How’s the Weather Inside?
Nathan Arms asked me one time if I knew Allan Sherer, and I said, “You know, I met him at Tandem for about three minutes, and I’m not sure if he remembers me or not.” But apparently you do remember that exchange. That’s right. Speaking of Nathan Arms, I was told that if you wanted to walk the walking path, he would actually walk with you and hold an umbrella only over you. So, you just find him after the service, and he will take care of that.
Good morning! This service is more full than the last, and I think it has something to do with both the time and the rain. I had to kind of get myself psyched up for the last service, but I think I’ll do okay for this one. It’s really good to be with you. I’m seeing several familiar faces in here, and that is because of your incredible encouragement in partnership with our ministry over the years. Seriously, I have thanked God for you and for this church family for years now. Our partnership, I think, officially began sometime in late 2018, early 2019. In 2019 we were given the opportunity to raise some funds to purchase a building that would house our after-school center, where we’re working with students. Your church was incredibly generous to us, and it was actually the last financial gift given to our ministry that put us over the edge to be able to purchase this building. And so, your church has a special place in my heart.
Not long after that the pandemic hit, and we were trying to figure out how to serve students who weren’t in school and were in many ways at home alone while parents were working, and it was a really, really challenging time for them. North Hills supported a pod school that we were able to start in Nicholtown in our community. I am so, so grateful for you! We are regularly having volunteers show up, and when I ask them where they go to church, it’s, “Hey, I go to North Hills.” “How did you hear about us?” “Well, I asked one of the staff members at our church how to get involved in our community, and they pointed me in your direction.” I’m so grateful for that. I’m thankful for you and for this church family. So, continue being a light and continue to shine bright.
You guys are in the middle of a series entitled The Table, which I think is so significant in our day and age. The table in many ways, I think, has lost its significance in the life of the church and in the life of our homes. We live in a day and age where social networking has become a lot more prevalent. There’s nothing wrong with networking, but it’s easy to conflate that with community and with friendship, and we sometimes lose sight of the significance of the table when that happens.
How many people in here like networking events? Don’t raise your hands! It was a trap. It was a trap. Sorry! There are plenty of good things. I did this in the last service. Somebody came up to me and said, “I raised my hand afterwards.” Anyway, listen, there are plenty of good things. I’m just not talking about any of those good things this morning. The real reason I don’t like networking events is because I’m an introvert, and it feels like speed dating to me. You go into a room, and you got to talk to a bunch of people and shake a bunch of hands, and it’s just not my thing. I remember my first networking event. I don’t remember who invited me. I don’t even remember what it was about, but I remember what it felt like, and it just kind of felt cheap and insincere. And so, I’m having all these conversations with people, and I’m trying to tell them what I do. And partway through my telling them what I do, I see their eyes just glaze over as they prepare their elevator speech that they’re going to give me. And then afterwards, after they haven’t listened to what I’ve said, and I haven’t really listened to what they’ve said, they give me their card and they say, “We should get together.” And I’m like why? So, you can actually listen to me this time? And it’s not. It’s because they have some synergy, whatever that means. That’s why we’ve got to get together. All I’m saying, is it’s my version of hell, and I’m not a fan of it. I’m kidding. I’m kidding. I shouldn’t talk about hell like that. I know there’s a place for networking, and it’s not all bad. And if you’re an extrovert in the room, and networking is your thing, more power to you. Please listen to other things that I’m going to say this morning. Don’t write me off already.
There’s nothing wrong with networking, but it’s important that we don’t conflate it with what it’s not. In your social network, it’s not authentic community. Your social network — the group of folks that you interact with online — that may be something, but that’s not genuine friendship. And it’s so easy for us to conflate the two. And especially in a world where those things are expanding, those are becoming more and more the primary mode of communication, the primary way that we stay connected. And when that happens, that begins to form us as people, and then it begins to form our homes, and it begins to transform things. And before you know it, the dining table in your house begins to transform into the kind of cocktail table or bar-top table of a networking event. And all of a sudden, the people that you invite over for dinner, you’re inviting over for a particular reason. There’s maybe an agenda. There’s a motive behind the meal that you know about that maybe they don’t know about. It’s really easy for us to treat people as commodities, and we use our dining table to do it. You know what I’m talking about?
