Parables and Parties Table Manners Part 2
Dr. Bennett: Welcome to everybody. Glad you're here. I'm glad I'm here. I hope you have been enjoying the Parables and Parties series that we're in. I'm just excited about Easter. I hope you are too. But if you have your bibles, you can turn to Luke Chapter 14. I'm going to start in verse 15. I want to just take a moment here to just reorient everybody, especially if you're new. Last week, we started in Luke Chapter 14. What happened was Jesus was actually asked over for a Sabbath dinner with some Pharisees. He probably had spoken in the synagogue. What happened was while he was there and they were in what we called appetizer mode, and if you remember last week I told you what the appetizer of heaven was, right?
It's the chili queso sauce at Chili's Restaurant where you put the chips in. I'm telling you, me and God talk and he shared that with me. He shared a whole lot with me but chili con queso is on the menu. That being said, this guy walked in and Jesus healed him. It set off everybody going in different ways and wondering what was going on. Do you heal on the Sabbath? Do you not hail on the Sabbath?
Then as they went into the other room, what happened was they went in and all the tables were there. In that culture, depending upon how close you sit to the person who is throwing the banquet, it gave you more honor. As Jesus watched everybody try to get a better seat, he then taught on this whole idea of honor and shame, which then led ultimately to him telling a story to the one who had actually given the dinner, that when you give a dinner, make sure that you invite people that can't give back to you.
So Jesus had started this whole thing going on and now we come to this particular part of the chapter. Let's look here at these few verses. It says, "When one of those who were reclining at the table with him heard this, he said, 'Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God.'" But he said to him, "A man was giving a big dinner and he invited many." At the dinner hour, he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, "Come, for everything is ready now." But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, "I bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it. Please consider me excused."
Another one said, "I've bought five yoke of oxen and I'm going to try them out. So please consider me excused." Another one said, "I've married a wife. And for that reason, I can't come." So the slave came back and reported to his master. Then the head of the household became angry. He said to his slave, "Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame." The slave said, "Master, what you commanded has been done. Now there's still room." The master said to the slave, "Go out into the highways and along the hedges and compel them to come in so that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of the men who were invited shall taste of my dinner."
Let's pray. Dear heavenly father, I pray that you would bless the reading aloud of your word. But Lord, I pray the night that as we are looking in the series, at the parables that your son Jesus spoke, we decided that we wanted to be a church that looked and acted like Jesus. We felt like what we needed to do was to go back and look at who Jesus was, what he said, what he taught, so that we could understand more of who he was, so that we could try to align our lives and our walk along those particular things that we have gleaned from your word. So Lord tonight, I pray that you would speak to us anew and afresh and that we would leave differently than when we came in.
Lord, I know the only way that's going to happen. It's not going to be from me. Lord, I am an imperfect man and my words will change nobody's life. So Lord, I'm humbly asking that between the words of my mouth and the ears and the hearts of everyone here, that you would speak tonight. Lord, I pray that it would be deep and profound, because I believe the things we're going to read tonight are life-changing things. So Lord, grant that. And I pray that in advance Lord, rejoicing, knowing that you're going to do a work, Lord, that only you can do. In Jesus' name I pray, and everybody said amen.
The question here is on what do we base our assumptions that we will actually feast at the great Messianic banquet? Because Jesus has been invited by these Pharisees to come and eat with him and they're watching him. Jesus doesn't quite live up to their brand of what it looks like to be followers of God. They're looking at Jesus with an eye raised, which is really interesting, isn't it? Here's Jesus, God's son, the very word of God. You've got the religious people looking at Jesus with a little bit of, "Yeah, right. Where's this guy coming from?" There's actually a lot of comedy here going on that you might not read when you see it the first time, but it's interesting the way Luke has put this together.
