God sent you a special invitation,
engraved with his own breath and blood.
Invitations. We’ve all received them during the course of our lives in one form or another.
As children, we may have received invitations to birthday parties, school dances, sleepovers, or baseball try-outs. As adults, we may have received invitations to weddings, open houses, sporting events, graduations or religious confirmations.
Invitations may solicit our presence at a celebration. And they can beckon our participation at a special event or fundraiser for a social cause. Some are formal and others are not. Each is different because each gathering is different. For example, an invitation to have dinner with friends is different than an invitation to a business lunch. Just the same, an invitation to a baby shower is going to be different than one to a bible study. However, each requires a formal or informal response, (s’il-vous-plait).
Invites come to us in many different forms as well. Some on paper, some by email or text, some by word of mouth. On Friday, as I was walking Daisy around Baldwin Lake, D. and M.’s dog was barking up a storm. Some might see this behavior as a warning to intruders. But her body language told a different story. Pressing her front paws against the glass door, she was jumping up and down, wagging her tail with great excitement. This little dog wasn’t warning us but inviting us to play. Since I needed the exercise, we declined the invitation and kept walking.
Invitations may lift us up, because they affirm that we are included in something beyond ourselves. Or they may put us on the spot because we must decide how to respond. We are giving the choice to say, “yes, we will attend” or “regretfully we are unable.” Each RSVP comes with its own set of pressures and problems. As you may know, the more you decline an invitation, the less likely you are to be invited to the next event.
What if God treated us in the same way? What if all the times we reject God’s invite to be a part of His family of love caused God to stop reaching out to us? Thankfully, that’s not the case. Like we learned last week, God’s love for us is fiercely loyal.
God continues to love us for who we are and seeks us out wherever we are. I remain constantly humbled knowing that God continues to invite me, a sinner, to be a part of His loving and healing peace. He wants me, and you, to be a member of His family, to take part in His kingdom. Why would anyone decline such an invitation?
Invitations do more than simply gather us together. They give us purpose. They invite us to move out of self toward God and toward others; provoking us to listen to and learn, and eventually growing in the way we love God and one another.
Case in point. Kathleen and I accepted an invitation not too long ago, from a woman seeking to build stronger relationships with people in Greenville. She does this is by inviting different people to her house for potluck suppers. These people don’t know each other. The only thing we seem to have in common is the fact that we accepted this crazy invitation to what we soon called, “the forced friendship club.”
As we passed around the potato salad and grilled chicken, amazing things began to happen. Laughter. Joy. Smiles. This is fellowship at its simplest and yet most profound. We were different, yet one, sharing the Spirit of grace and love with fellow strangers. At this table bridges were built, relationships were formed, and God’s kingdom blossomed, all because a group of strangers were brave enough to accept a crazy invitation. This is the Spirit of God at work.
You may have come here today for one reason or another. But long before you got out of bed this morning, God sent you a special invitation, engraved with his own breath and blood. Inside it states, you are cordially invited to celebrate the radical story of grace and redemption through Jesus Christ. You may accept it or reject it. But you can’t deny that it was not handed to you.
By saying yes, you will be called to do some pretty radical things yourself; life changing and transformative things. For God has never made a person he didn’t love and have a purpose for. You may not get to choose what you’ll do for God or believe you are good enough for the task at hand; yet you are invited to come, for God has never made a person that Jesus Christ did not die for.
In accepting God’s invitation, your response affirms a willingness to extend love to others, to open the door to those whom the door has always been shut or slammed in their face. By saying yes, you are willing to be a bridge builder, reaching out to the even the least of these.
You may decline or ignore the invitation. You may choose to build walls instead. Walls keep people out. Walls divide and isolate us from the truth. Walls impede growth. Whether they’re built willingly or unknowingly, Jesus wants all walls to be torn down.
Today’s gospel story is the perfect example (Read: Matthew 19:13-15). Matthew tells us that some people bring their children to be blessed by Jesus, but his Disciples try to build a wall around him as if they need to protect him, or wish to possess him for their own. Jesus admonishes his students and welcomes the children to him. For Jesus turns no one away. This is radical grace. This is the Good News.
It may be hard for us to understand, but in 1st century Palestine, children had no value, and certainly no right to be around the V.I.P.’s. But He who knows the value of life sees their faith, and their willingness to break from traditions and customs, and blesses the children; bestowing upon them the kingdom of heaven. In one peaceful and loving gesture Jesus tears down the walls, and constructs a bridge between God and humanity.
Jesus is our host, he invites us the celebration in His father’s house- he wants us to come together as a family might gather for a wedding feast. He wants us to bring our music, our children, our gifts. He wants his joy to be our joy, his peace to be our peace, his love to be ours. His is an invitation to participate, to be included, to become a part of something wonderful. We are the only barriers standing in the way.
Our decision to become a member of God’s family affirms our call to support all our brothers and sisters; to cook for them, to eat with them, to listen to them, to talk to them, to sing and to cry with them, to clean up the mess and wash the dishes with them, and most of all, always to seek the best in them.
To call ourselves Christian… is to be called His… TO BE Christian is… to be His. It requires us to show up to the family events. When we do not attend, we are missed. The jobs we are called to do are left undone. And the joy we would bring is absent. The moments we would share, gone. And the kingdom of God left incomplete.
Our blessed and divine host is calling to us to Come Together and be the Church. He is cordially inviting us to come to him, as we are, in all our humanness and muck. This invitation, however, requires an RSVP. Will yours be a ‘regrets only’ response? Or will your name be on the list? That’s a decision only you can make.