This table, this sacred gift that was meant to be a doorway into deeper fellowship, can very easily become a vehicle for networking. And if it does that, if our table becomes that, church, we are not going to be dining with the people that Jesus dined with. Our community will look nothing like his. The reason for that is because there were never any ulterior motives when Jesus ate with people, no hidden agendas. Jesus would open himself up to the people that he was eating with, and he would step into the lives of those who open themselves up to him. He loved for the sake of loving. He shared for the sake of sharing. And the result was this surprising, eclectic friend group, where Jesus is dining with Pharisees and prostitutes and tax collectors and zealots and the rich and the poor and Jews and Gentiles. And it was shocking! And it was socially unacceptable, and every time it was a foretaste of heaven.
And I don’t know about you, but I want my table to look like his table. I’m not content with my table being transformed into a bar-top table. I’m not content with hidden agendas dominating the meals that I share with human beings made in the image of God. I’m not content with that, and I know you aren’t either. But the reality is, if my table, if your table is going to look anything like his, then you and I have to first remember what it means to go to the table of the Lord hungry and thirsty for a feast that only Jesus can give us.
Today’s passage is Luke 14. We’re going to look at verses 12-24. Now, I have the privilege of pastoring alongside two incredible people at a local church in our neighborhood, and I like to give my sermons titles. It’s like my favorite part of giving a sermon and prepping for it, coming up with the title. So, this morning’s title is, “How’s the Weather Inside?” It’ll make sense in a little bit, I promise. How’s the weather inside? Can I pray for us? And then we’ll jump into the text.
God, thank you for this church. Thank you for your Word. Thank you for your table. Thank you for this generous invitation that has been extended to everyone without exception. God, we want to be a people who accept the invitation. We want to be a people who are not so preoccupied that we miss it, God. We want to see it. We want to embrace it because we want to embrace you. You’ve done everything that we needed you to do to invite us to the table. God, we just want to be there with you because we know when we’re with you, you change us, and you send us as transformed people to invite others to you. That’s who we want to be. God, help us to be that. Holy Spirit, speak to us this morning. Show us our blind spots. Speak the truth, disrupt us, make us uncomfortable. We’re here for all of it, myself included. God, do what only you can do, and I ask it in the name of Jesus, amen.
Hey, before we jump into this, I want to give you a little context. We’ve heard the passage read. We know that Jesus is at a banquet. It’s a dinner. So, some translations would say lunch or dinner. So, he’s at a dinner, and it’s actually going terribly. It’s been very awkward so far, and it’s only getting more awkward as the story continues. But Jesus is dining with a ruler of the Pharisees and his entourage. So, this ruler of the Pharisees has invited Jesus over with a bunch of Pharisees and lawyers.
Now, the problem is, it’s not a genuine invitation to know Jesus more. It’s not a genuine invitation to invite him into their lives. There is a motive behind the meal. It says that they’re watching him carefully. Now, they’re likely trying to catch him slip up and say something he shouldn’t. Maybe he’ll say something blasphemous. Maybe he’ll say something against the Romans. They’re trying to look out for that stuff, but I think they’re also interested in him. These are powerful people, and these Pharisees believed that a messiah was coming, right? And they believed that that messiah was going to establish the kingdom, but they thought the kingdom was going to be a kingdom over and against the Romans. And so they wanted to see maybe Jesus is the Messiah. And if he is, then he’s going to reign in power over the Romans, and guess what? I don’t know. Maybe we should invite him to the table. We can get close to him, and then when he reigns in power, we can be a part of his entourage, and we’ll reign in power with him.
And so, there’s this hidden agenda. It’s a power dynamic that’s underneath the surface of this meal. That’s what’s going on. It’s a glorified networking event, and Jesus just isn’t having it. And a number of awkward exchanges happen throughout the meal, and it just gets worse and worse as you go. The first thing is that he heals somebody. That’s not a problem. The issue is that the person he heals probably wasn’t invited to the dinner. It was probably a slave or a servant. And the other thing is he heals him on the Sabbath, which is a sermon in and of itself. And so, they have to have this whole conversation about him healing the person on the Sabbath.
But this is the thing that Jesus does that I think is so beautiful. These are the small, little details that I think are the Jesus-y stuff that you find in the Gospels that make you fall in love with who he is. Jesus sees somebody who’s not important enough to be invited to the party, and he sees him, and he loves him, and he heals him, and he dignifies him. This is somebody that everyone else is looking past, but not Jesus. And maybe you’re in here, and you feel like the person who is always overlooked. People are looking past you, and I want you to know that our Savior sees you, loves you, dignifies you, and is going to heal you in every way imaginable. That’s the Jesus-y stuff. Don’t skip that. It may not be the big point of the text, but it’s a detail, and it’s in there for a reason. That’s the first awkward thing, though, that happens.
