We study through books of the Bible here at The Village Chapel. We have extra copies. If you didn’t bring one, you’d like one to follow along, just raise your hand up real high. Somebody will drop one off at your row, your aisle. We got people up and down the aisle here. Just be bold. It’s helpful to follow along, look at the text yourself as we go. The QR code is up on the screen if you prefer to download either the sermon notes and quotes or you would like to access the online Bible that’s available there, you’re welcome to jump up there as well. We’re studying the first book of the New Testament. Your Bible is made up of 66 books and Matthew is the very first of the New Testaments, one of four Gospel accounts, that’s what we call them and they’re largely eyewitness accounts of the personal work of Jesus Christ.
So if we want to do the work of good history, we’ll find people who actually saw or heard some of what went on, actually happened as opposed to trying to listen to people who hundreds of years later might be trying to piece together something. We’ll stick to the most original, most credible of sources that we have available and that is what we find when we turn to Matthew’s Gospel, formerly known as Levi the tax collector. He kept a record of what everyone owed in terms of taxes. When Jesus came and changed his life, Jesus basically said two words to Levi. He said, “Follow me.” And we’re told in Matthew chapter nine, I think it is verse nine, that literally Levi stood up and began to follow Jesus.
Evidently, he took his pen with him. He’s kept a pretty good record as an accountant. He’s kept a pretty good record of the life and teachings of Jesus and he’s even organized it quite well. Along the way, we see that Jesus uses parables in his teaching, quite a few parables as a matter of fact. Today, we’ll look at two of them. And a parable is basically a story where two things might be cast alongside of one another and he often is describing, for instance, the Kingdom of Heaven. And so he’ll say, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like something,” and then he’ll tell what that thing is and that gives … Jesus then is giving us an opportunity to learn more and to understand who he is and what the Kingdom of Heaven looks like and what it means to be a part of that kingdom, how should we understand it in our own day. It’s great for us to look at these parables for that very reason.
It’s so important for us, I think. If we’re going to be always relevant, we have to speak of things eternal and that’s why we turn to the ancient scriptures we call the Bible. Unique in its source, God. Timeless in its truth. We’ll see that even today as we study these two parables we’re going to look at. Broad in its reach. You’ll see that that’s really clear today, how broad the Gospel is in its reach and transforming in its power.
Before we read the text, will you bow your heads, pray with me? I’m going to borrow from our older brother Benedict of Nursia. Some of you will remember the Benedictine Order. He’s the one that founded all of that and he’s from the fifth and sixth century right around that time.
“O gracious and holy God, give us diligence to seek you, wisdom to perceive you, patience to wait for you. Grant us, O God, a mind to meditate on you, eyes to behold you, ears to listen for your word to us, a heart to love you and a life to proclaim you through the power of the Spirit, we pray. Amen and amen.”
So Matthew chapter 21, remind you, this is a pretty big chapter, began with the triumphal entry, the cleansing of the temple, the story of the bearing fig tree. More recently, we’ve studied that the authority of Jesus was challenged by the religious leaders of the day in the temple grounds area.
And so we’re coming up on the end of all of that when Jesus tells another parable, verse 33, Matthew chapter 21, set your eyes on the page. It’ll be helpful, like I say, to see the text.
He said, “Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and put a wall around it and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and rented it out to vine-growers and went on a journey. When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the vine- growers to receive his produce. The vine-growers took his servants and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. Again he sent another group of servants larger than the first; and they did the same thing to them. But afterward, he sent his son to them saying, ‘Surely they will respect my son.’ But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ They took him and they cast him out of the vineyard and they killed him. Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, Jesus now asks a question of everyone who’s listening, ‘What will he do to those vine growers?'”
