The master said “Then go to the country roads. Whoever you find, drag them in. I want my house to be full!” (Luke 14:23 The Message).
Several years ago Marnie and I invited our congregation to our home for a Christmas open house. The family bedrooms were on the upper floor of the house, the living room, dining room and other public areas were downstairs. At one point in the afternoon a very precocious child came to me and asked, “Can I go upstairs?” I politely explained that we were all staying downstairs. That answer didn’t satisfy him. “The invitation said open house,” he replied. I was suddenly eager to help him find his mother.
The party Marnie and I hosted was not truly an open house. We kept certain rooms off limits. We didn’t intend for people to roam around checking out our dirty clothes hamper or the closets or the uncapped tube of toothpaste by the sink. We had not planned to exhibit the nitty-gritty details of our everyday living.
Not so with God. God wants to fill his house. When the invited guests decline to come to the banquet, the master isn’t satisfied with one effort to boost attendance. After gathering the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame there is still room. So once more the servant is sent to bring others to the party. God wants to fill the house.
This too is our mandate. What God wants, we also want. It’s not enough that we accept the invitation extended to us and find our own seats at the banquet table. God is actively filling the house, and we can be a part of what God is doing. It is for us to go out the streets and country roads and find others to bring to the party
This is where I make excuses. I gladly accept the invitation that God has extended to me. No excuses there. But when it comes to actively seeking others who will come and find a place in the Kingdom, I find excuses. Usually my excuses are the same as the ones Jesus identified in his parable: work concerns and the demands of family life dominate every waking moment.
But God intends to fill the house, and we are the means by which others will find their place at the table.
We are ending the “Upside Down” series this week on the threshold of the holiday season. It is a season of invitations, a time when houses are full. It is also a time when some around us have no place to be. There can be no better way for you to put flesh and blood on the Kingdom than by opening your house, placing one more chair at the table.
Those of us who have accepted God’s invitation must also accept God’s instruction. In the language of the King James Bible, “Compel them to come in.”
May the Kingdom of God be real in your hearts and in your homes as this blessed season of the year approaches.
We give you thanks O God for the way you have made everything ready and opened the fullness of your Kingdom to us. Let our gratitude find expression in obedience. Fill us with your Spirit that we might be sent into the world to bring others to the party that is your Kingdom. We ask all of this in Jesus’ name. Amen.