So, Jesus heals this person. They have this exchange about the Sabbath, and then the next thing that happens is he addresses all of the people who are important enough to be invited to the party, and he addresses the seating chart. So, these guys are like vying for position, like sitting in places of honor, and Jesus says, “Hey, how about this? Rather than your going and sitting in a place of honor only to have somebody say, ‘Hey, you’re sitting in my seat. I think you’re supposed to be sitting over there.’ Instead of that happening, why don’t you just humble yourself and maybe, you never know, somebody’s going to come and say, ‘Hey, why don’t you go sit over there in that place of honor?’”
And if that’s not bad enough, if Jesus hasn’t made this dinner awkward enough, he then turns his attention to the host, and this is where we pick up in verse 12. This is what he says. He looks at the man who invited him and he says, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, don’t invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your rich neighbors, because they could also invite you in return and you would be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Why? Because they can’t repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”
Now, the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame were often referred to as “the people of the land” in this day and age. They were the despised Jews in their time. They were despised because they didn’t have the ability to participate in the traditional laws of ritual purity. And so, they are in many ways unable to keep these traditional laws of ritual purity. Jesus looks at the people who keep the law to the letter, and he’s saying, “I want you to invite them to your table.”
And at this point, Jesus has officially offended everybody at dinner. It’s in moments like this, when we read passages like this, where it’s really easy for us to say, “Yeah, that was Jesus’s mic-drop moment.” And everyone, you know, is shocked! And especially for the justice warriors in the room, and I get it. I’m one of those people. I have a heart for the marginalized. I have a heart for the disadvantaged.
But Jesus isn’t offending people for the sake of offending them. He doesn’t need to drop a mic on anybody. He doesn’t need to dunk on anybody. He’s secure enough in who he is. And I think we live in a moment culturally, where it’s all about the pithy statement that you can say that’s going to make somebody feel bad and make your entourage clap for you. God is not glorified in any of that. That’s more a result of your own insecurity than your actually wanting to speak the truth.
You see, Jesus isn’t offending for the sake of offending. He’s disrupting for the sake of awakening because he loves them. There is never a person that Jesus speaks a hard word to that He isn’t first willing to die for. That’s what it means when God came into the world “full of grace and full of truth.” And that’s the kind of people that we’ve been called to be. We have to have the courage to speak up, absolutely! But we need to be able to say hard things in challenging times when we need to. But y’all, we need to first be willing to die for the people that we’re speaking that word to. That’s the hard thing. That’s the hard thing. Jesus isn’t offending for the sake of offending. He’s disrupting for the sake of awakening.
But I also think Jesus isn’t interested in us arbitrarily diversifying our dining table. You know what I mean? This isn’t about meeting a quota — having a certain amount of rich folks and poor folks and black folks and white folks and Hispanic. That’s not what this is about. It’s not about a quota being met. In fact, the quickest way that any of us can make someone feel like a charity case or a token is to do something in a performatory kind of a way. Jesus doesn’t care about your performance. He cares about your heart. He cares about your heart. It’s not about what’s just on the surface here. This is what Jesus says. He says, “Invite those who can’t repay you because you’re going to be repaid in the resurrection of the just.”
He’s making a connection between the kingdom of God and your community. He’s indicating that maybe, just maybe, those people who have genuine friendships with the despised Jews in Israel, with the downcast and the marginalized and the overlooked … Maybe the people who have genuine friendships with them have experienced an internal transformation that is actually making its way out into their lives through their table. And what you see on the table is just a window into what God has been doing in their heart. So, their table is just a temperature check of their spiritual life. Henry Nouwen put it this way. He says,
“The table reveals the tensions among us.” He says, “The table is the barometer of family and community life.”
I love that. Your table, my table — it’s a barometer. It doesn’t determine the weather, but it measures it. It helps us see what’s going on in our interior lives and in the life of our communities. And so, for just a moment, would you close your eyes and consider your table? Consider your table for just a moment. Who are you sharing meals with? Why are you sharing meals with them? Are there hidden agendas? Are there motives behind the meal that are kind of unspoken? Who regularly sits at your table and shares a meal with you? You can open your eyes.