And remember, it’s around 33 AD when he’s asking this question. There might actually be, in their minds, a couple of answers to that question. But anybody, whether they have faith or not, anybody would have to recognize there’s a whole lot of wrong going on here in this story. And Jesus says, “What should the reaction … In a just world, what should the reaction of the owner of the land be, the vineyard owner? What will he do to those callous, those wicked, those evil vine growers?” Some of them are thinking, “Oh, the vine growers, that’s the Roman empire. They’re wicked and they’re evil and they’ve been oppressing us and occupying our land.”
And Jews might have thought that as they listened, but Jesus has something else in mind. He’s thinking about the religious leadership of the day. And of course through the entire Bible, both Old Testament and New Testament, we have references in these gospels that draw from the references in the Old Testament. And Israel is often cast as a vine, a vineyard. And it’s interesting that he chooses this. This would’ve been very visible to them. If we lived in Napa, if we lived somewhere out where there were vineyards, maybe it would come to our minds a little quicker than it does for those of us live around a lot of concrete and sidewalks and all that sort of thing.
“They said to Jesus, ‘He will bring those wretches to a wretched end. He’ll rent out the vineyard to other vine growers who will pay him the proceeds at the proper seasons.’ Jesus said to them, ‘Did you never read the scriptures?’
And now he quotes from Psalm 118, which have been well known, even in that time well thought of as a messianic psalm, as a psalm that talks about God sending his Messiah, his anointed one to come and bring deliverance to the Jews. And so he is quoting from that. He says,
“Did you never read the scripture?” They’re supposed to be experts in the law. They’re supposed to be experts in the Psalms, Didn’t you ever read? It’s like saying, Hey, didn’t you pay attention in school? Don’t you even know the headlines?
“The stone which the builders rejected became the chief cornerstone. This came about from the Lord and it is marvelous in our eyes.”
There’s even some Bible teachers that think this is also illusioned to Isaiah chapter 28 or to Daniel chapter 2, the stone image that’s referenced in both of those chapters. “Therefore, I say to you,” Jesus says, “the Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.”
In other words, you didn’t produce any fruit spiritually, so it’s going to be taken away from you and it’s been given to some other group who will indeed do with the vineyard, what God, the vineyard owner, actually wants done. You’ve failed miserably, you religious leaders, you self-righteous religious leaders, you misguided religious leaders, you self-obsessed religious leaders. You failed miserably. Therefore, God should, if He’s just, remove you from the vineyard and give it to someone else.
“And when the chief priests and the Pharisees, [that’s an unholy alliance there of what’s forming against Jesus, these religious leaders, chief priests and Pharisees], heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them.”
Matthew makes it really clear. How would he know that? Well, years after this, he’s still interviewing some of these guys. So what was that like that day when Jesus totally stumped you in front of everyone? Well, it was like this, “Huh, huh.” And then they saw it, as they heard the parable, they understood he was speaking about them.
“When they sought to seize Him and they became afraid of the multitudes because the multitudes held Jesus to be a prophet.”
In other words, they’re religious leaders, but they’re afraid of the crowds. We’ve never seen leaders afraid of a popularity contest or just going with the flow of whatever was popular at the moment, have we? No, we never see that, do we? Now this is fascinating right here, this entire story. Look at the next parable and then I’m going to go back and look at both of them for a little bit, just amplify a little bit of what we see here. Jesus answered as if … This keeps rolling. Remember your Bible, your English Bible is divided in chapters and verses. Those got inserted, I think, in the 13th and 16th century respectively. Matthew just keeps rolling here.
He doesn’t stop and go, “I think I’ll write chapter 22 tomorrow.” No, he just keeps rolling.
“Jesus answered and spoke to them again in parables saying, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. He sent out his servants to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast and they were unwilling to come.”
So there’s been invitations sent out and he’s now sending his servants out to say, “Come on, it’s time again.” They were unwilling to come.
“Again he sent out other servants saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited, Behold, I’ve prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock. They’ve all been butchered and everything is ready. Come to the wedding feast.”
In other words, take the menu with you. Go show them. It’s filet mignon. It’s scallops. It’s really good bread.
