Church of England
Follow The Star: An Invitation to Everyone
Today's reflection is written by Ben Woodfield, a priest in Bolton and Co Leader of the Antioch network in the Diocese of Manchester.
You receive a party invite. How do you respond?
‘It depends on the party.’ I hear you say.
My wife turned 40 this year and so we had a big party in our local pub. We wore ‘90s fancy dress, we laughed and we danced until the early hours. It was one of those social occasions where you look down at your watch and cannot believe where the time has gone. And what made it so special was the collection of people in the room, so many family and friends, many of whom hadn't seen each other for a long time.
Parties featured quite a lot in Jesus life. He went to parties. He also spoke about parties in his teaching. And once or twice he did both at the same time…
Bible Reading: Luke 14:12-15
Jesus said to the one who had invited him, ‘When you give a luncheon or a dinner do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbours, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him, ‘Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the Kingdom of God.
There's nothing quite like hearing about a party that you weren't invited to. I would suggest that's because, in each of us, there's a yearning to know: ‘Am I welcome? Am I invited?’
Today's reading gives us an insight into the sort of parties Jesus championed. Jesus’ parties involved unlikely people. Folks who may feel unwelcome, uninvited, and unable to return the favour.
The pub where we celebrated my wife’s 40th is in the same place we meet for church every Sunday: a building at the heart of the Bolton council estate where we live. Our church services sometimes feel like the sort of parties Jesus talks about. None of us there because we are important or popular. We are there because, in God's Kingdom, there's a place for everyone. Jesus has invited us, and we've said, ‘Yes’.
Jesus says to each of us today, ‘You are invited, and you are welcome.’ How will you respond to Jesus' invitation? How might accepting it transform your life and the lives of those around you?
Jesus, help us to say, ‘Yes’ to your invitation, and help us to welcome others to join the generous feast of your Kingdom
In the bleak midwinter
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