If your table and my table is a barometer, I just want to ask, how’s the weather inside? How’s the weather inside? What does your table indicate about your interior life and your community life? What is it telling you? It’s saying something. For the lawyers and for the Pharisees, their table revealed an unhealthy relationship to power. They’re vying for positions, right? The seating chart. And they’re only inviting people they think are powerful, that are going to help their position socially. And in fact, they’ve baked an ulterior motive into the bread that they’re breaking with Jesus, and they don’t think that he sees it. Their table reveals a lot about their hearts, and Jesus lovingly disrupts them. He says, “Quit worrying about the seating chart and consider changing the guest list.”
And at this point there is so much tension in that room around that table. And one of the people who’s at the table, he stands up and he tries to deal with the tension and cut it with a knife by saying this pithy statement. He says, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God.” Now, this was a pious, religious statement that was really common in their day. It was kind of a way of saying, “Cheers to those who are around the table! Blessed are us! We are going to eat bread in the kingdom of God!” And notice he says this in response to Jesus when Jesus says, “You should invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame to your dinner table.” And this guy says, “They’re not here, but blessed are the people who are here. Blessed are those who will eat bread in the kingdom of God.”
And so, I think in many ways he’s responding to Jesus, and some scholars think he’s also just trying to change the subject because it’s so awkward. And Jesus doesn’t bite. He doesn’t change the subject. He presses in a little bit deeper. And sometimes, church, when the gospel makes us uncomfortable, and we just want to change the subject, God loves us enough to press in a little bit deeper and get at what’s under the surface. That’s what he does here.
So, if the Holy Spirit’s doing work with you this morning, and it’s uncomfortable and it’s disruptive and you want to change the subject and tune out and go somewhere else, I just want to encourage you, let the Holy Spirit have his way with you. Let the Holy Spirit press in a little bit deeper. It’s not about what’s on the surface. God cares about the problem beneath the problem. If you leave this morning and all you leave with is whatever’s on the surface, if you leave with some instructions, if you walk out of … (I still haven’t got an answer on this. Is this a worship center, a sanctuary, or an auditorium? What do you guys call this? Auditorium!) If you walk out of the auditorium this morning, and all you walk out with is a to-do list of things that you feel like you need to do, either you missed it, or I failed to deliver it, or maybe you were trying to change the subject on the Holy Spirit. I don’t know.
But it’s about more than that. Jesus doesn’t care about our performance. He cares about our heart. And he wants the same thing for the lawyers and the Pharisees that he’s eating with. And so, he tells them this parable to illustrate what’s actually going on in their hearts that’s making its way out into their table. He wants them to see the connection between who they invite to their table and the way that they respond to the invitation of God to dine with him at his. There is a connection between your table and my table and the invitation that God extends us and our response to that invitation to dine with him at his table. And Jesus wants the lawyers and the Pharisees to see that connection. So, he tells them the story, and this is how it goes.
[Luke 14:16-20] “But he said to him, ‘A man once gave a great banquet and he invited many. And at the time of the banquet he sent his servant out to say to those who have been invited, “Come, everything’s ready.” But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, “I’ve bought a field. I’ve got to go see it. Have me excused.” The second said, “I’ve got a bunch of oxen. I’ve got to go check them out. Have me excused.” The third said. “I just got married. Can’t come.”‘”
These are the excuses. They all alike make excuses as to why they can’t attend the banquet. And I think this is clearly a critique of the religious leaders of Israel. You see, this is the moment that Israel has been waiting for, longing for — the Messiah — to come announce the kingdom of God! That’s what Jesus has been doing. He’s been going all throughout Galilee announcing the kingdom of God, inviting folks to the banquet of God.
But the people who are most likely … Hear me, church … The people who are most likely to see themselves at the banquet are the ones who turned down the invitation to attend. It’s the people who are most likely to see themselves there. They’re the ones who are uninterested. It’s not like they’re uninvited. The invitation is extended to them. They’re just not accepting it. They’re uninterested in the kingdom that Jesus is offering. It’s not the kingdom that they had expected. It’s not the kingdom that they had hoped for. It doesn’t come along with all of these power dynamics that they’re working towards or that they were expecting to see over the Romans. This isn’t the kind of kingdom they expected to be announced. And it seems that they are preoccupied with all kinds of things in this world, whether that was stuff or work or family. In any case, they make excuses as to why they can’t attend.