How many of you like really good, when you walk into a restaurant and you can smell the bread, Ah, that’s just the best invitation for me. Ah, I love that so much? And here, the king in the parable, Jesus says, “Basically, send the menu out there.” What happened?
Verse 5, “ But they paid no attention and went their own way.” They’re indifferent. They don’t value it, not interested. Got a lot of people that way nowadays, God, ah, not interested. And some people mistake and they think, I don’t like religion. I don’t like organized religion. And I got to tell you, I love organized religion. I know it’s not popular to say, but you wouldn’t have a chair to sit in today if it wasn’t for organized religion. If it wasn’t for organized religion, there would be no lights in here, no band up here playing.
I think what people say when they don’t like organized religion is they don’t like organized self-righteousness. Somebody say amen because I don’t like that either, but I don’t like self-righteousness whether it’s among religious folk or irreligious folk. And I don’t think anybody’s got a corner on self-righteousness. I think it’s everywhere, including in my mirror. So I repent, we repent. We gather together to remind ourselves to repent. That’s to have a change of heart and mind that results in a change of direction. It’s a twofold turn away from self, self, self. And that’s what we’re programmed out here. It’s all about self and coming here, we get reminded it’s about God first, Jesus first and then that makes me a better husband, a better pastor, a better citizen of this wonderful country we live in. It makes me a better neighbor to the people that might think differently, look differently, believe differently than I do.
Why? Because my Lord Jesus was that way. He came to love sinners like me when I was an enemy to him and he still came and he still laid down his life for me. That’s mind blowing when you think about it. So here’s the menu, the servants basically say and these people basically pay no attention. They went on their way and even some of them went to his own farm and another to his own business.
And look at this, some of them, verse 6, “The rest seized his servants, mistreated them and killed them.”
A lot of people read these two parables and they don’t really get inside of the violence, the wickedness, the callousness of either the tenant farmers or these particular people responding to the king wedding feast invitation. And they’re saying, Not only I’m indifferent and passive and all that sort of thing, dismissive, but even I’m aggressively belligerently not interested. Get that out of my face and you get out of my face too. Who are you? as we say in our day and time.
Verse 7, “The king was enraged and sent his armies, destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. He said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready.’ He’s talking to his servants who are willing to go out.” By the way, the word slave in this chapter is doulos in the Greek. It’s like a bond servant is what it is. Somebody is connected to their master. And as a matter of fact, it’s the exact same word that the Apostle Paul uses whenever he opens up and says, “I, the Apostle Paul, writing to you, I am the doulos of Jesus Christ. I’m the servant of God the Father and Jesus Christ.” He uses the exact same word and I gave a couple of references with some older pop rock artists last Sunday, so I’m going to give you one more today.
And some of you might have heard of this guy, but he sang … It’s a mystery to me exactly what his theological standing became, but at one point, he said this, “You’re going to serve somebody.” Oh, a few of you know what I’m talking about. There’s a couple people over 50 here. That’s good. It’s really nice. Yeah. “It might be the devil or it might be the Lord. You’re going to serve somebody.” Every single one of us will. It might be yourself, it might be your career. It might be what you hope your career will be. It might be your spouse. It might be your children. You’re going to serve somebody. Why? We are created as worshipers. We will center our lives on something, pleasure, money, power, popularity, whatever it might be. And really what’s happening here is that this king is sending out his servants, the ones that are there to serve him.
And he says in verse 8, Tell them the wedding is ready, but those you invited, or excuse me, they’re telling the king, “But those who were invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the main highways,” this is the king talking to the servants now, “as many as you can find there, invite to the wedding feast.”
Now the king says to the servants, “We had a guest list and we sent invitations to the guest list, but the guest list have all basically said, ‘Not interested.'” And as a matter of fact, some of them have even been abusive in their refusal to come, belligerent, obstinate.
