Sunday, December 30, 2007

There's Just Something About That Name

Pastor Brad Shannon opened the service with the reminder that Christmas is a season, not just a day.

The New Life Trio blessed us with their music and singing this morning, and then we shared in the baptism of Gavin Edward Gimpel.

Today’s Scripture readings:
Isaiah 63:7-9
Hebrews 2:10-18

Pastor Brad's sermon began with a re-cap of the Christmas Eve service beginning with that wonderful proclamation, "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." ~ Isaiah 9:6

Titled, “Shhh... God Is Speaking,” Pastor Brad reminded us of the reality that God still speaks to us today and can guide us. And that God gives us clues when it is important. The most significant and vivid manner in which God speaks to us is through His son.

1In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. 3The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. ~ Hebrews 1:1-3

Christmas Eve Pastor Brad told a parable by Kierkegaard that revealed two important truths: (1) That God still speaks, and (2) He speaks authoritatively and definitively through Jesus.

This was the supreme revelation, that God set aside His glory for peasants like us. Pastor Shannon implored, “Will you open up your life to let Him speak to you?”

He told a story about a Chicago Cubs fan named Johnny who as a twelve year old idolized the Cubs of the 60’s, a team with many stars including Ernie Banks and Ron Santos, among others. They had a star catcher named Randy Hundley who was also a Christian, and on one occasion was visiting the house across the street. The family across the street knew he was a Cubs fan, and called to say that Randy Hundley would like to come over and meet him. His mother said he was busy and should come play with Johnny “some other time.” Of course when Johnny got home he became depressed upon hearing the news that one of his idols had been so near.

As it turned out, after his speaking engagement, the All-Star catcher stopped by the house and did ultimately meet his young fan. He even pulled out a baseball, signed it and gave it to Johnny, securing his admiration forever.

For Johnny, the glory of Randy Hundley was not his rifle arm or his home run power, but the fact that someone as important as him came to his house, “just for me.”

So it is that the Son of God has come to us. As the Scripture exclaims, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” ~ Rev. 3:20

This is the glory of God.

Sadly, sometimes he knocks for years. We receive promptings, but never respond. Today, I’m asking you to open your door, the door to your heart, to Jesus.

The passage from Isaiah 9:6 cites four names. The first of these is Wonderful Counsellor. Some people have problems or challenging decisions they are wrestling with. Sometimes as wrong decision can mess up your life. In times like these we need God’s wisdom, we need a wonderful counselor.

The second, He is called The Mighty God. When we face things that are too big for us, we need a powerful God, a mighty God. Pastor Brad shared stories of tough situations in which God’s power was needed. To each of us He says, “Let me be a mighty God for you.”

The third name: Everlasting Father. “I will be your Father, you will be my children,” the Scripture says.

The pastor told us a story about a frightened boy who at night felt all alone. When overcome by his fear and aloneness he would go to his father’s bedroom, needing to be with his father. Thus comforted, he could sleep and let go of his fear. “God wants to be for you your Everlasting Father.”

The fourth name, Prince of Peace, speaks on many levels. Individually, Jesus became the way for us to have peace with God. He died on a cross that we can be reconciled.

“Jesus is knocking. Some of you here this morning need to open the door of your hearts. For some of you Jesus is knocking right now.”

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Shhhhh... God Is Speaking

Notes from our Christmas Eve Candlelight Service

"The invisible, intangible God has made himself visible and tangible in Christ." ~ Carlo Carreto

We were ushered in to Christmas Carols by the Felix Folks. The service began with a moving rendition of O Holy Night by Dana Stroschein. Scripture readings from Isaiah 9:2-7 and Luke 2:1-20 set the tone. After carols, prayers and special music, Pastor Brad opened his heart to share a special message: Shhh.... God is Speaking

Sometimes when people speak they give little clues that indicate this is important. Examples include the teacher who states, "This will be on the final." Or while you are watching television, the beeping sound with scrolling words, "We interrupt this program..."

Pastor Brad has been talking lately about the kingdom of God. God wants to speak to the world about what matters most. And God has spoken to the world through the Christ. As Scripture says, God speaks to us through His son. (Hebrews 1:2) He is the exact imprint of God's very being.

"This is what I am like," God is saying. "If you want to know my heart, my character, my nature... look at Jesus." What God thinks and feels is revealed in Jesus. If you want to know the heart of God, the place to begin is with the life of Jesus.

