Wednesday, August 24, 2011
Don't Bring a Thing
The week had flown by for Craig Randall. People at Keith's church had greeted him warmly on the morning Ted Brandon spoke. He had given simple exhortation to press on offering kind words, everyday help, a ready smile and willingness to listen. All in the name of Christ. The message was entitled "Apply the Salt". Now it was Craig's turn and he felt strangely confident before his newfound friends:
"So it's settled," the hostess said. "We'll see you guys at 6:30 on Saturday. Everything will be ready. Don't bring a thing. Just your appetites. We look forward to a really good evening together."
Perhaps you have had such a conversation, and then on the way over stopped for flowers, some drinks or an interesting treat to take along. Just common etiquette isn't it? Or is it that you don't want to be beholding to another?
I have been studying one of Jesus' more forceful parables - the wedding feast in Matthew 22. A prince is to be married, and extensive invitations have gone out. Surprisingly, the majority of the invitees offered feeble excuses to stay away. This provoked the host, the King, to send messengers into remote places, to encourage as many as would come, good and bad, to attend. He was fixing to have a good celebration and to be unrestrained in his generosity.
Obviously those listening to Jesus' story got the impression that the disinterested first group were the organized Jews of that day. The second group simply said "yes" and came. Such is grace. "Come. All is provided. My Son deserves an uninhibited, eager response."
But there was also disturbing news. One of the guests had refused to don the wedding garment as was customarily offered by the host. Certainly his own apparel was good enough, and it had served him well on other occasions. But the prince's wedding required the prescribed garments and the man's stubborn refusal was immediately noticed by the King. "Remove such an insolent and unappreciative one to a place of darkness and weeping!"
The old Scottish preachers were quick to chastise wilful members of their flock: "You are too stubborn to trust in the righteousness of another. To don His robe as your own. You must do your little bit, as pathetic and pointless as it is. You seek to add to the Cross. Stop your foolishness while there is still time. The way of grace is the only way."
"I have thought a lot about this parable. We as Christians are constantly reminded that fruit-bearing must come out of our relationship with Christ. Sadly many still see this as a requirement of duty. A weight comes with the consideration of doing good. But the real path of service is forged in love which cannot be suppressed as it pours out almost spontaneously and thankfully. The love response is the ticket to effective Christian living, and not the sense of duty or conformity. So, culture a familiarity with the episodes of Jesus' patience, mercy and strength. Read those Gospels. Get alone enough with Him in prayer. Say your piece briefly, and then wait in respectful silence for His input. It will come. You are developing friendship with the King of Kings. Hearts beat in unison. Watch what happens next..."