But the question becomes as Jesus has worked through this banquet, the question is really asked. I think this is what Luke is really hammering at. Because if we were to go on from 25 forward in the rest of the chapter, we would realize that Jesus starts to do a call to discipleship after this. This is written in a way to make us think and ask these questions. On what assumptions do we base the fact that we will actually eat at the great Messianic banquet? What's happened is Jesus has come in. And in typical Jesus fashion, He has disturbed an eating of religious folks. He does that very, very often in the scripture. What happens is Jesus has meddled a little bit in their Sabbath understanding, he's meddled a little bit in their honor and shame type of situation.
Then He's told the guy who's actually had the banquet. He says, "Hey, when you actually do a banquet, why don't you do it for people who can't pay you back?" Then in the middle of this, it says, "When one of those who were reclining at the table heard this, He said, 'Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God." Have you ever been around those guys that are missing everything that's going on and they just come out with something that's off the wall? Maybe you've done that before. Luke in his gospel, actually records a number of these things. Jesus is talking one time and a lady in the crowd goes, "Blessed is the womb that bore you!" Jesus says, "Blessed rather are the people that hear the word of God."
Luke has recorded these moments where people just miss the entire message of what's going on. But this guy probably has a reason for doing this. Anybody ever been around where you're somewhere and somebody's meddle a little bit in your stuff? You're just like, "Dude, I just want to go finish dinner. I don't want to hear any more of this stuff. I just want to move on." This is probably what this guy is doing. He's speaking for everybody. He thinks, "Yeah, yeah. We hear it, man. We get the honor and shame thing. We get this stuff. We get all of this. Everything is great. But man, blessed are the people who eat in the kingdom of God." Now, what you might not know, because we're not very good in understanding the first century Palestinian dinner mills, this was a common statement.
This wasn't something that was never said before. Ever been to a liturgical church where they say something and you say, "Blessed are you, yes, and amen," or whatever is the reading response? The right response here would have been, "Yes, blessed are those who keep the law. Blessed are those who are righteous. Blessed are those who do all that God has obeyed and they will eat in the great Messianic banquet." Of course, Jesus doesn't do that. That's what they're hoping, that maybe Jesus will line up. He's been off a little bit for their religious tastes. They're not particularly liking his brand of what it looks like to be a follower of God. This guy says, "Oh. Blessed is everyone who eat bread in the kingdom of God."
So he puts this kabash on the stuff that Jesus is doing. He's speaking for everybody. This would be a great opportunity for Jesus to get in line. The problem is Jesus has a difficult time if you read scripture of ever getting in line with everybody else. Jesus is doing his own line. It's not, "Jesus, get in line with where I'm going." Jesus is saying, "You need to get in line with where I'm going." This is what's going on. What's interesting is that Jesus doesn't give the response that they would have expected. Here's what it does. He says to this guy that he's just said this statement about what it's like to eat at the great Messianic banquet. You've got to understand. The Jewish people understood this. They knew that one day that Messiah would come.
When Messiah came, it would be a great feasting; a great day of just feasting and community. At that time when Israel was set back up, it's the nation above all nations. The other nations would come in and it would be this great supper. They knew about this. He says, "Blessed are those that are going to eat." The assumption he's making is that he's in. He's making an assumption that he's going to be one of those guys at that Messianic banquet. He's probably speaking for the group that has gathered there. Jesus says to him, this man who has just blurted this out. He says, "The man was giving a big dinner and he invited many." At the dinner hour, he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, "Come, for everything is ready now."
Now, we may read that and blow through that. But let me impact this a little bit because it's important that you understand what's going on here. In first century Palestine, this type of banquet would have been huge. It would have been what was called a communal banquet. It would have been for everybody in the village or everybody in the city.
It would have been a banquet for many. So he's inviting a lot of people. Many people are going to come. To do that, it's not like today. When we do a banquet today, we just call down the Lee Roy Selmon's and say, "Hey man, we want some of those good yeast biscuits. Could you get us some brisket? Could you get us some of that cornbread cobbler, whatever it is that God obviously has anointed? Because you can't have just one serving, some pork. Thank God we're not under the Leviticus Law. Put all that stuff on top." You know what I'm talking about? It's there. You just call down, and 30 minutes, 40 minutes, it's there. You got it.
