YOU’RE INVITED

I’m not sure why, but I’ve been invited to a variety of meetings, lunches, dinners, and gatherings recently. And it isn’t that I am so popular or my presence is so desired. Some invitations are because the inviter wants something, but most of the ones this month are related to Pastor’s Appreciation Month. I’ve accepted most of them.

These multiple invitations reminded me of one of my favorite invitations in the Bible that I reviewed with one of my Bible studies earlier this month. It is from Jesus and is found in Matthew 11:28-30. It’s an invitation that I have welcomed and responded to many times in my life. And it is an invitation you may too want to consider accepting again and again.

Note first to whom Jesus offers his invitation. It is to “all you who are weary and burdened.” That’s quite a description, isn’t it? And it describes all of us at times in our lives. It may describe you as you read it today. I’m fairly confident we all are carrying burdens, and that often makes us weary.

More important perhaps than to whom the invitation is offered, note next who offers the invitation. It is Jesus. And Jesus describes himself as “gentle and humble in heart.” “Gentle” (or “meek” as the word is also translated) does not mean weak, but is suggestive of one’s attitude and way of life in relation to God. It’s about being in submission to him and knowing who you are in relation to him. “Humble in heart” does not indicate a timid, joyless person; but is rather an attitude of acceptance of others. It is the Son of God who offers the invitation.

We should also highlight the content of the invitation. He invites us to do three things. The first is simply to come to him. He doesn’t force us, bribe us, or press us; he just invites us. But he also invites us “to take his yoke” and “learn from him.” At the end of the passage Jesus tells us “my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” “Easy” probably doesn’t mean easy as we usually understand it, but perhaps “well-fitting.” And who doesn’t want to learn from Jesus how to live?

Most comforting to me in Jesus’ invitation is his promise to those who accept it. In verse 28 he says “I will give you rest” and in verse 29 he expands “you will find rest for your souls.” “Rest” has at least a couple of connotations. It may be understood in terms of relief—relief from our burdens because we have taken his yoke. Rest also may be understood in terms of refreshment or being revived. It reminds me of David’s declaration in the most loved passage of the Old Testament, “He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul: (Psalm 23:2 and 3a).

I don’t know what other invitations you have and are receiving these days, but this is one I encourage you to consider accepting again and again. Jesus says, “You’re invited.”

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“I WON’T BE BACK!”

“I won’t be back!” That’s what I told our pastor as we left church following worship this past Sunday. In his message he talked about Sabbath, restlessness, always checking our mobile devices, doing too much, always being busy, never slowing down, and a lot of other related things I found offensive. And I told him so.

I asked him why he didn’t just go ahead and call me out by name. I knew he was talking to me, and I told him I didn’t come to church to be convicted and challenged by him about the things he had addressed.

In the sermon he reminded us of when Jesus went off by himself early in the morning to pray and how Peter seemed to chastise him because everyone was looking for him (Mark 1:35). But that didn’t seem to bother Jesus. Our pastor also pointed us to a time Jesus invited the apostles to get away with him by themselves to a quiet place to get some rest (Mark 6:31).

As he neared the end of his talk he took us to Psalm 46 (a passage I was already quite familiar with). In my ministry I often used the opening verses at funerals about God being our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). I knew about the rejoinder in verse 2 that therefore we would not fear no matter how bad things got because God was still in heaven and active.

I also knew about the last verse of Psalm 46 and God’s call for us to “Be still, and know that [he] is God.” And God’s promise that “he will be exalted among the nations and in the earth” (verse 10).

What I don’t think I had ever done before was connect the first part of Psalm 46 with the last part—especially verses 1 and 2 with verse 10. Since “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble,” it seems appropriate that we would take the time, relax, and “Be still, and know that he is God.” Not only does that seem appropriate, I’m thinking it is also very important.

I’ve had a couple of days to think it over, and I’ve changed my mind about not going back. I’m going to go back. And I’m going to take to heart some of what he said on Sunday. But I hope he heard me: I don’t go to be challenged and convicted. Do you?

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