more than strange for a sociologist to be leading a prayer meeting with a bunch
of prostitutes in a diner in Honolulu at three-thirty in the morning. But then
it just felt like the right thing to do.”
I began thinking about some questions: Why do
people throw parties? What would keep me from throwing a party similar to one
of the ones above? Maybe I would feel uncomfortable or ill at ease to find
myself in a situation like this. But if so, why would I feel that way? What
would keep us from being willing to put ourselves on someone else’s level? What
would keep us from operating outside of the norm? Would it be easier to do
out-of-the-box things if we were already in the habit of doing so? I’m sure if
Jesus were here physically, I’d have a good chance of finding Him in a similar
situation.—Throwing a “party” for those who have never
It’s food for thought, isn’t it? I think we could all gain from asking
ourselves similar questions and letting the Lord show us His answers. Who
knows, you may find yourself throwing a party under conditions you might never
have dreamed of before if you are willing to ask Him to show you how to effectively
reach the “unreachable”—those who need Jesus' love so desperately.
Isn’t it wonderful to know that His love through
you will make a big difference in the lives of the many lonely people in your
part of the world?