And here's what you'll find: not just a wise man (though He is), not just a wonderful person (though He is). God became a real human being.

He is a big God, but He speaks in a quiet voice, not a big voice.

Why would God come as a baby instead of with a big splash? Kierkegaard told a story about a king who loved a poor woman who lived in a hovel. He wanted badly to show his love for her, but feared he would overwhelm her if he came in his regal splendor. He traded his palace for a hovel and his robes for rags in order to approach her without frightening her off. The story serves as a metaphor for how God reaches out to us in Jesus as detailed in this beautiful passage from Philippians 2:5-11

5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!
9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

God set aside His glory for ragged sin-filled peasants like you and me.
God in Jesus is speaking to the world.

The author of this blog had been told that the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service at New Life Covenant was a very special service. And indeed it was. Merry Christmas and blessings to all.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Christmas Travelers

Though there were a few absent faces, the pews were more full than expected despite the large quantities of snow that prevented some from joining us this fourth Sunday in advent.

With Christmas in the air, Pastor Brad Shannon's sermon continued to reinforce the message of hope.

"There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where God was homeless
All men are at home.
The crazy stable close at hand,
With shaking timber and shifting sand,
Grew a stronger thing to abide and stand
Than the square stones of Rome." ~G.K.Chesterton

The closer we get to Christmas, the more crowded the highways and airports seem to be. Pastor Brad began by sharing a conversation with a taxi driver from whom he learned, to his surprise, that Christmas is not the busiest time of year for taxicabs. Why? Because business travelers rely on cabs to get from airport to hotel, whereas during the holidays parents or loved ones are usually waiting for us.

This is the hope within each Christmas traveler, that someone will be coming to meet them. And the hope of every advent traveler is that when we get to Bethlehem, someone will be there to meet us, too.

Among the hopeful travelers in the nativity story (Luke 1:26-66) was a young woman -- actually a girl -- named Mary. Her home had been Nazareth, but she left in haste, Luke writes, to visit her relative Elizabeth in the hill country of Judea.

Mary had good reason to flee Nazareth. Engaged but not yet married to a man named Joseph, Mary, a virgin, had just confirmed that she was pregnant. Though she knew the child to be a gift from God, she also knew no one would believe it. She had good reason to be running for her life.

She also had good reason to be running to her kinswoman Elizabeth. Elizabeth, who had been barren all her life, was far too old to have a child. Yet to everyone's surprise the impossible had happened. She was now six months into her pregnancy.

Maybe Elizabeth would have understood the emotions Mary felt. Maybe she would share the odd mixture of confusion and joy, doubt and faith, fear and hope that stirred within Mary's soul. Perhaps Elizabeth would understand the suspicious stares of nosy neighbors or identify with the embarrassed rejection by relatives. Most of all, Elizabeth might actually believe that impossible things could become possible with God.

The gospel story invites us to share the moment with Mary as she walked through the door of Elizabeth's house. Luke records that "when Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the child leaped in her (Elizabeth's) womb." Lk 1:41 Elizabeth responded to the kick in her womb with a song of hope: "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord." vss. 42, 45

Elizabeth knew the meaning of hope. Biblical hope is the deep, inner certainty -- just as real as a baby kicking in a mother's womb -- that God will fulfill what God has spoken. Hope is the inner assurance that against all odds God's kingdom will come, and God's will shall be done on earth as it is in heaven. Hope is the often unseen guarantee that in spite of all the world' violence and hostility, one day the nations "shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up its sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." Micah 3:4

Hope is the gut level confidence that one day "justice will roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream." Amos 5:24

Hope is a deep, inner awareness and for both Elizabeth and Mary, hope was the personal realization that God's promise was being fulfilled through the flesh and blood of their very human, very ordinary lives.

It wasn't much of a sign, just a baby's kick in a woman's womb. But it was enough experiential evidence to become the sign of hope that God would fulfill his promises. And in reality, it doesn't take a lot of what the world calls evidence to keep hope alive.

It didn't take much of a sign for American writer Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, just the sound of a bell in a church steeple on Christmas day, which he described in one of his best known poems, "Christmas Bells."

I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

The year was 1863. This nation had been caught in the deadly grip of a civil war. The prior year had seen the horrors of Gettysburg, the ghastliest, bloodiest, deadliest single event in the history of this country. The original poem describes the awful reality of the war in lines that Christmas card publishers always leave out and which soloists in Christmas shows never sing.