Back in these days, that's not the way it worked. You actually had to kill animals. You had to go out and pluck stuff out of the garden. You had to prepare for a banquet like this. So here's the way it would have worked. The servant would have gone into the village and he would have asked everybody, "Are you coming? Are you coming? Are you coming?" to the many that were invited. They would have said yes or no based on what they knew was going on at the time the banquet was going to happen. It says here he invited many. But then at the dinner hour, and this was the second invite, these people had already RSVP'd. These people had already agreed to come to the banquet. We might miss that when you go through the text, not understanding how all this works.
So at dinnertime, what would happen in first century Palestine, once you started getting everything going, all the mashed potatoes and the gravy and all the stuff. They didn't have mashed potatoes and gravy. But anyway, I was born in Kentucky. I like that stuff. Anyway, fried eggs and whatever, fried okra. It's a southern Jewish community here. They're doing all this stuff. They've got this stove going. They didn't have stoves like we have. They got all this stuff going on, they're cooking. Everything is going on. They've got the meat. They've got the vegetables. It's going and the smells are going.
Well, then what would happen is the person who's putting on the banquet would say, "Now, go tell them that's it's about an hour before chow time." They would go out and tell everybody, "It's time, man." They could show up. Now, what would happen is when they had these banquets, they would put a cloth on the door. As long the cloth was on the door, even if you showed up a little late, you could still come in. That was the way they did it. So you had a little bit of time. It wasn't like today. You don't know how long it's going to take to get everything prepared during that day. You might start at 8:00 in the morning and you might really work hard. But by 1:00, you're really into it but might have been 2:00, it might have been 4:00.
So they didn't know exactly timewise. They just knew the day. So this guy goes out and says, "Hey, it's about an hour before we eat. Come on down, the price is right. Everything is ready now." Then this all sounds great just like all of Jesus' stories. They all start off just absolutely the way you would expect them to go. Then Jesus always takes that turn like my golf ball does. I don't golf. I hate golf. What I do is I take the balls and I take some sand. I throw the sand up in the air, then I throw the ball. It looks like I'm doing something. Serious, it's terrible. So golf is not a God either.
Anyway, coming back here, he says, "Come now, everything's ready." This is where it deviates. But they all alike began to make excuses. You and I can't even associate with this. All alike, the community has decided they don't want to go to the banquet. Why? See, we don't understand an honor and shame society? This is a shame of this guy who's invited. Something has happened that has made him not someone they want to associate with, and so they shame him by not coming.
If you remember, there was a big tsunami over in Indonesia. It was a number of years ago. We went over with relief workers. While they were there, the Indonesian government asked us to leave. We as Americans, we're like, "Are they dumb? What's the matter with them? We're over there just trying to help them." Because in our world, that's the way we think. Their world is different. Their world is an honor and shame society. To them, the people were wondering why is the government allowing all these foreigners into our world. So the government has to ask us to leave because it was an honoring thing of the people to honor them by asking us to leave even though they knew they needed our help. But see, we don't understand that culture.
So what we do is we in our pride and arrogance, just open up and start shooting at them and yelling words and saying all kinds of stuff which aren't true because we just simply don't understand that culture. Just like when we used to go to Japan to share the gospel, we thought when we share with somebody and say, "Hey, let me tell you about Jesus." They would say, "I've got to go back and talk to everybody at my house about this. You just can't be making these decisions." I'm like, "What do you mean? You've just got to make a decision right now." They're like, "We didn't understand that when that person went home to make a decision for Jesus, the whole family had to make a decision.
Because it's a different world than we are. We're individualistic. Most of the world isn't. We're very individualistic, most of the world is not. That's why in Act 16 when the Philippian jailor is talking to Paul and Silas, he says, "What can I do to be saved?" They tell him, and he says, "You'll be saved and your family." We think, "That's what that means. I'm going to get saved and the whole family is going to get saved. God's going to touch everybody in my family. That's what the word of God says." No, that's just Paul's way of saying, "Dude, you're the head of the house. Which means if you get dumped, everybody else is going to get dumped in the pool too because that's what everybody does in that culture." This is not understanding the Bible.
