“Jesus replied: ‘A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is NOW ready.”
Last year on Christmas morning we served a special brunch at the Connections Centre. It was supposed to start at 10:00am and when 10:05am rolled around we were wondering where all the guests who had been invited were.
Two years before the Lord broke Patti’s heart while she talked to a gentleman who was living at the Bradford Manor. When she asked what he was doing for Christmas the man responded, “I hate Christmas… ‘cause I have no one to spend it with.” After talking to her parents, they agreed to come up from St. Catharines and open the Connection Centre for anyone who didn’t have somewhere to go on Christmas day. What began as only being Patti and her parents serving sandwiches for an hour or so, turned into something so much more. Word got out to the local Church here in town and dozens of people volunteered to make delicious breakfast dishes, set up tables and decorations and provide live music and gifts for each guest.
At 10:05am the Connections Centre was full of people from the local churches, but as we looked around we realized that none of our friends from the Manor were there. I threw my coat on and walked the 2 minutes to the Manor and began knocking on doors. Not many of them opened their doors because they were still in bed, some had forgotten and others had changed their mind about coming. My heart was blessed when I ran into a handful of residents who were coming out of their rooms ready to walk over, but it was not close to the number of people who had said they wanted to come. It was so strange knowing that there was so much delicious food and so many gifts there for them and not being able to actually get them to come.
As I was leaving, a new resident whom I had never met was walking down the hall. I introduced myself said, “Merry Christmas” and asked him what he was doing and if he knew about the brunch that was being put on especially for him and the other residents. He hadn’t heard about it so I assured him there was plenty of food and that we would absolutely be thrilled if he showed up.
I left the Manor and walked back over to the Connections Centre wondering what we would do if no one showed up. Slowly the residents began to make their way over and enjoy the abundance of food being served. We sang some Christmas carols and then came the time to give out the gifts. There were gifts for each resident under the Christmas tree wrapped with their name on them, that people from the Churches had purchased. As I began to call out the names on the packages for them to come and receive their gift I noticed that the new resident I had invited had actually come and was sitting in the back.
You may be thinking right now, “Oh no, and there was no gift for him.” This was NOT the case. I was rejoicing with the Lord knowing that through several cash donations that came in for us to purchase some of the gifts on the wish list we had ‘extra’ money and were able to purchase a $75 worth of gift cards for someone who might just show up that wasn’t on the list. He was shocked when I announced his name and sent one of the young volunteers to go and hand him his gift.
After the formal festivities were over I made my way over to him and with tears in his eyes he said, “Thank you and God bless you.” That brunch was as much for him as for anyone else and there was no way he could have known how it blessed my heart so deeply to be able to share all of it with him.
We are not doing the Christmas brunch this year, but you can be assured that there is still a feast that we are called to and are encouraged to invite others to… and its happening NOW.
The word ‘NOW’ in Luke 14:17 is what God highlighted for me this morning. In the previous verses, Jesus had encouraged the people present with him at a party that when they throw a party they should invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind and then He said, “Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” To which one of those at the table with him said, “Blessed are those who WILL eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.” This man was thinking future and of eternal life being something that he needed to wait for.
Jesus responds to this man with the parable of a certain man who was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, “Come, for everything is NOW ready.” And one by one those that had been invited made up excuses as to why they couldn’t come. Work, family, responsibilities all reasons that came up as to why they couldn’t come to the table and feast.
God encouraged my heart this morning with the thought that the feast is ready NOW, the table is set NOW, the food is warm NOW, and there is even a gift waiting for each of us… right NOW, all of it wrapped up in Jesus. Yes, there is a future feast that we will enjoy in heaven one day but Jesus is knocking at the door of your heart right NOW saying, “If you hear my voice, and open the door I will come in and eat with you and you with Me.” (Rev. 3:20 – revised) I don’t want to be so busy or distracted today that I miss out on responding to the invitation.
Strong’s concordance defines the word NOW in this verse as, ‘already; now at length, now after all this waiting.’ We are not the ones who have been waiting. Jesus is the one who has eagerly been standing at the door knocking while we rush around trying to clean up and put things in order or pull the covers up over our heads hoping the knocking will stop. Jesus is the one who said to His disciples at the last supper in Luke 22:15 “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you…”
Would you take time today to open the door, no matter what the state of your heart, open up His Word and feast on the Bread of Life? He’s waiting.