Confession: Invitations to parties stress me out. Weddings, showers, graduation celebrations, receptions—especially receptions—I have issues.
I love, love you and I love, love that you have thought enough of me to choose me to be part of your special moment. It's just the getting there that's hard for me. One of two things happens: I have some anxiety issues, and they can show up as social phobias. So I might happily RSVP to your invitation months in advance, but as the day approaches, really start to be anxious about actually being there, to the point that I have panic attacks about it and end up hiding under the covers with my hair uncombed while you are cutting the cake.
Or, the other thing: I just hate to dress up. So—and I'm just being so brutally honest with you here—it might be a really beautiful spring day and I'm in my shorts and everybody's out in the neighborhood enjoying their kids and their yards, or it's a dark rainy day and I'm curled up under my cozy blanket watching TCM, and either way I'm really annoyed that I have to get up and comb my hair and put makeup on and get dressed up and drink punch because I love you.
I'm mortified to admit this to you, and I suspect you will not be inviting me to many parties anymore. But do know this: that if I could come in my jammies with my hair uncombed, I would most happily come celebrate with you, because I do love you. And know this, too: that when I do suck it up and get dressed and come to your party, it is always a beautiful moment that I'm so glad I didn't miss, because I love you.
I tell you all this because I've been learning the story for Wednesday Bible study this week. It's a story about being invited to an incredible party; and it's one of the most disturbing and dividing stories that Jesus told.
Jesus continued his work from God. He was showing and telling people how life with God works—forgiving disobedience, showing people how to have a right relationship with God and be part of what God is doing in the world. Some people were surprised by what Jesus said and did. Some people were even upset about it. The religious leaders were downright angry.
Jesus knew this, and so he told this story:
"Life with God is like a king who threw a great wedding feast for his son."
Jesus told stories because the reaction of his listeners revealed what was in their heart. Were they surprised? Offended? Convicted? Drawn to him? The story is much like the king's party; it's an invitation, and how we respond makes all the difference.
This story is populated with all kinds of responses. There are the original invited guests, the ones who were sent the invitation well in advance. There are the ones who can't be bothered to come, because it's a beautiful day for working in the garden, or there is a long list of To Do's at work. There are people who literally shoot the messenger, they so don't want to have anything to do with the King or his party. There are the people invited right off the street, the surprise guests. There's the guest who couldn't or wouldn't dress up in the clothes appropriate for celebrating.
Who do you relate to? It teaches you something about your heart, how you feel about being invited by God to celebrate his Son, whom he loves so much, to celebrate his Son's Bride, whom he loves so much that he gave his Son's life. And all during this week, as I have learned this story, I have felt that I am this character or that character—and been convicted by that. Because, like the story of the sower and the soils, there is all of this in every heart. We are, at different times, each of these guests, and I am convicted by that. But most of all, I am convicted as I see this story through the eyes of the King, who gives the party.
Because I've been the invitation-sender. I have sons, and I've thrown them parties. We've planned a wedding and a wedding reception, a rehearsal dinner and showers. We've thrown graduation parties and baby showers and celebrated milestone birthdays and anniversaries. I think about how carefully we chose the people to be there with us for that moment, the ones who we treasure, the ones we knew shared our love for the family member being honored. And it mattered so much to us that you came, that you laughed, that you loved and shared the joy.
And this story tells me: it matters to Him.
The old-fashioned invitations used to say, "The pleasure of your company is requested."
And that truth blows me away.
Click here to listen to the story of the King and his guests
and download the Bible study.
Who will you tell this story to this week?