“So now what I want you to do is basically,” the king says to the servants, “go out to every intersection, go out here to Blair and Hillsboro Road, go downtown to Broadway and 7th, go anywhere you can where you find a collection of people and just invite everybody and anybody that you run into.” See the Gospel offer is a universal offer. It’s broad. It’s not just for people that live in this zip code or have this much money or have that much in education or their skin color is this way or their lifestyle is that way. No, no. The Gospel offer is broad. Doesn’t mean everyone accepts and receives it. It just means the offer stands. It’s there. And so he says, “Go out, offer to invite everybody to the feast, okay?”
“And the servants went out in the streets and gathered together all they found, both the evil and the good” and I bet the ugly too. The good, the bad and the ugly. They invited him all, okay? I love this because I’m in that group and so are you. You shine up really nice on Sunday, but we’re all in this group at some point, right?
“The wedding hall was filled with dinner guests.” That’s what the king wants, “Let’s fill this hall with wedding guests and feast and celebrate.” But there’s more. “When the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there not dressed in wedding clothes, and he said to him, ‘Friend,’ [it’s interesting to me that he uses that word,] ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes? And the man was speechless, [man didn’t even say anything.] And the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, cast him into the outer darkness, in that place, there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, for many are called, but few are chosen.”
A lot of us have heard it twisted a little bit, “Many are cold but few are frozen.” Yeah. What is that about? There’s a sobriety to all of this that maybe we are too shallow to appreciate. What’s on offer here in these stories is nothing less than eternal life as part of God’s Kingdom of Heaven. There is a sobriety to that. God loves you so much, loves me so much, he really takes this seriously. And so at the end of both of these little stories or parables, there’s a sting in the tail.
And the sting is, You should take this seriously too. Not only for yourself, but you should take this seriously too. For all of those people out there that you say you love, you claim to love them. If you really love them, wouldn’t you want to invite them to the feast? Wouldn’t you want to invite them to God’s vineyard, the Kingdom of Heaven where they can find real meaning and purpose? Did you notice … Go back to that first parable, the landowner verse 33. Did you see what happened there in verse 33? Who took the initiative? First of all, who owns the vineyard? The vineyard owner, not the tenant farmers. Who built the vineyard itself? Who provided everything necessary for the vineyard? The vineyard owner before a tenant moved in.
You see the initiative of God in all of this to make ready a place for us to be offered the dignity of joining him and what He’s doing, so I love this. If you’re looking for purpose and meaning in life, and I don’t know who is not, I don’t know anyone that prefers to have a meaningless purposeless life, but this, at least, is a sign that points me in the direction of, If I really want to have meaning and purpose and hope and not live in a life just drowning in despair, it at least starts with beginning in his vineyard, joining him in what he’s doing. The problem is we all have this tendency, I’m a non-joiner. One of my really good friends, after we got to know each other stuff like that, he goes, “Yeah, you’re a non-joiner, nonconformer,” and just sussed me out that way and it’s true and I have to be careful of that.
I wouldn’t join the club that would have me a guy … I’m definitely the guy that . And if there’s a whole bunch of people doing that, then I want to go over here and do that. It’s just got this little rebel in me. Maybe you have one too, but here at least, if we want to find purpose, meaning and hope, we join the vineyard owner in his vineyard. We don’t forget who owns the vineyard and then try to presume we can lay claim to some rights over the vineyard ourselves and destroy everything the vineyard owner is all about, nor do we try to shut the rightful owner out altogether, take the inheritance for ourselves. That’s an amazing story there, and then the one about the wedding feast as well, just so rich.
I love we have a parable about purpose and we have a parable about provision and celebration. I think some of us sometimes overinterpret these parables and try to find what does it mean to go to the feast and have the fork here and the spoon here and the place mat was upside down, which we’re just looking for all these things and we just overinterpret the things. But let me throw up on the screen, especially with the parable of the vineyard, perhaps … It’s an art by the way too, interpret these parables. Perhaps we can see pretty obviously though that the landowner is God. The vineyard is the locus of God’s Kingdom. Wherever that may might be, God’s Kingdom is wherever God is at work, wherever God’s royal rule and reign is recognized. Little alliteration if that helps, okay?
