So you’re walking along Saltwell Road or on the High Street one day and someone catches your eye. He’s at the counter in one of the shops. Maybe he’s taking bets at the bookies. Maybe he’s making deals at the pawn brokers. Maybe he’s arranging loans at the Pay-Day Lenders. Whoever he is, wherever you see him, his business is about making money from other people’s misfortune. He exploits the poor. He is not a good person by anybody’s standards. You haven’t seen him in church for years, not since he was a kid.
You see him there, and you think – he’s exactly who I need to be part of my team. So you go in and tell him to quit his job and come and live on the streets with you and go round telling people that God’s kingdom is coming.
Maybe not. I don’t need you to do that. But maybe you could invite a friend? Bring them along to one of the special services that will be taking place between now and Christmas – harvest, Remembrance Sunday, or our All Souls service to remember those who have died and give thanks for their lives, or the Christmas carol service, or the Christingle or Midnight Mass? There is a lot going on over the next 3 months.
Or is inviting someone just too scary? They might say ‘No’ and you would feel rejected. That is such a big barrier. It goes back to being a child and all the ways you felt rejected – all those bad feelings flood back whenever someone turns you down.
But actually, just inviting someone is a RESULT! Let’s celebrate all those invitations. It doesn’t matter if people say no. When we invite someone, we open the door for God to do his thing. It’s up to God whether people say yes or no – you don’t have to take responsibility for it.
Over the last few years, who have you invited to come to a church service ….. , or to a church event ….. ?
Anne Kindred invited Zoe and Lily to the family service. So well done Anne! And well done God who brought Zoe and Lily to the church family.
And I know people have invited friends they care about, and they haven’t taken up the invitation. Well done them! Giving the invitation shows them you care. Giving the invitation shows that you are being faithful to God. That is absolutely grand! Go on praying for the people who didn’t come on that occasion. Another time they might come. Keep inviting.
Have a think for a minute. Is God bringing someone to mind, someone who used to go to church but hasn’t come in a long while? Is God bringing someone to mind who might appreciate a celebration of the good things God gives us at the harvest service? Is God bringing someone to mind who has been bereaved and would appreciate a quiet service to remember them and light a candle for them? Is God bringing to mind whose Christmas would be transformed by coming to one of the Christmas services?
If someone has come into your mind, I want you to tell someone sitting near you. ….
And if you can honestly say that no one has come to mind, then ask God to help you see someone, and during the week you will think of them. Then pray for that person. There are some cards here – write their name down and pray for them.
And then, in good time before the event, invite them along – there are some invitation cards in the hall. Find an invitation card for the appropriate service and encourage them to come along. We will celebrate you for everyone you invite. Because that in itself is a huge achievement. They may say no – but that’s God’s responsibility, not yours. They are not rejecting you, they are rejecting God.
I wonder how Jesus felt when he invited Matthew to be one of the team. Did he know Matthew already? Were they at school together way back? Had Matthew been hanging around when Jesus was teaching and healing? Did Jesus notice him at the back of the crowd, and then he sees him there that day at work? Or was Matthew a complete stranger, but Jesus could see his real qualities behind the hard-man mask.
But Jesus did it anyway. He invited Matthew. Despite his background. Even though he was not exactly promising material. Even though he got a lot of criticism for hanging out with Matthew.
Not everyone who Jesus invited came along. People even said ‘No’ to Jesus. Like the wealthy young man.
But Matthew did accept. He left the job, the money, the high life. He gave it all up for the treasure of the kingdom of heaven. We are so blessed! We have such a treasure! And that’s what we want to share with everyone out there, the treasure of God’s love and care.
And in Matthew, Jesus gained a colleague, one of the core team, whom Jesus specially trained to proclaim the good news of the kingdom. We don’t know a huge lot about him to be honest. We tend to think that he was the Matthew who wrote the Gospel, but that is not necessarily so.
When you invite someone, you just don’t know where it will lead. It might be just the thing to transform someone’s life. It may not, of course, but that’s not your problem. The real achievement is to make the invitation.