MARCH 7, 2006

by Pastor George Van Alstine

It’s good to be invited to something. It means that somebody somewhere notices you. If there’s an “RSVPâ€? on the bottom of the invitation it adds even more emphasis—not only have these people invited you, they care whether or not you’re coming.

Jesus was evidently on the invitation list of a prosperous leader in his community (Luke 14). During table conversations, he told a series of stories about the etiquette of giving parties, extending invitations, and responding to RSVPs. Of course, all the stories had subtle spiritual messages (verses 1-14). He climaxed this teaching moment with a famous parable, recorded in verses 15-24.

A great feast was organized by “a certain manâ€?—clearly a stand-in for God. He went a step beyond mailing RSVP invitations; he sent a servant to everyone individually to give face-to-face personal invitations.

Well, all the invitees were too busy. They had legitimate excuses: one had to check out a piece of property he’d just bought, another had to try out his new teams of oxen, a third had recently married and was preoccupied with the relationship with his new wife. If you change the teams of oxen to an Acura Integra, their excuses all sound quite modern.

The party host was angry. He had gone to great lengths to do something nice for people, and it turned out that they couldn’t be bothered.

Jesus’ telling of this parable was triggered by the exclamation of a person near him: “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!â€? Many of the people around Jesus would not end up eating bread in the kingdom of God. They had RSVPed to the invitation of the rich man who gave this earthly feast, but they had been turning down repeated invitations to God’s great spiritual feast.

And what about you? What’s your excuse? A piece of property, a new car, a new marriage—these are not bad things. But the invitation from God is far more important than any of the things you allow to dominate your life, your time, your energy, your attention.

In Jesus’ story, the host stopped trying to coax the dignitaries on his guest list and instead sent out a broad invitation to “the poor, the crippled, the blind, the lameâ€? (verse 21). Maybe you’ll start listening to God when you’re poor, crippled, blind or lame. But it would sure be better if you’d respond to him today, while you still may be in your prime, while you’ve got other invitations you could consider. Choosing God over these other things is the act of love and commitment he is looking for. This is a gracious response to a gracious invitation.