Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 135; 145, Joel 1:15-2:2, Revelation 18:15-24, Luke 14:12-24
It’s no secret that Jesus was fed up with the priestly class, but he didn’t dismiss them out of hand. He was present in the synagogues, and each time they challenged him he gave them an opportunity to hear him and accept him as messiah (though he was careful about using that word). How frustrating must it have been for him when, time and time again, they not only rejected him but remained willfully deaf to his invitation to repent and truly serve God and God’s people?
He told a parable about a man who threw a great dinner and invited many people. Each of the invitees had an excuse for not attending: I just bought some property; I’m a newlywed; I have new oxen to test-drive. The host was very angry, and sent his servants to “bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.” These new banquet guests were the inheritors of the kingdom, and no one who was invited got to taste a bite.
Why do we cater to the people who never show up? Many a church exerts so much energy on attracting new people (or “giving units”) that it has little left for the needs of the faithful regulars. Hours are wasted on figuring out how to placate those dedicated (but affluent) malcontents who always seem to have one foot out the door because of one imagined slight or another, instead of asking engaged people why they stay and what they need. The poor, the blind, the lame; they aren’t merely the beneficiaries of the church – they are the church. We are the church. Every one of us is in need. There’s nothing we have to offer God that is not already God’s, so when any of us shows up, it’s with hat in hand, starving for grace. Any other posture is a rejection of the invitation. Let yourself be dragged into the banquet.
If you reject Christ’s invitation because the church is too hypocritical, judgmental, or old-fashioned, you just might be missing the opportunity to fill the seat that will change it.
Comfort: Church doesn’t exist for its leadership, but for its people.
Challenge: Are you showing up? Think about ways you might be rejecting the invitation.
Prayer: Thank you, loving God, for the invitation to life in your kingdom. I am grateful for it and accept it anew every day. Amen.
Discussion: Have you ever been disappointed by a poor turnout?
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