When you throw a party, how early do you send out invitations? Nobody with a lick of sense creates a playlist, orders a cake, sets out coasters, fills a cooler with ice and then just hopes people will show up. We send out invitations weeks or sometimes months in advance so the people who are important to us can plan to be there. We lay the groundwork.
How do you feel when you get a last minute invitation? I feel like an afterthought. I mean I appreciate the gesture to include me, but kind of wonder whether the person just felt obligated. And as much as I hate to admit it, I’m guilty of extending last minute invitations myself, and usually offer an excuse that sounds kind of forced and awkward and I always wonder if the invitee feels welcome or simply … tacked on.
Sundays can be like that. We have a service and hope people show up. Sure it’s a little different than a party in that we do it every week at the same time, but only insiders really know the details. After a while we take for granted that people know the where, when, and what of the situation. If someone new arrives, we greet them with a smile and welcome them in, but do they feel invited? When we say “everyone is welcome at the communion table,” many people still feel we don’t mean them.
So how do we extend an invitation that doesn’t feel last minute? How do we lay that groundwork?
Maybe we can start by living as if communion with the Body of Christ doesn’t end after Sunday worship. How does our faith life impact our community? Every step we take outside the walls of church is an opportunity to extend an invitation through kindness, charity, and witness. A proper invitation isn’t forced upon the unwilling, nor is it dangled from behind the spiritual equivalent of a velvet rope separating the in-crowd from the outsiders. A proper invitation finds people where they are, and says: “You’re important to me. I’d like to celebrate the most joyful parts of my life with you. Would you care to join me?” Invite early and often. Christ’s arms are open in welcome without ceasing. Ours should be too.
You. Yes, you. You are important to me. I’d like to celebrate the most joyful parts of my life with you around Christ’s table. Would you care to join me? The celebration starts now and runs through eternity.
May the love and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.