Some invitations seem too good to be true. Healthy skepticism helps to protect us from scammers trying to fool us into falling prey to their schemes. The extensive usage of cell phones, email, and a simple mailbox puts us on the guestlist for a wide range of best ignored and discarded invitations.
But who doesn’t want a good return on investment? What is wrong with receiving a lot of benefits for a little effort? Someone is going to win the next mega-lottery. Why not me?
I remember when I was a child, the Christmas edition of the Sears Catalogue was a must-read. Thumbing through the pages of games and toys carried me to a place where each day is filled with fun and entertainment. All that stood between me and paradise was convincing my parents that they should vouch for me with the big guy — Santa. But why stop there? Undoubtedly one of my older siblings could handle the price tag for some accessories.
There are many sayings born out of an experience that guides us away from chasing dreams that ultimately aren’t good for us. How about “All good things come with a price.” Another favorite is “If it seems to good to be true, it probably isn’t.”
Today’s version of the Sears Christmas Catalogue for me comes from Northern Tool Company or Johnny’s. There’s a catalog for every person in need of something with an invitation to buy. Who doesn’t love a bargain? God wants us to be happy — right?
Throughout a lifetime, most of us receive invitations to parties, weddings, baby showers, dinner, lunch, Quinceañeras, bar mitzvahs, baptisms, and more. Whether we accept and attend or toss the invitation in the recycling bin depends on several factors. A common determinant is competing invitations. We can’t really be in two places at once. While Zoom and Facetime help, we usually have to choose.
We place a value on each invitation we receive in determining how we respond. An invitation to spend time with one person may not seem as inviting as a similar invitation from a different person. How we choose to respond to an invitation reflects our values.
The apostle Paul reminds the folks in Corinth that our values change as we mature. “When I was a child, my speech, feelings, and thinking were all those of a child; now that I am an adult, I have no more use for childish ways” (1 Corinthians 13:11). I don’t want to press this too far, however. Child’s play is healthy at all ages, and there is a lot we can learn from children.
I switched to the Northern Tool catalog because their products suit me better than the latest electronic game suits me. My values changed, but I still love electronic games. Just not as much as a tool that makes a job easier.
In addition to our values, reputation also affects whether we accept an invitation. I used Northern Tool Company as an example because my experiences with ordering from them are mostly good. When one of our children invites Cyndi and me to visit, we place a high priority on their invitation. When I receive an email inviting me to donate to a particular political candidate, I can’t hit the delete button fast enough. I’m not interested in some invitations.
Why spend money on what does not satisfy?
One of the most potent invitations found in scripture comes from God, speaking through the Prophet Isaiah. God’s angle in this invitation is one of comparison and drawing on shared experiences. “Why spend money on what does not satisfy?” (Isaiah 55:2). Great argument. Who hasn’t wasted money on something that disappointed us? God’s invitation offers compelling evidence. Almost too good to be true.
Yet, millions of people accept God’s invitation and discover that this offer, that sounded too good to be true, delivers just what was promised. A lot depends on the reputation of who sends out the invitation. For those who have felt disappointment targeted toward God, this invitation may go straight to the junk-mailbox.
This is where those of us who found God’s invitation truthful come into the conversation. We are the torchbearers singing praises of thanksgiving. We offer the testimony that makes an offer believable that otherwise sounds too good to be true.
But sometimes we decline an invitation because we’re already committed. We sent an RSVP for Stan and Dave’s wedding. Meanwhile, an invitation arrives from Sally and Joan to help them celebrate their anniversary. We choose between two great options. Based in large part on our values.
Jesus tells this story about a big party as an illustration of how God’s love works. In His telling, Jesus explains that many of the invited guests started making excuses as to why they couldn’t come to the party. And since it was a big party and all the deposits were non-refundable, the guest list was expanded to include anybody willing to show up.
Jesus explained that this is how God’s love works. We can make excuses all we want about why we’re too busy to show up. But this doesn’t negate our invitation. It just delays our joy until we’re not so busy.
Meanwhile, everyone is invited to the Lord’s party. There is an abundance of everything good. Most of all, there is plenty of love to go around. No one is left out or left behind. So go tell everyone you see that God is waiting on them to show up.
We call our new series Invited. The topic is motivated by the traditional return to school. But this year is different. The pandemic continues to wreak havoc with our plans to return to some version of normalcy. Some families welcome this opportunity for in-person school, while others choose to decline. The invitation and the RSVP are complicated.
I pray that you will join us each Sunday morning at 10:30 am. We plan to be live via webinar, through Facebook live, or you can call (929) 436-2866 and enter the meeting number — 324 841 204. We go live at 10:30 am. You can find these links along with more information about us on our website at FlintAsbury.org.