The Invitation

you_are_invited_flowers_6140426 ‘They won’t come, we have tried that sort of thing before’. Came the all too familiar response from a church member in conversation with her pastor. The pastor concerned, considered for a moment, what indeed she was asking the church to invite people too? Eventually it occurred to her that she probably wouldn’t want to go to it either, let alone anyone else!

Think of the last time you were invited to something you enjoyed, how did it make you feel? What was good about it? Did you find a kindred spirit and perhaps even have some fun and laughter? Sadly in my experience this doesn’t sound like church nearly enough. But when it does, i find i am home, both spiritually and communally.

There is a story of a woman now retired who was invited to her local chapel, and she stayed and felt at home. She was invited to membership and happily accepted and now over twenty years later helps to lead a worship service and is now inviting others into the Lords loving embrace. All because her christian friend stepped over the line and knowing her friend well, knew what to invite her to, and when to ask her “to come.” The woman in the story discovered for herself the freedom Christ offers through the invitation of a friend, who invited her to a community who celebrated the fullness of life that Christ offers us all.

Part of the issue is perhaps that our image of God is serious, and that’s appropriate, to a point. The bible sadly doesn’t record Jesus and the disciples going out on the town, drinking in moderation of course. Nor does the bible record dialogue where Jesus is making a joke or witty retort. But I would like to think he might have at least once or twice laughed, or smiled at something rude!

We read that Jesus has many, many meals with people. I doubt these were all terribly religious or pious, after all he ate with the least religious or pious people. Not that they might be conformed to sensible religion. But instead know that there is another way, a fuller life, one where the burden of sin, or feelings of inadequacy are lifted upon the shoulders of a would be saviour of the world, so that they can be free.

We have seen the effect freedom has on people haven’t we. The celebrations of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the exuberance at the end of apartheid in South Africa, how communities celebrated as each world war ended. Freedom is heady joyousness, not reserved, not quiet, not always sensible. But sometimes on our knees we can in heartfelt thanks worship God, as well as jump around for joy.

As the pastor said good bye to the church member and drove home that evening. The Lord reminded her, of why she had ever come to church in the first place, and to begin with it was friendship with people followed by and enriched with friendship with God. It occurred to her that that was a good place to start.

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