For all that Christianity has sometimes been seen as an exclusive religion, the New Testament shows Jesus constantly invited people to follow him, to choose the better way of communion with God and others.
Jesus tells a parable about those who turn down a king’s gracious invitation to his son’s wedding feast, even abusing those who offered it. As a result, the king tells his servants to go out and invite all kinds of people from the streets instead.
Prior to telling this parable, Jesus tells the educated people (who should have recognized Him for who he was), that” crooks and whores are going to precede you into God’s kingdom . . . even when you saw their changed lives, you didn’t care enough to change and believe Him.” (The Message)
This parable refers to the Kingdom of Heaven, but it begins even now, here on earth. Like the bride-to-be who samples some of the food choices the caterer offers for the wedding dinner, we have been given a foretaste of the goodness of God. And He has provided for us a beautiful world. When we treat what God has provided for us with contempt and arrogance, we turn our back on both gift and Giver, closing ourselves off from admittance to the eternal world of abundant life.
“I am large, I contain multitudes,” said the poet Walt Whitman. It’s true that in myself I often find a cynic, a critical judge, a doubter and other unsavory characters, as hard as I try to leave them behind. Nelson Mandela talked of the African concept of ubuntu, the reality that we are only human through the humanity of others. Until we come to realize our common need of a Saviour, we project on to and disown others and shut ourselves away from true celebration. Unbelievably, the door has now been opened to those astonished that they are wanted.
It’s the season of Lent, a time to look into our hearts, to respond to God’s offer of the Life his Son died to give us. There will be a great wedding feast. We need only to admit our need of God’s gracious offer, and we will be admitted into a celebration of His glory and splendour, welcomed and given a place at His table.
“All day long the sun proclaims it
Like a Bridegroom dressed in white
Coming from his tent to greet them
All his guests feel his delight.
Words of love and warmth he whispers,
Warming all who hear His voice
‘Oh, be glad and share my table
Dance and celebrate, rejoice!
Dance and celebrate, rejoice!'”
Excerpted from Anthem, by Gaither