From Luke 14: Jesus says, “But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed...” And later, Jesus said, “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.’”
Picking up from my blog of May 22:
The Mission: to invite the residents of the Douglas Terrace Apartments to have a picnic banquet at Beaverdale Park with our church and to bless them with food, fun and music.
Update: This week I finally got my courage up, said my prayers, and went to go and try and find the manager of the apartment complex we intend to bless on June 20th. I suppose I could’ve called, but I’m not very good on the phone and half the time people can’t hear me and things just seem to get confused. Besides, I figured it would be harder for them to tell me I’m crazy if I were standing right in front of them.
Now some of you will pick up right away on the fact that I was nervous about going to see the manager. Why wasn’t I confident and faithful that God would work out all the details? I was. It’s just that for the last seven years of my life, first as a missionary teacher in Latvia and then coming back to pastor a church, two rules have seemed to dominate my life: 1.) Everything is harder than it is. 2.) Everything takes longer than it does. So I anticipated difficulty.
Please don’t think I’m pessimistic. I know God wins in the end and it all works out. And please understand I’m not asking for pity. It’s just that I’ve gotten used to resistance even in simple things. It seems like if there is a way for something to go wrong, it will. My friends tell me that’s how you know you’re doing the things God wants you to do: the resistance is considerable.
So you can understand that I was praying for fortitude in spiritual combat for myself and that the Holy Spirit would move mountains.
Now you can imagine my surprise when I pulled into the tiny, crowded, lot, got out of the car and crazy good things started to happen. Every tenant I met greeted me with a smile and a hello. I saw one of the security doors propped open, so I just went in and wandered the halls. Wow. My knees buckled, I got goose-bumps. You could feel the Holy Ghost. It was amazing.
So I wandered over to the office. Closed. “Figures,” I said, still expecting resistance. I pulled out my phone and dialed the 24 hour number with a Minnesota prefix. A male voice answered. I meekly explained who I was, managed to stumble through a rambling explanation of what we wanted to do, and then, there was silence. “Oh boy, I thought, here it comes.” Ain’t it sad when the preacher has so little confidence in the power of God to bring about good things?
“I’ve always wanted to do something like that for the tenants,” the voice said. “Please, do whatever you want. In fact, why don’t you have the picnic on the property instead of making people walk to the park?” My eyes misted over. The answer to every question was “yes.” Yes, we can hang fliers. Yes, we can hand out fliers. Yes, we can bring games. Yes. The manager then told me where to find the duty manager who at that very moment appeared by my side. I explained it all again. “Yes,” he said. Yes to everything. Wow. Praise the Lord!
So the parable Jesus told is pretty clear. The Master says to his servants, “Go.” Makes me wonder if the church hasn’t been to passive. We’ve been sitting around waiting for people to come. Maybe we’re supposed to go out and compel them to come to the banquet.
Don’t get me wrong: working on the banquet hall and training the servers is important. If you’re going to have guests, you need to make them feel welcome so that heart of the Master is reflected in all you do. But at the end of the day we are still left with his instructions: “Go.”
I’m just finishing up the Sunday sermon as I write this. One thing that I discovered this week was that the word “love” in the present tense is used 61 times in the Gospels and not at all in the book of Acts. But the word “went” is used over 150 times in the Gospels and almost always in reference to Jesus. In the Book of Acts, 80 times they “went.” I think the meaning is clear. It’s about Jesus on the move. It’s about the church on the move. Jesus went. The early church went. We have to go so we can went, too.
God bless you. Thanks for reading. PJ