Sp they all began to make excuses; every one of them. This is their way of saying something has happened to the guy that we said we would go to his banquet. Now he's not acceptable to actually show up to the banquet. We don't like something that he's done. Something that he said has made him have what we call cooties. He's got something wrong with him. "My kids do around the house. They all got these germs and stuff. It's terrible. Kids need salvation, so pray for them." Anyway, they began to make excuses.
Luke shows us here, "The first one said, 'I bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it, so please consider me excused.'" Now, you and I can't even begin to understand. This is ridiculous; the excuse. It's ridiculous. My wife uses the word "redonkulous." This is "redonkulous". The reason is because in this land, most of it is like desert. If you get a piece of land that's good, you study the land. You look at the rain. You look at everything. Because to buy a piece of land, it needs to perform. There's no way in the world. This dude would be, "Yeah, man. I bought a piece of land. I need to go look at it."
This is a crazy excuse. This is a shaming excuse. This is almost they're poking fun at the guy who has thrown the banquet because something has happened that has made the guy who's throwing the banquet not someone they want to be around. It deals with their possessions here. "Bought a piece of land. I need to go out and look at it."
Kenneth Bailey, who's a scholar on 1st century Palestine, he says, just to give you a normal idea, "This would be like your husband calling you and saying, 'Hey honey, I know that we have our anniversary tonight and I know we've been planning it for three weeks. I know we're flying out to go to Sandal's for an all-inclusive week and whatever, but I bought this house over the phone and I paid for it. Now I'm going to go look at it to make sure it's okay.'" That's the type of excuse this is. Where do you get better?
One of the things we don't understand is how funny Jesus is. We always used to think Jesus is this dude that's always, these are funny. This guy is great. It's like stand-up Jesus right here at the deal. Tip your waitress, okay? So we've got this consider me excuse.
The second one says, "Listen, I bought five oak of yoke oxen and I'm going to try them out, so please consider me excused." Listen, when you buy oxen in this particular time, you buy them two at a time because they have to pull together and do what they're supposed to do. They have to tire at the same level as they get tired out. You don't just buy oxen and then go try them out. This dude's basically saying, "You know what? I would rather go plow a field than eat." Yeah, right. Who in the world in their right mind would plow a field rather than eat? I know we've got a couple of people who probably would rather do that. But this is ridiculous. It's another ridiculous excuse because something has happened.
They agreed to go but something happened that's kept them from going. So they're not going now. What they're doing is they're shaming the person who has invited them; shaming them. The next one would have guaranteed the absolute riot and it would have been the talk of the feast for the rest of the evening. "I just married a wife. It's honeymoon night. It's honeymoon. That's what it is." It was just ridiculous. The thing is you didn't talk about your women like that in these things. First of all, the women didn't come to these feasts. It was men only that came to these feasts. This is just a relationship, but it's ridiculous because he knew he was going to be married. He knew all of this stuff.
He agreed, it's just absolutely stone cold the biggest insult in the world. You didn't bring up women. You didn't bring up anything to do with the bedroom. None of that was brought up and this guy's excuse is, "Hey man, I got married. It's show time, so I can't come." It's funny. It's not super funny in some ways. It's saying a really strong message but it's funny. So everybody has an excuse and he gives us three. He gives us property and work and relationships. Everybody has an excuse for not coming because something has changed. You're no longer what it is that we want to come hang out with, which is interesting because the Pharisees have invited Jesus to their banquet when in reality they need to go to his.
So then the slave came back and reported this to his master. Now we've gone from a man to a master. What was just a man at the beginning, a man, now he's a master. Now he's a lord. Now he's the head of the household. He became angry. He's angry because they're shaming him. He says, "Go to the streets then, in the city. Bring in the poor, crippled, blind, and lame. We've got food. We've got mashed potatoes. We've got gravy, we've got biscuits. We've got Lee Roy Selmon's cornbread. We've got pork." Anyway, you know what I'm saying. "We've got food." What's interesting here is, listen to me, this man took a situation of anger and shaming. Rather than getting back at them, he extended grace.