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Imagining all the homes that would have an empty place at the table for Christmas, Longfellow went on:

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

No wonder Longfellow was tempted to doubt God's promise of peace:
And in despair I bowed my head;
"There is no peace on earth," I said;
"For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

Then Longfellow heard a bell in a church steeple on Christmas day. It wasn't much, but it was enough to give him hope.

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men."

It wasn't much of a sign by the world's standards, but the ringing of the church bells was enough. It was enough to be the sign of hope, just like the child leaping in Elizabeth's womb. Elizabeth could never have explained that event; there is no evidence that she ever tried. But she knew -- from somewhere deep within that she could never forget -- that the child kicking in her womb was the sign of God's saving purpose being accomplished through her. The child was John, whom we later knew as John the Baptist, the one who prepared the way for coming of the Lord.

Nor could Mary have explained the baby in her own womb. There is no evidence that she ever tried. The New Testament doesn't attempt to analyze the scientific probability for the virgin birth. It was a mystery to be celebrated, not a thesis to be argued. By the world's standards it was utterly incomprehensible. But Mary knew that the child in her womb was the hope of God's saving purpose being accomplished in human history. She knew that God's living word was becoming flesh within her. She could feel the love of God becoming a tangible reality through her life.

Nor could the shepherds have explained what they experienced. And again there is no evidence they ever tried. All they knew for sure was that in the darkness of the night they received good news of great joy that was coming for all people: "To you is born this day in the city of David a savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you; you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger." Luke 2:11-12

Those wise men, stargazer, mysterious visitors from the East never explained it. But they were wise enough to follow the Beckoning Bethlehem star until it led them to the Christ child, and they offered their best gifts in homage to the promise of this newborn king.

Nor could Joseph have explained it. There is no evidence in the New Testament that he ever tried. But he knew in his heart that this child was the sign of God's presence with us in human flesh. He obeyed the angel's command, even when obedience meant packing up his family and hiding out as refugees in Egypt.

By the world's standards, there may not be much of a sign in our lives. We may never be able to fully or adequately explain or comprehend it. But like Elizabeth and Mary, we can feel the deep, inner hope that God is at work to accomplish God's loving purpose through us. Just as surely as Elizabeth felt the baby leaping in her womb, we can know that the very same love of God that became flesh within Mary's body is becoming a reality in this world through us.

As shocking as it may sound, the amazing affirmation of Scripture is that in the same way the body of Jesus was formed in the womb of Mary, the life of the living Christ can be formed within each of us.
The sign of hope for every person of faith is simply this. "Christ in you, the hope of glory." Col. 1:27

Reflecting on the way the sign was given to Mary, Bible scholar Robert Mulholland came to this conclusion. "Every Christian is called to be a Mary. We are called to offer ourselves to God in such radical abandonment and availability that the Christ of God can be brought forth through our lives into the world... Many desire this and actively offer to God disciplines of loving obedience through which Christ can be formed in them."

The hope of every Christmas traveler is that someone will come to meet them. The one who meets us at Bethlehem is the living Christ, the one who becomes flesh in each of us.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

God Meets Us

Today we celebrated the third Sunday in advent. In preparation for the service Pastor Brad Shannon shared how advent is a time of anticipation as we await the One in whom all our hopes and dreams are staked on. Jesus is our kingdom hope. When all other hopes have been dashed, Jesus is present to say, “Pin your hopes on Me.”

For special music this morning Shylee Smith performed a beautiful rendition of Ave Maria, accompanied by Darlene Vanderscheuren on the keyboard.

Today’s Scripture readings were from Psalm 146:5-10 and Matthew 11:2-11.

Pastor Brad began his sermon with an object lesson about the Packers and Vikings. He noted that Packer fans routinely get rewarded from time to time for the hope the put in their team. To be a Viking fan requires much more character, since in the ultimate sense, there have yet to be any earthly rewards for such hope. With tongue firmly planted in cheek, he states, “This is why we are Viking fans at New Life Covenant.”

In truth, the illustration was a nice segue into today’s theme. When all your hopes have been disappointed, God gives us His hope. So many have experienced deep disappointment in life. This message was passionately presented to convey the message that God has not abandoned us and will meet us in that place of need.

Turning to Genesis 1:1, Pastor Brad asked, “Have you ever wondered how God feels about His creation?” In verse two, we see God “hovering” or “brooding” like a dove. God had great plans for His creation.