That’s where the Kingdom of Heaven is, the Kingdom of God. The wicked tenants, clearly the unbelieving religious folk, although as I said, I think some of the people on the ground back then might have thought it was the Roman army or the Roman Empire because it was an oppressive empire and they would love to be set free from that. The servants and the sons in that particular parable surely have to be prophets and Christ. So God offers us an opportunity to join him in building his kingdom. God sets us up with everything we need to join him in his kingdom work. God is patient with us even when we reject his plans and even when we become hostile toward him. That happens right there in chapter 21 as well. Jesus is constantly working to show us what a great invitation this is.
And even with the wedding feast, you see how they brought the evil, the good, the bad and ugly, all invited. No matter who’s out there, everybody’s invited, right? God’s patience is not infinite and we can all be replaced. That’s sobering right there, isn’t it? Raise your hand if you don’t think he can be replaced. Oh, you should not raise your hand. The people next to you will correct you immediately, especially if that’s your spouse, okay? They’re going to remind you really easily because they get to see you in action all the time. But God’s patience is not infinite and we can all be replaced. I think these parables tell us that and I think that’s good for us to know.
I know, if we could build our own religion, it’s interesting how close and how similar the god of my religion would look like me and I’d be irreplaceable, irresistible to me, but eventually, I disappoint me. That’s been my experience in the few decades I’ve been on the planet, is I let myself down. And if I’m honest and if I could possibly even exhibit a little bit of humility, instead of just being overwhelmed and overcome by self-righteousness and self-obsession, I might actually get to the place where I acknowledge that I don’t have what it takes to be king or God for that matter.
God’s patience isn’t infinite, but we can all be replaced along the way and God’s plans and purposes for his kingdom will be accomplished. That first parable really does remind me of that. The second parable, I see the king as God the Father. The feast is a celebration of his kingdom. The son that’s listed there, Jesus, God’s son. The servants who are there, they’re the ones proclaiming the Gospel invitation and the invitees who reject the invite or either the indifferent or even the belligerent unbelievers, I hope that’s not you. It has been me from time to time. I hope it’s not you today and I hope just bringing this up stirs your soul, perhaps awakens you a little bit to consider your life with God and in what condition is your life with God. People on the highways, that that’s really the broader invitation list, which I’m so glad it includes us. Isn’t that awesome?
The man with no wedding clothes, well, who is he? At the end of the thing, he gets taken out, dragged out and thrown out into the outer darkness. That’s pretty harsh, it seems like, but no, there’s a sobriety here that Jesus is trying to convey. And I think the man with no wedding clothes, and some Bible commentators actually suggest that in that day and in that culture, when you invite people from the highways and byways and most of them are wearing wedding clothes, it’s because the king provided the clothes. Is that true or not? I don’t know for sure. But at the very least, this person is not and will not respect the event and has come to the conclusion that what he wants is he wants to be there at the feast on his own terms.
I would say this person actually parallels all of the people in our own day and time and all of the people of all time who basically want God on their own terms. What does that mean? It just means I want to believe in the God that I want to believe in not the God who is, not the God who’s actually there, the God who can actually speak. And I agree with Tim Keller, if your God, the God you believe in, if your God does not stretch you, challenge you, perhaps even say things that might offend you in some way, then you might not be worshiping a real God. You might just be worshiping a God of your own imagination that looks a lot like you, see?
So I need to be stirred because I’m stingy, I’m selfish, I’m self-obsessed. I want to come to the event in whatever clothes I want to wear. I’m a non-joiner, nonconformer. And in some things, it’s really okay. If I was standing up here in a t-shirt and jeans and all that sort of thing, maybe that’s fine, there’s no eternal comment being made there. But when it comes to honor and respect to the God who is there, I think we need to see that we cannot come to God on our terms. We must come to God on God’s terms. And in this parable, the story is that this person that didn’t wear wedding clothes should have and there was a result.