I'll just let that sink in for a minute like gravy and potatoes. He says the head of the household became angry. He says, "Go out at once." Now, this is important to understand. We are still within the village. These people lived on the streets and on the city lanes. They didn't have houses. These were the poor people. These were the people with problems that lived in the city. They didn't lock them out of the city. In villages, they had gates. At night, they'd close the gates because they didn't want the vagabonds and thieves and the robbers. They didn't want to have the indigent and people that were problematic.
He says, "This is what I want you to do. I want you to get every single one of these people in the streets. Bring them all in; the lame, the crippled, the blind, the poor. Bring them all. We're going to have a feast. These people don't want to come. They're going to shame me. We're going to have a feast and we're going to invite them." Well, the slave comes back and he says, "Master, I've done what you asked me to do. What you commanded to me has been done. But I've got to tell you, there's still room. There's still room."
Can I just pause for a minute? Please, for the love of God, hear your pastor's heart. Everybody you come in contact with, I don't care what they've done. I don't care where they've been. I don't care what kind of lifestyle they're leading. I don't care how many women they've slept with. I don't care what drugs they've done. I want you to know in the Father's house, there is still room for them. There's still room.
He says, "Your command has been done and there's still room. So what are we going to do, Master? Everybody in town has an excuse. You went and got everybody in town that was the low wrung of society, but there's room." He says, "I tell you what. I want you to go outside the village. I want you to go outside the gates. I want you to go out into the highways. I want you to go into the hedges. I want you to compel them to come in, because I want my house to be filled." It's an interesting word here, compel. The reason is because seeing an honor and shame society, them going out and asking them to come, those people would be like, "What are you trying to get from me? What are you trying to get from me? Nobody invites people to dinner outside of the village. Something's off."
He says, "No, I want you to go tell them. Go get them. Go compel them. Do what it takes to get them to come in, because I want my house to be filled." Is this your vision of God? When you think of God, do you see a God who wants his house filled? "Fill my house. Go get the ones outside." Which is interesting because when Jesus always talks about people being cast into outer darkness, he's actually using the imagery of the village. They're cast outside of the gates of the village. The ones he's always putting outside the gates of the village are the religious people and the ones that are always coming in are the vagabonds and the thieves and the tax collectors and the prostitutes, which is you and me. You and me.
Only good that flows [inaudible 00:25:17] and it's heart is the flow of cavalry. I just want my house filled. For I tell you, we would normally read this and we would think that he's speaking still to his servant. He's not. Not having a good way of translating the Bible, I'm from Kentucky and I want you to know that God has ordained Kentucky language. See, we can tell you when it's "you" or when it's "you'uns." We can. We have this singular and the plural in our language. It is "you" or it's "ya'll."
In Greek, there's a singular and a plural. But in English, you is you is you is you. You can maybe understand who you is if you understand who the "you" being talked to is understood. But when you don't have any way of understanding, you just normally associate it as a singular. It's not a singular in this particular verse; it is a plural. Jesus now has turned and he is speaking to all of the people at the dinner table.
He says, "For I tell you, Jesus is pulled out of the story now and he's speaking to the people at the banquet. None of those men who were invited will taste of my dinner. It's not about your dinner. It's about my dinner. These people were called and they were invited and they've shamed me." When Jesus talks about, "Don't be ashamed of me," he's using the same language but we don't understand that culture. Are you going to shame him? When he brings the inviter, are you going to say, "I don't' want to be around that. I don't want to deal with that. It doesn't meet my brand. It doesn't look like what I want. I need it to be just like this. I need people who look like this and vote like this and act like this and do all these things and check off all these markers. I need all this stuff."