At the climax of this first Biblical account, God makes man from the dust of the earth. After breathing the breath of life into this lifeless clay, He declares “It is finished.” And He rested on the seventh day.

It is noteworthy that God created the world and all that is in it, but left some things unfinished. For example, the animals we as yet unnamed, and there was a garden to be tended.

The Hebrew expression Tikkun Olam is here used to refer to God’s leaving it to man “to fix or finish the work” That is, our role in the world is to partner with God to finish God’s work in the world.

Chapter three presents how the serpent deceived Eve and how sin entered the world. What did Adam and Eve experience when their eyes were opened? They saw their guilt and shame, and experienced despair. The earth was cursed (we now know where thistles and thorns come from) and they were banished from the Garden. They were exiled from Paradise.

From that time on the human race was in exile. God eventually called Abraham and formed a nation of people through whom God would fulfill Tikkun Olam. Israel, the chosen people, would be God’s partners in bringing restoration, healing and hope.

But Israel, too, failed and was assailed by many captors and ultimately exiled in the Babylonian captivity for seventy years. In Jesus’ day, Rome occupied Israel and many Hebrews remained dispersed.

The Scriptures repeatedly tie this exile to the sinfulness of God’s people. See, for example, Lamentation 4:22.

In the beginning of the New Testament Gospel of Mark, when Jesus is baptized by John the Baptist, the Lord came out of the water and saw the heavens torn open. And it says that the Spirit descended upon him “like a dove,” an image that hearkens back to the beginning where God is seen “hovering” dove-like over his Creation. We see that with the inauguration of Jesus’s ministry, God is hovering closely again.

Throughout this period in time, there was much expectation of one who was to come, who would liberate Israel and be the Messiah who restored God’s people to their rightful place. The hopes of the people had risen many times as various “leaders” rose, and were silenced by Rome.

Hope can be a dangerous thing, because hope can break your heart with it is thwarted.

Throughout the ministry of Jesus, we see the people getting their hopes aroused. But like so many times before, the promising possibility that Jesus would be the Messiah King ended again in a Roman crucifixion.

We see the torn hearts of his followers most vividly in the passage from Luke 24, on the road to Emmaus. A man and a woman were walking along the road, away from Jerusalem, when they were joined by a stranger, who is actually the risen Jesus but whom they did not recognize in their grief. “We had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel,” they said, as they recounted his ministry and deeds.

They were crushed in spirit because of the crucifixion. When you follow someone who gets crucified, you know you have been on the wrong team.

Then, Jesus shares a new perspective. God’s ways are not our ways, and He illuminates them, shedding light on Scriptures they were familiar with but failed to understand. “And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself.” (vs. 27) And in the breaking of the bread, their eyes were opened.

This same phrase echoes the opening of the eyes that Adam and Eve experienced, except in the first instance, they lost hope, and in this latter account, hope filled their emptied hearts.

Turning to John 20 we find yet another echo of the Genesis account. In the resurrection, the man Jesus had truly died, but God breathed into Him the breath of life. Resurrection life comes from God. The passage, beginning in verse 19, recounts the Lord’s appearing to his disciples in the upper room where they had been gathered, hiding in fear. It is a powerful moment, and the true birth of the church.

JOHN 20:19-22
19On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you!" 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord.
21Again Jesus said, "Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you." 22And with that he breathed on them and said, "Receive the Holy Spirit.
Jesus appears, comforts their fears and breathes on them the breath of resurrection life and power, from God. “So send I you,” He says, meaning in effect, “You be the Kingdom bearers and the hope bringers.” This is our role as the church in this world.

We have a choice. Either we can give in to despair or accept the truth that God is hovering over us, desirous to work great things through us.

Despair will make you want to quit. God never does this. In Psalm 43 we hear the psalmist lament, “Why are you cast down, oh my soul?” But he immediately follows with these words: “Put your hope in God.”

Remember this. The spirit of God has been breathed into you. Put your hope in the Lord.

As we celebrate Christmas, let us remember that Jesus Christ coming into the world is the hope of the world.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

In Our Sorrow

In this second Sunday in advent Pastor Brad began the sermon reminding us that the word advent means “arriving” or “appearing.” Advent is a time when the people of God were awaiting the appearing of God.

God came in a manner we did not expect, as a child in utmost obscurity. He came into our smallness, and has met us in the whole range of our human experience.