Now what about the called and chosen? Everybody wants to know about verse 14, don’t they? I’ve only got a couple minutes. So are we going to be able to solve the tension between divine sovereignty and human responsibility in just that short amount of time? Some of you have already gone to prayer for me right now. I thank you. I love you. I thank you. Many are called and few are chosen. What’s that about? There is a mystery to this. Is God sovereign? I think the Bible teaches 110%, God is sovereign. Are you responsible? These two parables teach that you’re responsible for your reaction, your response to Jesus. So it’s very clear, it’s unequivocal. You are responsible for your response to God’s overtures.
Now, some people would use this and say, “You’re responsible for the fourth row of vines in the vineyard and you didn’t generate any fruit. So get back in there and work harder and see if you can please God enough to balance out the moral scale.” That’s not the Christian faith. That’s not the Gospel. See, the Gospel is a declaration of what Christ has done. It’s not a call for you to do something. It’s a call for you to believe and receive something.
You see the difference? All other world religions, they’re based on you balancing out the moral scales, seeing if you can’t get enough of your cosmic morality, if only your good things could just barely outweigh the bad things that you do, then maybe you can appease the God who is all about your performance and not about His grace and mercy. And the Christian Gospel is completely different from that.
The Christian Gospel teaches divine sovereignty. God is the one who even built the vineyard and equipped it for having vines that could grow and then He invites us to join him to have a life of purpose and meaning, to join Him in what He’s doing or to come to the feast and celebrate life, even if you’re the Apostle Paul and you’re sitting in a prison cell and you’re thinking about the people up in that church you love up there in Philippi. And we’re getting ready to study that on Lunchtime Talks and I’m so excited about it. Because from a prison cell, the Apostle Paul writing that short letter to the church of Philippi talks about joy 16 times.
How do you do that from a prison cell? I don’t know, but I want some of whatever he’s got because sometimes all of this feels like a prison cell to me and I need a joy that’s inexhaustible. I need a joy that can survive all of that. And I don’t just mean a silly joy, I mean the kind of joy that it springs from a confidence that God knows what He’s doing and I can trust Him and I can hope in Him. Isaiah 40:31: “Those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength, they will mount up with wings like eagles.” And that word wait, “Those who wait upon the Lord,” can also be translated those who hope in the Lord. Do you hope in the Lord today or do you hope in your own self, your own way of doing things, and if you go to the feast, you’re going to address the way you want to and it doesn’t matter what anybody else says?
The other very interesting story because I really find them fascinating, there’s a lot to learn here, the Gospel’s an invitation. Some reject the invitation, some accept the invitation. Some of those who appear to accept it are merely posers or imposters, pretenders. That’s what I think that guy was.
Do you believe in the God who’s really there? I shared last week that the Earth that we’re on right now, this planet spinning the rate of 1,037 miles per hour, that’s fast. And then I said, “Hold on.” I looked a little further. We’re also in orbit around our own sun. It’s a 584 million mile journey. We’re going about 67,000 miles an hour though. How’s that? Stick your head out the window. See what happens. Keep your hands and your arms and your head inside the window, so it doesn’t get shorn off. That’s pretty fast.
We’ll travel 1.6 million miles on our annual journey today before the end of a football game probably. 1.6 million miles, this planet careening through the solar system as it spins 1,037 miles an hour. Accident or design? What in the world is holding me to this planet? Why don’t I just spin off at that fast, careen off into the black space? No, why? God created this thing called gravity. God created this thing called sun so we can live in the context of a planet where things can grow, where we can see. And the light of the sun is a beautiful mystery. It has both wave and particle properties and nobody can really explain it. It’s a mystery.