Jesus is running around with tax collectors, prostitutes and all that stuff. "It doesn't fit what I want so I'm going to stay away from that." Jesus says, "If you want to come into my banquet, you're going to understand the people at my banquet are the broken. They're the hurting. They're the ones that are struggling. They're the ones that society looks down upon. It's you and me. We're all that. We all are broken. We all are feeble. We all are in need of the touch of God." That's why people who saw Jesus wanted to be around him. They wanted to be around him because he was constantly giving out words of affirmation, accepting people and loving people, which is what we want. All of us want that. We want the gospel. We just don't know it because what we've taken is we've made the gospel, all these things that it isn't instead of letting it be what it is the gospel defined.
Euaggelion, it's the Greek word. It's the good news. That's the literal translation. It's good news. It's good news. I've got good news, people don't want to come. Go get them all. Go get the people in the city and the ones outside. Bring them all in because I want my house filled. From this, what can we take home tonight? What can we leave here with saying, "This is something I could take with me tonight and walk out of here and make a difference in my life.
The first thing is it's not about trying to get people to be one of us. It's about getting them to Jesus. So often in the church, we want everybody to measure up and to look up and to be all these things. I don't know if this story's true. I can't validate it. I've heard it spoken many time. But I'm sure if this isn't the exact story that's true, I'm sure there's a story like it.
Supposedly, the lead singer for Guns' n' Roses, Axl Rose, before they had ever become big went to a church and came down to an altar one night to accept the Lord. The pastor came over to him and he's like, "You need to cover up your tattoos and you need to cut your hair, young man," or whatever. He walked out and never came back. We've got to understand, this isn't about getting everybody to live up to the standards that we think. My goodness, I have had so many stances on what I thought were true biblical ideas that I changed my mind a long time ago. I will probably change my mind again.
So rather than make it all about how well that you believe the way I believe or look the way, what we need is we need to get people to Jesus. He's the only one that gives life. Not some doctrinal statement in a church. Not some song that we sing. Not some pastor. It's about getting people to Jesus. It's about our day at his banquet. We have our own banquets where people come and they eat and we, "No, that person doesn't measure up and there's no way that person could come in. He can't eat at my banquet. No, out, out, out." Jesus is like, "Listen, you know who my banquet's for? My banquet is for everybody. My banquet says I don't discriminate no matter what you've done, where you've been, what you've snorted, who you slept with, what was your alcohol of choice."
"What I want you to know is I want you to know that I love you just where you are and I want to change your life. I want to show you love that you've never been given. The great thing is I'm going to meet you where you are. I'm going to love you where you are. I'm going to accept you where you are. But thank God almighty, I'm not going to leave you where you are. I'm going to make you something great."
Second thing. The reign of God isn't some pious hope for the future. It's action in the present. It's going out. It's going out and compelling people. They won't even believe it. You've got to compel them, because they're not going to believe that you're extending a free banquet to a vagabond outside of the city. But that's the gospel. It's a gospel for me. It's a gospel for you. It's not just about having some righteous, "I'm going to be the one. Blessed are those who eat bread in the kingdom, because I know I'm going to be there and I just can't wait to get there." Jesus says, "You've got it totally backwards. The feast is here. Bring them now. Get them now to the feast. We'll celebrate again in the future, but go out and grab everybody and bring them in." It's about action in the present.
Third, there's one thing we take out of here for sure. It's we need to be a church where the people at the proverbial bottom of the ladder or the last in line can always find good news. I don't want anybody walking in here. I don't care what they've done. I want you to embrace them and you love them. I don't care if they've been on the street for six weeks and they smell like a skunk. You grab them and you hug them. You get all up in them. You tell them that they matter. Because that's what God did for you and me. My God, if we ever become a church where somebody at the bottom of the ladder can't feel love and accepted, then we need to cease being a church.
Fourth, God desires his house filled. I wrote this. This evening, this story issues an invitation to a feast. Not material possessions. Not correct belief. Not to a small group of the righteous and not to those who have it all together, but to a community that shows the treasure of relationship while eating with their Lord. Let that sink in.
