Summary: Are we accepting this invitation? Are we passing ot on to others?
The Great Invitation.
How many of you were disappointed by what went on during the Queens Jubilee a month ago? I have to confess here that I was, yes, in spite of all the money spent on them, the parties in the park, the extensive live coverage by the BBC and the fireworks afterwards, I was still disappointed. How could this be, you might be saying, isn’t anything enough to satisfy him? The main reason for my disappointment came when I was sat watching the party at Buckingham Palace on the evening. Some of my favourite musicians and bands were playing at that party, Sting, Queen, and many others. And repeatedly during the television coverage, they kept saying that this party in Buckingham Palace was by invitation only. It was impossible to buy tickets for it. But nobody invited me, there I was having to sit at home watching and listening to all this wonderful music and the firework show afterwards, and nobody sent me an invitation for it. So yes, I was greatly disappointed by it because I could not be there.
Well I may have been disappointed because I did not receive an invitation for the Jubilee party, but I am very grateful that I have received an invitation for a greater party. For in our gospel reading today, we read the passage that includes Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." This is known as the Great Invitation and it is one that is offered to everybody who lives on our earth. There is no limit to the numbers of people who could take up this invitation. Nobody is going to say, ‘I am sorry, we couldn’t send you one because there were no more places left.’
Yet sadly, there are many who hear this invitation yet do not accept it. Others never hear the invitation as Jesus gave it because people fail to pass it along. And there are even more who hear the invitation given, but only answer it partially. We are going to look at all of these this morning as we study this Great Invitation.
We begin with the first three words ‘Come unto me’. What would have happened if I or someone else had been issued with an invitation to the concert at the Palace, only instead of it being written, it was spoken. One of the Queen’s aids phones and says “Dear Mr Gladwell, you have an invitation to the Queen’s Party, you are to attend at Balmoral Palace at such and such a time on such and such a day.” Believe me, I would have mortgaged or pawned anything I could to have got the money for a rail or bus ticket up to Balmoral on that day at that time. And what would I have found when I got there, absolutely nothing. Everybody else was down at the Queens other house but I had been given the wrong information and was all on my own at Balmoral – unless there really is a Loch Ness Monster.
Of course, this would not have happened with such an important invitation would it? But it does happen with the Great Invitation that Jesus gave out. Look at what many Churches are involved in and you can see this happening every day. Think of the groups we have meeting here, Toddlers groups, Women’s Fellowship groups, and others such as this. And we ask people to come along to them offering them fellowship, good coffee and biscuits and everything else. But how many people meet Jesus in these groups? Could we be guilty of giving out the wrong invitation and saying ‘Come to Church’, instead of saying ‘Come to Jesus’?
And even when we do say ‘come to church’, what are the chances of them meeting the one who issued the Great Invitation here? I have to admit that there are few services at my own Church where I would be happy to invite a non-Christian. The vast majority of services there are directed at Christians. Just imagine what it would be like to be invited to a service here if you have never been to church before. You sing songs that you don’t know, you hear a reading from a book that you don’t understand, you hear someone talk about that reading for twenty minutes and you still don’t understand it. And you pray to a God whom you have never met. It is hardly the best way to introduce people to Jesus Christ. And I have to admit that my own services are some of the ones that I would not invite a non-Christian too. I don’t believe I have the gift, or at least I haven’t practiced it often enough for taking services directed at the un-Churched.