I was rearranging and cleaning my office the other week, by the layer of dust on some of the book shelves it had been a while since I last cleaned, I came across a connection card. You know the cards for visitors to fill out on Sunday mornings that are in the pews. Madison, my oldest daughter, had filled it out a few years ago. It, of course, has our names and address on it and when it asked how you heard about Park, she put “Lynn”. When she had the opportunity to check what she wanted more information about, she checked “Children’s Ministry.” She checked the age groups of our family – 0-11 for her and Kaitlyn and 25-35 for Michelle and myself (It made me smile that she thought that was the category we belonged in). It also made me smile that she checked the box, I would like to meet with the pastor (I wonder if I followed up on that one). The other part that made me laugh was on the back. It was for a Wednesday night series, you had the opportunity to say if you were coming to eat and what study you were thinking about joining us for. The line she checked was, “I may come for dinner and bring a few others. I’m estimating a headcount of __________.” In the blank she put 105. Yes, way to think positive Madison.
As I thought about Madison’s 105, I was reminded that it isn’t about the numbers. We may say that because the numbers are not what we want or because we truly believe it. We know that each number is a person and that is what truly maters. And although we may not want to get caught up in numbers, sometimes pastors can be bad at it. Pastors can be like fisherman, who exaggerate how big the fish was they caught, because a group of 70 can turn into close to a hundred petty quickly when they talk about how things are going.
What I do want to remind you of today though is a parable from Jesus. It is a unique parable. Jesus tells it as he is having dinner at a prominent Pharisee’s house (by the way I suspect Jesus ate at their houses just as much as they would have complained that he ate at the tax collector and sins houses). They talk about healing on the Sabbath, which of course Jesus has done. Jesus talked about not taking the place of honor when invited to a banquet. Then Jesus talks about who to invite when you give a lunch or dinner. The answer is those who can’t repay you. Jesus goes on to say “when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:13-14).
It is after this that someone around the table said “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God” (14:15). In response to this Jesus tells a parable. This is my paraphrase of it. A guy was giving a banquet and he sent out save the date cards so that people would know it was coming. When the time came, the guy sent out his banquet planner to tell everyone to come, but none of those who had been invited were able to come. They all thought that they had something better to do. When the host hears about this he gets really angry and tells his planner “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.” The planner says, “yeah, I already did that and there is still room.” So the host tells his planner “Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.” (For the real parable, read Matthew 14:16-24)
Two things, one about God and the other about the servant, both are about the heart of God. One, God wants a full house. We aren’t talking about churches and worship services (although I am sure that pleases him as well), but about His kingdom. Remember when Jesus was talking with His disciples and said “In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you” (John 14:2). The father desires His house to be full and Jesus made it possible, prepared it for us. The father doesn’t need a full house because he wants to feel important, but because the father knows that in that place (don’t just think physical location) is where we find full life.
Two, the servant (banquet planner in my story), knew that the father wanted a full house and did what he could to make it full. Did you notice that the people Jesus told the crowd to invite to lunch or dinner when you throw a party was the same list the servant said he went out and got? (the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.) The servant knew the father’s heart (Master in the real parable). The servant knew it and did all he could to fulfill it. Do we do the things we do because they are the heart’s desire of the master?
The last thing I will tell you is that although the servant knew the masters heart and brought the people he knew that the master would have wanted invited, there was still more because there was still room. This is why the master sends the servant farther out of the way, farther out of town, because there was still room. Have you ever wondered how many rooms are in the father’s house? I will tell you the answer, at least one more. There is always room. So invite 105 people to a Wednesday night meal, or how about just one person to worship or to a study or even out to lunch or coffee. Let the heart of the Father be what leads your actions and determines how you see people. Go, there is still room.
Rev. Lynn Beach is married to his college sweetheart, Michelle, and they have two adorable daughters. He has been at Park Church since July 2013.