Isaiah 53 presents a picture of the coming Messiah nearly 700 years beforehand, yet they did not recognize him when he came. In verse three the prophet proclaims, “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

Jesus came as a suffering servant, not a conquering king. In a profound way Isaiah combines the cradle and the cross, the beginning and the end of our Lord’s ministry.

Jesus, God in Christ, had intimate first-hand knowledge of our pain and suffering. We see this displayed in John 11 in the story of Lazarus. In verse 4 Jesus is told that his friend is sick. Jesus replies that this will not end as you expect. It is for God’s glory. Jesus then stayed an extra two days instead of returning immediately.

Consequently, Lazarus did indeed die. Upon hearing this Jesus set about to return. For Thomas this decision meant something more, for he declared, “Let us go that we may die with him.”

Following Jesus does not mean a life that rises to continuous blessing, going up and up and up. In point of fact, if we follow Christ it leads to great sorrow and pain.

In verse 33 we see how deeply moved Jesus was by the sorrow of those around him. He was familiar with sorrow. Jesus experiences the very grief that he is observing.

Sometimes life events can appear so random. Yet Jesus enters our sorrow that he might pull us out.

In Philippians 3:10-11 Paul writes:
10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

What we see in Scripture is that Christ comes to us in our sorrow, and walks alongside us to bring us to the hope of the resurrection.

There has been a lot of criticism of some Christians who are so “heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.” In truth, people who are heavenly minded are the ones who are making us earthly good.

We live with anticipation. We are anticipators. Though this life has good moments, it is not enough. Paul states that the aim of his life is to attain something more.

My exhortation to you today, Pastor Brad declared, is to become that kind of attainer.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

There's Room At The Table

A large volume of snow blanketed the Northland this weekend, providing challenging driving conditions this morning. The heartiness of our church family was revealed as the pews were suitably filled for this first Sunday in Advent.

Advent is an ancient church tradition that speaks of that period of anticipation, a period of longing. Just as the Jews awaited the coming of the Messiah in those centuries leading up to our Lord's birth, so too Advent is a celebration of the Lord's incarnation in the Christmas child. Each weak, as the Advent candles are lit, we are reminded of the increasing light that is coming into the world through the coming of Jesus. This morning the first Advent candle was lit.
Scripture readings: Psalm 122 and Matthew 24:36-44
Pastor Brad continued talking about the kingdom of God. Jesus, when He broke onto the scene, said, "My kingdom has come."

But what got Jesus into the most trouble was His tendency to hang around with the wrong people.

In Mark 2:13-17 we read the account of the calling of Levi. Tax collectors were not popular in Israel. And the very first thing we see is Jesus going to a dinner at Levi's house.

Banquets serve as a symbol or picture of the kingdom. The feast is a picture of God's abundance. And here we see Jesus enjoying the company of tax collectors and "sinners."
The Pharisees were the ones who knew the law, who knew right and wrong, and it was wrong for Jesus to claim to be righteous, yet hang out with the wrong people.

How big is God's table? How inclusive? And what are you and I going to do about it?

The common and the riff-raff were all part of Jesus' entourage. The religious leaders looked down their noses, had contempt for this mob. If you were righteous you did not eat with these people.

Here we see Jesus breaking the rules. All are invited to the table.

Jesus was deliberately provocative, claiming that the kingdom has arrived and all are invited, just the way they are. The Pharisees would welcome some if they cleaned up their act first. They had a list of things that were and were not acceptable. All too often, like the pharisees, we have our lists, too. Maybe its ethnic or cultural... or maybe we just don't like them.

At the house of a prominent Pharisee in Luke 14 there was a man with dropsy present. It was a setup, and the pharisees were keenly watching to see what Jesus would do. Jesus asked these experts in the law, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" knowing that in their view it was wrong to do any work on the Sabbath. Jesus healed the man. But he did not stop there in his challenging of their rigid belief systems.

7When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: 8"When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. 9If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, 'Give this man your seat.' Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. 10But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. 11For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."
12Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous."

Jesus tells a parable, the parable of the Great Banquet, which begins, "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests." Everyone who was invited made excuses of one kind or another. The servant was ultimately sent out to streets and alleys of the town to bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.

When we understand the times, what Jesus was suggesting was simply too radical. The Essenes had lists of who is "in" and who is not, who can be here and who can't. But Jesus was saying the banquet, His banquet, is open to all. And when there was still room, he sent servants to the highways and byways, still inviting more.

His invitation is to all. "There's room at My table for you."