And I think it’s so important for us to remember these are not people who are uninterested in the things of God. They’re not uninterested in the kingdom of God. They care deeply about the kingdom of God. That’s why they invited Jesus to their house for dinner. They want to know, “Is he the Messiah? Is he actually ushering in the kingdom? Can we be a part of his entourage? Can we reign over the Romans?”
The problem is not that they’re uninterested in the kingdom of God. The problem is that the kingdom of God is at hand, and they just can’t see it! And church, I just wonder how many of us are walking through life with the kingdom of God all around us, the presence of God all around us, the beauty of God’s family all around us, but we just can’t see it. We’re so preoccupied that we don’t accept God’s invitation, that we don’t receive what God is offering us … preoccupied with our creature comforts in this world maybe, preoccupied with work and ambition maybe, preoccupied maybe with our own families.
As Abe said at the beginning of this service, maybe we’re preoccupied with the things in this world that feel so real but they’re not. They’re fading away. It’s a mirage. And what if, what if we’re exchanging the reality of the kingdom for something that feels more real, but it’s just fading away? We’re so preoccupied with this thing that we fail to see all of the spiritual blessings that are ours in Christ Jesus. We fail to see the kingdom of God that is at hand, the beauty of a heavenly family that surrounds us in this room and the opportunities that we have to dine with one another in sincere fellowship.
I want to be the kind of person who sees the feast. I want to be the kind of person who sees the beauty of what God is holding out to me. And I want to be the kind of person who embraces the invitation to attend the feast. I want to be a person who daily chooses to attend the feast.
Do you know the kind of person who sees the beauty of what God is offering? Do you know the kind of person who sees the beauty of the invitation? It’s the person who’s surprised that they’ve been given one. Jesus says it’s the poor, the needy, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. They accept the invitation. He says it’s those on the highways, in the hedges. Those were the Gentiles. It’s those who are least likely to see themselves at the banquet. They’re the ones who accepted the invitation to attend. They’re the ones who eat bread in the kingdom of God.
The lawyers and the Pharisees, they don’t think that these people are worthy of eating bread in the kingdom of God. That’s why he made that pious statement earlier. Jesus responds to him by telling him a story that culminates in this reality — they’re the only ones who will eat bread in the kingdom of God. And it’s not because they were the only ones invited. It’s not because God gives them preferential treatment. It’s not because God reserved a seat for them, and he didn’t reserve a seat for you. The only reason that they’re eating bread in the kingdom of God and you are not, Jesus says, is because you didn’t accept the invitation. It’s extended to all. It’s a generous host. This host wants his table to be filled. That’s why he keeps extending the invitation.
Our host, our heavenly Father, is so generous. He longs for every one of us to attend the feast. But so often we don’t accept the invitation that he’s offering us. I think the rulers and the Pharisees, the lawyers … I don’t think they dined with the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame because I think they didn’t think that they belonged to one another. They didn’t dine together in their homes because they didn’t think that they were going to dine together in the kingdom of God. And I think that’s the connection that Jesus is making — the connection between their table and his table, the connection between the table in the house of the Pharisee and the table in the house of the Lord. If you want your table to look like the table of the Lord’s, then you have to first go to his table with the poor and the needy.
Maybe I could say it this way. You need to go as the poor and the needy go, “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” The table is a barometer of our interior life and our community life. When we look at our table, when we examine our table, it says something about our spiritual life. It says something about the way that we view God, the way that we view self, the way that we view those around us.
I just want to ask again, how’s the weather inside? As you take inventory of your table, what is it saying about your heart? Because that’s what Jesus cares about. He’s trying to get at the problem beneath the problem. If you walk away from Wisdomfest and this series on The Table, and all you walk away with is this punch list of people that you feel like you have to invite to your table, you’ve missed it. It’s not about your table. It’s about your heart. When your heart is revolutionized by the gospel of Jesus Christ, your table will be as well. It’s the overflow. It’s about your heart.
Some of you might be thinking “I would never assume that the poor and the needy don’t belong in the kingdom of God. I know they belong in the kingdom of God. I know that I’m going to eat with them forever.” Maybe it’s another category of people, right? You acknowledge that they belong to the kingdom of God and that you will one day feast with them for all of eternity. You acknowledge that here. But if you were to be honest and take inventory of your table, you would say, “I am not eating nearly enough with people who are in a different tax bracket than I am.” And if that’s you this morning, with all the grace in the world, I just want to invite you to remember what it’s like to go to the table of the Lord.
