Invitations are powerful.
Especially if your name is on it. If someone throws out a general invitation to anyone with free time, you can take it or leave it. But if your name shows up on a printed invitation, you take it more seriously. If it is engraved, or hand written in calligraphy or something, you know special thought went into it. It takes a little more nerve to decline as you send in your regrets, which is really a fancy way of saying I have something better to do.
Can you imagine if there was a line to fill in on the RSVP card that said “EXCUSE: _________________________?
Let’s admit it, many of us don’t even return an RSVP when we don’t want to attend. We just ignore it and hope no one notices we haven’t responded.
Here is another reality: it is much easier to turn down an invitation online, in a message or text. But if someone bothers to ask you voice-to-voice on the phone, it’s tougher to say “no thanks.” And if someone looks you in the eyeballs when they invite you, it is a serious invitation. Bear that in mind, ladies…only entertain serious invitations. But I digress.
Jesus offered serious invitations.
He called the original twelve by name, in person. He picked them. Jesus’s ministry was not some fly-by-night operation where he just gathered up bored individuals. He chose with care those he would pour into for three years.
Now some of us don’t like to invite folks to church or anything else because they might say no. We don’t want to make them uncomfortable. But here are the cold hard facts: basically, we just can’t handle rejection, so we would rather not invite at all.
If there is anything I have learned about Jesus in this season of my life, it is that Jesus was well-acquainted with rejection.
I am not special.
No one has spit on me,
turned me down,
sided against me,
walked away from me,
told me I’m not enough,
picked someone else better,
accused me of ulterior motives,
questioned my heart…
in some unique fashion that Jesus did not fully experience in his three short years of ministry.
In fact, Jesus told a parable about this.
Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his servants to those who had been invited to the banquet to tell them to come, but they refused to come.
4 “Then he sent some more servants and said, ‘Tell those who have been invited that I have prepared my dinner: My oxen and fattened cattle have been butchered, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’
5 “But they paid no attention and went off—one to his field, another to his business. 6 The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his army and destroyed those murderers and burned their city.
8 “Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding banquet is ready, but those I invited did not deserve to come. 9 So go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.’ 10 So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.
Folks, weddings are great parties. If there was ever an event in your life that requires you to prioritize your relationships, it is a wedding. EVERYTHING is about rank. Who stands next to the bride or groom, who is in the wedding party, who is asked to do music, who sits in the honored spots at the reception…the list goes on and on.
The father of the bride in this parable, no doubt invited the most meaningful people in his life first; those he believed were the closest to him, those he wanted to share this day with. But these are the very people who turned on him and REFUSED to come. So he sends a reminder, letting them know the food is ready!
This is like getting ignored on the RSVP and then calling to make sure and extend another plea, but this time, providing the menu. A great menu always ups the ante. You may be happy to skip a ceremony, but if the food sounds good enough and it’s free….maybe you can find time to go celebrate with your friend.
But now the chosen guests come up with lameo excuses. One is too absorbed by his business, another just got a new car, and yet another is apparently too exhausted by his new marriage. Whatever. The king doesn’t spend time wringing his hands over the blatant and disrespectful rejection he has just received.
He sets his eye and heart on the lost, lonely, and broken.
Instead of concentrating on those who aren’t with him in heart or spirit, he reaches out to those who don’t qualify for anyone’s guest list. And guess what? They don’t offer lame excuses for how busy they are. They respond with enthusiasm. Unlike the original guests, they don’t come in with a critical eye, judging the decorations, whining about the food, fussing about how big the crowd is or how long it takes to get served. The new guests are eager to be there. They are happy to eat and dance the night away. They recognize a good deal when they see it.
We will never get to the lost, lonely, and broken, if we spend all our energy trying to convince the belligerent to come sit at Jesus’s table.
If we invite someone to Jesus and they say no, we must let them go. Jesus did. We can, too.
More importantly… who is God prompting you to invite?
Who can you offer a face-to-face invitation to come and meet the Jesus you know?
Who will fill the seats?