We have an opportunity this week to do something that could forever change somebody's life by handling them a card, putting something on Facebook, asking a neighbor, bringing them to church. Because I'm going to tell you right now, the message I'm speaking for Easter weekend is simply and unashamedly straight up gospel God loves you as I could possibly preach. It's somebody's life that gets changed. I said this a long time ago and I mean it as surely as I'm standing here today. If Grace Community Church, no matter what we've done, no matter how far we go, no matter what goes on, if we touch one person's life with the gospel, everything we have done is worth it. It's worth it. I have a video I want to show you.
Woman: Every Sunday, I see you guys come in here from your church. Don't get me started on your tipping. A girl's got to eat, right? It's just a little server humor there. But seriously, I don't know everything that goes on in there but I know something does because I hear you. Every time I drop by the table, I hear how great the message was from the pastor and how you wish more people would hear it. Well, I don't go to your church so how am I going to hear it? All I got is you. So are you going to share it with me or just hope I stumble through the doors of your church with my sinful self? Well, since I have you here right now, I guess I can talk to you since it seems like you're not ready to talk to me.
But you're ready to judge me; my hair, my clothes, my language, my music. I know you don't mean for it to come across that way but you have to see how it looks from my side. You think I have a problem, that my life needs fixing. That there's something missing in it, you have it. Or at least you know what can fill that missing part. Okay, yeah. There's a part of my life that needs to be filled with something. But believe me, I've tried. I've tried to figure out what would make me happy. I've tried to figure out what would not make me feel like I'm worthless. So I'm not the greatest of people. But if I'm so lost and so far gone, aren't you the one that's supposed to help me? Aren't you the one with this so-called good news that is supposed to tell me the truth?
Because what I've been trying is not working. I need to know that there is more than just coming in here every day and serving you your coffee and pancakes to your lovely family. I need to know that there is more to my life than this. Guess what? You have to be the one because no one else is saying the things you say. How much do you have to hate someone to keep what you have to yourself and your family? How much do you have to like your own comfort to leave me to myself? I need you. Okay, I said it.
If you think that that was easy for me to say that you try living my life, I need you to pursue me. I need you to set aside your comfort and pursue me, because I'll run. When I get scared, I run and you have to come after me. You have to follow me into the darkness and show me the way out because you were there once. You went from death to life. I know that those are your words. But if it's true, then this is more important than your safety and your ego. I'm still going to call you a Bible thumper and I'm probably going to make fun of you, but don't give up on me. Talk it over, I've got tables. It's your move.
Dr. Bennett: Man, if that doesn't make you think, it definitely does me. When we were singing the songs, I was over there and I was remembering back when I was a teenager in college. I used to go to a church called Westmore Church of God. I remember Pastor McClung. He was probably in his 70s. Every day, I would go over to Westmore and I would always walk into the sanctuary. It was church that's at about 800 people and there was a balcony. You could always walk into the sanctuary every day. When you walked in, you would hear him up in the balcony sounding like he was dying. Just praying, "God, touch the lost of this community. God, save those that are broken."
When he would leave, you could go up in the balcony and there would be a puddle of where he had sat and cried. That forever shaped my life. I just want to be a church that's authentic and that reaches people. The gospel that lets them know of what you've done no matter where you've been. God loves you with an everlasting love.
Dear heavenly Father, I pray tonight that we would leave here different than when we came in. Lord, it's not about bringing people to grace. It's about bringing people to Jesus. Lord, the reason we want to reach out and the reason we want to do the things that we do is not just because we want to grow a church. It's because we want to see people touched by the power of God and see their lives changed. God, tonight if there'd be anybody in here that's hurt or bruised or away from you, I pray God tonight, they would find a way at their chair to make it right with you.
I pray God for those of us that come to Grace. We would understand that the chair that we sit in is precious because it could be someone else. We need to be about our Father's business. We need to be about reaching people and pooling people and compelling people and bringing them to you. So Lord, tonight as we leave, I pray that you would please help us to be that church. I pray God for our upcoming Easter services that you would minister to people and bring people to salvation. So Lord, watch over us, protect us, lead us, and guide us. Help us to be the lights that you have called us to be for your glory and for your honor. In Jesus' name, and everybody said Amen.