Can I ask you how many genuine friendships you have with people who are socio-economically disadvantaged, socio-economically different maybe than you? How many genuine friendships do you have, people you confide in? More than charity, right? If the majority of your relationships with people who are socio-economically disadvantaged, if the majority of those relationships are couched in Christian charity, I want to contest there’s a problem because sometimes it can be like you’re pointing that person to the banquet the way that you point a hungry person to a soup kitchen, assuming that they need something that you don’t need. Do you need food? Well, of course you need food, but not like they need food. Do you need, Jesus? Well, of course I need Jesus, but not like they need Jesus. If your table, if my table is going to look anything like his, we have to first remember what it’s like to go to the table of the Lord, truly hungry and thirsty, starving for a feast that only Jesus can give us.
Church, it is the grace of God that creates mutuality, commonality. It is the grace of God that allows our tables and the guest list of our tables to be expanded and the seating chart to be done away with and the ground on which we stand to be completely level. It is the grace of God that creates that. The gospel of Jesus Christ is both wonderful news and offensive because it reminds us that every one of us not only needs grace, we all need the same amount of grace. Your neighbor does not need any more than you do. Apart from Jesus Christ and the radical mercy of God, you are destitute spiritually. It is the same blood that covers the door that every one of us has to walk through to be in this house this morning. No one needs more of it than the person next to you. It creates mutuality. It creates true, authentic community, where every one of us can look at one another no matter what our background is, and we can look each other in the eye because we stand on level ground because we have all been covered by the grace and mercy of Jesus. Our souls were all hungry for the bread of life. Our hearts were weary and thirsty for living water. And Jesus is our bread of life. Jesus is our living water. And it was the grace of God and only the grace of God that any of us received what our souls were aching for. And we have got to remember that.
When I remember how lost I was apart from Jesus, and when I remember the riches of His mercy that came and found me and brought me near to him, that changes me. That revolutionizes my heart. And I promise you, it makes its way out onto my table and to the people that I fellowship with. The gospel changes the way that I relate to God, and it changes the way that I relate to my brothers and sisters in Christ and my neighbors. God sends us out, after we have feasted with him at his table, he sends us out, not to point people to a soup kitchen, but to take them by the hand and walk with them as they go to a feast that we ourselves are hungry for. Come, join me at the table. I need the same thing you need. We need this together.
N.T. Wright says this:
“It’s not enough just to say that we ourselves are the people dragged in from the country lanes, to our surprise, to enjoy God’s party. That may be true, but party guests are then expected to become party hosts in their turn.”
Do you want to host a party like God hosts a party? Go to his party. Feast with him. Taste of his goodness and his mercy and his grace. And then throw a party of your own.
If you want to dine with people of all socio-economic backgrounds, and if you want your relationship to be built on genuine friendship, then you have to remember what you have in common with every person around you and that is a deep need for Jesus and an even deeper need for His grace. If we want our table to look like his, we have to go to his table, recognize our need, celebrate his grace, and see what happens to us there. And then we have to go out and see ourselves in our neediness, in our neighbors, no matter what their background is, and welcome them to the table with us. Can we do that? Would you pray with me?
God, we love you because you first loved us. If it weren’t for your grace and your mercy, we would be lost and without hope. But your grace and your mercy have found us. And Lord, if there’s anyone in here who has just wandered from home, they forgot what it’s like to feast with the Lord. Maybe they’ve grown up in and around church, and they’re so familiar with it that it became like white noise to them, and they became distracted and preoccupied with the things in this world, and all of a sudden the mirage felt more real than the reality of the kingdom and the goodness of the gospel. If there’s anyone here who has been far from you, God, I pray that they would know it is never too late to return home and no sacrifice is too great. God, if there are things that they have to give up to remember the goodness of the gospel, if there are comforts in this world that have just taken a grip on their hearts, God, I pray that they would know the gospel is powerful enough to set them free from that, and the goodness of the gospel is worth the exchange.
God, if there’s anyone here who doesn’t see themself at the table, doesn’t think they’re good enough for the table, doesn’t think that they belong at the table, God, I pray that they would know that they are in good company, that the only people who dine with the Lord are those who are shocked and surprised to see that they have been given an invitation. They are in good company. God, I pray that they would know that. I pray that they would be overwhelmed by your grace and that just because it seems too good to be true doesn’t mean that it is. It may be too good to understand, but it’s not too good to be true. Thank you for that, Lord. We love you. Holy Spirit, do a work in each of us. And I ask that in Jesus’s name, amen.