Come for all things are ready

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I was waiting for the call, the invite, the day, the time and place.

A group of old friends, some of us knowing each other from kindergarten through high school, reconnected and a dinner date was in the works.

The woman organizing the evening promised to call me as soon as all the arrangements were in place.

A few weeks went by and one day while scrolling down my facebook news feed I saw them — all of them sitting around a table, having dinner together.

Oh the curse of facebook.  We see things that, once upon time, came to our attention through the grapevine.

It’s the good, the bad and the ugly of the social media craze.

Did I miss a text, an email, a phone call?  I checked.  Nope.

I was forgotten.  Skipped over.

You know those feelings of rejection you got in junior high when your friends went to a party without you and afterwards you found out about it?  Well, those long, long ago feelings paid me a visit and I felt like a foolish junior higher with left-out and rejected emotions coursing through me.

They had dinner together and I wasn’t invited? 

It bothered me for a while and then my friend’s text came — “Mea Culpa” — I googled those words, there was more communication between us and forgiveness extended.

There have been more serious rejections and painful situations in my life than the story that I just shared.  I think it’s safe to say that you’ve experienced them too.

We’ve all been there, feeling rejected, excluded, forgotten, ignored at one time or another.

But there’s one table – a banquet table – where there aren’t any exclusions. It’s an open invitation and we’re all invited.

Jesus set the table and it’s a table where we can bring all our baggage, rejections, hurt, pain, frustration and lay out our sin.  It’s not for the perfect or for those dressed a certain way, those of the right ethnic background, social status, the VIP, or the prestigious.   No, it’s all-inclusive.

He welcomes all with open arms to his banquet table.  It’s a place to feast on his goodness and receive his gifts.  The gifts of grace, mercy, forgiveness and love.

He sends out the invitation: “Come, for everything is now ready.”  (Luke 14: 17)  But not everyone accepts the invitation.

Sometimes the excuses we make to decline his invitation seem sensible.  We ignore the invitation because we’re busy with life–family, jobs, financial obligations, to do lists, bucket lists or whatever else consumes our time.

At his table there’s great love, we learn and grow in our relationship with him –it’s the discipleship process–we grasp the depth of his love that came through a horrific sacrifice–and through it came grace.  It was all about grace.

His grace is lavish.  It’s an astonishing grace but it’s not cheap grace.  It was never cheap.  There was a cost and that brings us to another table.

On that night so long ago, the night before his death, he broke the bread and lifted the cup — a symbol of his broken body and spilled out blood.

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It should have been me, it should have been you but he took the pain and suffered the cross so we wouldn’t have to.  It cost him his life.

Thankfully it didn’t end there, because 3 days after Jesus’ death he rose and is alive and he’s waiting at the BIG BANQUET TABLE that he’s preparing for those who will meet him face to face.  It’s another table, for another time and will be the biggest most beautiful celebration of all.

But until that day his table (on this side of heaven) is set, the invitations are out, you’re invited, I’m invited.

And he says, Come for all things are ready…


Read about the feast and banquet table here:  Luke 14: 15-24

The last supper:  Matthew 26: 17-30 / Luke 22: 14-24

Happy Easter!

Nancy Janiga

The church isn’t a building it’s a way of life

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But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind. Luke 14:13

It’s common to see a parade of wheelchairs being pushed the few blocks to the church from the nursing home and rehabilitation center down the street.

Once the parade strolls and rolls into the building, the wheelchair bound get seats front and center.

With arms raised they worship.  Boy do they worship.

I can learn a few things from their abandoned style.  Wholly free, carefree, free indeed.

Bound by their chairs physically but free in the Spirit.

I have observed this group and worshiped along side of them for several weeks now.

Then there’s the homeless people, from the inner city, whom can catch a ride on the church bus that travels through the city offering rides.

I’ve been in awe watching them worship too, some with arms raised, some with tears streaming down their faces, some with expressions of joy, some with shouts of joy and others more contemplative.

I listened to conversations with them afterwards.  They expressed gratefulness for being accepted and included many with tears.

Then their stories.  Why, how, when.  Some talked about church growing up and how worship was for them back in those days.

Yes, some grew up going church and then…

I listen.  I see.   I’m touched and I learn.

Many in the church know the names of the homeless and extend friendship.  When the pastor announced  that one of the men passed away on the streets one week I could hear the care, the grief and the loss in his words.

On Super Bowl Sunday the church gathered together for a Party.  That’s common.  Many churches gather their flock together all over the U.S. on that day to watch the game, eat snacks and cheer for their teams.   They party together.

This one was different.  The parishioners received an invitation to serve.  That’s right.  They were throwing a party and the guests of honor were the homeless.  A T.V., the game, a meal and a blessing–were all part of the evening.

I listen.  I see.  I’m touched and I learn.

These people, my extended Spiritual family welcomed Bob and me in when we wandered through their doors looking for a place to worship one Sunday and we stayed for almost 3 months.

Our last Sunday with them will be on Palm Sunday and then we will head back to our home church.

Last week two wheelchair bound worshipers were on stage with the praise team helping to lead worship.

Monthly the worship team from church heads down the street to the nursing home and rehabilitation center to enjoy a worship service together.  The gifts and talents exploded from the residence as some came out of the shadows to sing.

Now occasionally they will help lead worship at church.  They will become part of the team.

I listen.  I see.  I’m touched and I learn.

In the wake of the recent news reports when all seems so overwhelming and almost hopeless, I’m brought back to truth, just the simple truth that there’s still hope, love and a way to live differently to impact others one soul at a time.

As I approach Easter, it’s that message that I want to carry long after I have to say goodbye to this band of Jesus followers–the Easter people–the people of this church that Bob and I have grown to love and admire.

They don’t just go to church they are the church and they declare that statement weekly at the end of each service.  Their words resonate with me…”We don’t just go to church we are the church!”  And they don’t just say it, they live it.

Blessings!

Nancy ❤