When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!”
But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’
So the servant came and reported these things to his master.
Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’
And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’
And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you,none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.'” (Luke 14:15-24)
Jesus told this story to illustrate some of the responses to God’s invitation to the kingdom. In the beginning God created a nation who were especially invited to belong to him. Since Jesus came, everyone is invited. So why do people not respond to the invitation to God’s party?
Some have the wrong impression. They have never been into a church, or had a serious discussion with a Christian. Their idea of Christianity is made up of rumour and the media. As my mother used to say of new food, ‘You won’t know until you try it.’
Some can’t be bothered. If they ever think about Christianity or church, they can’t raise enough interest to make the effort. Or they think it will make a huge change in their life, and they don’t want to change. We have to persuade them of the benefits of making the effort. He is worth bothering for.
Maybe people aren’t aware they have been invited. One evening a man was disturbed by the loud music of a party in the flat above his. Eventually he texted the woman in the flat upstairs and asked her to turn the music down. The volume gradually crept up again and he texted a less polite request. When it got to past 11pm, he lost his patience and went upstairs and knocked on the door. He told her that she should have more consideration for her neighbours. The music stopped at 11:30pm.
The next day he was returning from the shop when he discovered an envelope caught under his doormat. It contained an invitation to a flat warming party the previous evening. All the neighbours were invited, and the invitation said the music would stop at 11:30pm. Instead of complaining, the man should have been part of the fun, but he didn’t know he was invited.
Also, in these days of the ‘me’ generation, people have decided that religion is optional, and it doesn’t really matter which one you choose, as long as it suits you. They don’t know there is only one way to be reconciled to God, and the invitation is open to everyone. Make sure they know.
[based on a sermon by John Rogers at Pantygwydr Baptist Church]
Ann Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books, a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now. Find out more at www.annmariethomas.me.uk