One summer, when I was training to become a pastor, I served a little church out in the country. The nearest “grocery store” was the Dollar General in a town that proudly boasted about its ONE blinking stoplight and the best hot dog-ice cream shop this side of the Mississippi River.
One of my most cherished memories from that summer was spending time on Kay Matthews’ porch eating homemade peach ice cream as we watched cars, farm equipment, and cows pass bye. Kate Matthews was – and continues to be – a saint. And my life is better because of hers.
On my first Sunday at the church, Kay asked my wife and I over for Sunday Dinner with her and the rest of her very large family.
“There’s always room for one more seat at our table,” Kay invited.
Now that was a motto by which to live.
Jesus, like Saint Kay Matthews, had a way of doing just that: inviting “outsiders” to become “insiders,” inviting “others” to become family members. Think of all the stories that witness to Jesus’ ministry of invitation. There were, of course, the twelve disciples, and there were many others too! There were Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. People like Zacchaeus, Saul who became Paul, all the little children, the lame, the blind, the broken, and the outcasts. There was always room for one more seat at Jesus’ table.
That ministry of invitation continued to be passed down among Christians throughout the centuries. Every so often the Church collectively and Christians personally need to be reminded of this Jesus-Tradition. We’re here because someone else invited us. Who will be here next week because you invited them?
Not long ago, I heard a troubling statistic that demonstrated just how much we United Methodists have forgotten that part of following Jesus is to invite others to follow Him as well. Apparently, the average United Methodist hasn’t brought someone to church with them in nearly four decades. That’s longer than I’ve been alive! But now that I think about…who have I brought to church with me since I’ve been part of the Fishers UMC family? The answer is convicting: I haven’t brought anyone. Not one.
But that is not who we are, who we have been, or who God is calling is to be. We are called to grow as disciples ourselves and to invite others to join in that very same journey. We are called to become disciples and to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. We are called to join in the ministry of invitation.
So I ask again: who will you invite? Who will be here next week because you invited them?
There’s always room for one more seat at our table, because our table is HIS Table. And Jesus was always inviting. Thanks be to God.