We accept so many mysterious things in the scientific realm and yet somebody stands up and goes, “Yeah, I think all of this is design.” And for some reason, some people go, “That’s an offense. I don’t want to know about that.” That’s because everybody wants to wear whatever they want to wear to the feast. Nobody wants to come on God’s terms. We’re just selfish human beings and that heart problem that we have is one that only God can take care of, right? So when Jesus burst on the scene, couple quotes and then I’ll go…
“When Jesus burst on the scene preaching the gospel, He did not come with positive self-talk or an invitation to admit our brokenness. He called the world to repent and believe.”–Kevin DeYoung
“It is not the case that God simply ‘accepts us as we are.’ He invites us as we are; but responding to that invitation always involves the complete transformation which is acted out in repentance, forgiveness, baptism, and receiving the Spirit.”– N.T. Wright
Get that. Get that. We have a whole lot of people that demand that we accept whatever they happen to be all about. And we said it before here at this church, we welcome everyone in this church, but we affirm no one including the pastor because he’s a sinner and he needs redemption. I could affirm that, I need redemption. I affirm you that you need redemption in that, okay? But it’s not the case God simply accepts us as we are. “He invites us as we are, but responding to that invitation always involves the complete transformation, which is acted out in repentance, forgiveness, baptism and receiving the spirit,” so says N.T. Wright, the brilliant New Testament scholar.
“The church — the body of Christ — is the place where God invites us to renew our loves, reorient our desires, and retrain our appetites. Indeed, isn’t the church where we are nourished by the Word, where we ‘eat the Word’ and receive the bread of life? The church is that household where the Spirit feeds us what we need and where, by His grace, we become a people who desire him above all else. Christian worship is the feast where we acquire new hungers — for God and for what God desires — and are then sent into His creation to act accordingly.”– James K.A. Smith, You Are What You Love
I am a fan, most of you know, of C.S. Lewis, so I’ll close with this quote by him.– C.S. Lewis
“Our lifelong nostalgia, our longing to be reunited with something in the universe from which we now feel cut off, to be on the inside of some door which we have always seen from the outside, is no mere neurotic fancy, but the truest index of our real situation.”
If you find inside yourself a longing that seems never to be satisfied, I would suggest to you it’s because God himself, when he designed you, when he designed me, were told in the book of Ecclesiastes, he literally put a bit of eternity in our hearts.
And back in Genesis, we’re told there, that every human person, whether they believe or not, every human person is an image bearer of God and that makes us really different from every other part of creation. You are different from a rock. You are different from a cockroach. Amen. Your life has meaning. Now, come join him in his vineyard. Your life could be a celebration. It doesn’t mean it’s silly, giddy, happy. It means there’s a joy that results from a confidence in a God who holds eternity in His hands and holds you in His hands as well. And you have come to rest in that. Listen, God is still calling you and I. We’ve been invited. How will we respond? That’s the place I got to bring us to as your pastor and Bible teacher.
Lord, thank you for inviting us. You didn’t have to. It’s not like you looked across the landscape of the Earth and said, “Oh, that Jim guy, man, I got to have him on my team.” No, you didn’t do that at all, Lord. In your great love that just flows out of your heart, you made an offer to all of us sinners. I pray, Holy Spirit, you move across our minds, our hearts, whether we’re in the room or whether we’re listening, watching online. I pray that you’d move on us in such a way that we would hear you calling us and so prove to be chosen by the fact that we respond to you and to that calling. Your invitation is universal. Those who accept your invitation and receive it and believe it don’t include everyone. The question is, does that include me? Will I respond? Those watching online … Will those in this room respond to you? And I pray, Holy Spirit, that we will continue day in and day out, every single morning, receive a new fresh batch of your mercies. And if there’s somebody within the sound of my voice that has never responded to your invitation, I pray that they do that today too, that this would be their defining moment. I pray this in Jesus’ name, amen and amen.
(Edited for Reading)