The church is all about a mission from God. Well, actually, church is more often about a whole bunch of different things! …Some of them competing, or even contradictory.
But amidst all that “heady and exasperating mix,” we are supposed to keep God’s mission a central part of what we are and what we do as the church together. And what is the mission I am speaking of? The God of the Bible is a missionary God who graciously pursues people. You know: the one lost sheep. Well, figuratively that’s a person! Let’s try: The prodigal son. The woman at the well. The Ethiopian eunuch. Paul’s ministries in Corinth, Ephesus and Rome. And you and me.
God’s pursuit isn’t about dogging people (like some hound from hell). It’s about sharing God’s love farther… offering something we have received — spreading around some life-changing experience (that curiously is often otherwise easily missed, maybe because in God’s generosity, we are free to ignore or reject it?).
What’s the experience I am talking about? That people are loved — cherished — more than they know, and enough to be forgiven, and therein given another chance. That our God goes out of the way for anyone and everyone. Shows up for them. Stays alongside of them. Dies for them. Anyone — even the least, the lost and the last — is that important. So important, in fact, that not even death can eliminate them. Everyone is that precious.
And together the promises that come of God’s love, they make for a different way of understanding ourselves, others and God, and for a totally different way of living:
We find life’s deepest meanings
~ in serving, rather than being served.
~ in the fragile and vulnerable positions of love, rather than the false-securities of dominating riches and power.
~ in looking to others as blessings that add to our lives rather than threats and inhibitions of how we hope to live.
Hopefully, we who are Christians speak about and show these differences all the time. But it’s sometimes hard for people to hear them amidst the din of everything else that’s being said and broadcast in our world today — much louder voices demanding attention as they shout opposite messages of fear, hatred and violence.
And even when these promises are heard, I think, it’s sometimes hard for people to believe what we say or imagine what we are talking about. Is there really a place in this world as we know it where people matter and life is qualitatively better? Where the hurts don’t hurt as much? Where what often divides doesn’t have so much sway? Where we care for one another, and the earth that is to care for us?
The church is far from perfect or finished! But it exists to proclaim the gospel and to demonstrate — offer some decent facsimile — of the Kingdom of God where love reigns. To show in some real tangible words and deeds what we mean. To help us articulate and communicate. And to make it all easier for us to believe. “There, right there, I can point to a real life instance of the difference it makes!”
This is why we want to invite people to church. So they hear and see and can share in the difference the gospel makes. (If we experience the gospel as true, don’t we want to share it with others? )
Surely, you know someone who is struggling. Or someone who is grieving. Or feeling alone (or just new to the community)? Do you know anyone you worry about? A person who is in some sense wandering, or even lost, and not sure what to do with their lives?
As much as we sometimes wish we could, we can’t and shouldn’t try to fix anyone else (and maybe not even ourselves!). We don’t know enough; we don’t have the answers. But we know a place… literally and figuratively… a community and relationships with other people and with God that have helped us live better with our questions. And the mysteries. And disappointments.
Are the people we know and their questions all that different from us and our struggles? Maybe if we helped them get to church, they’d find among us something to help them with their lives…
A personal invitation, your offer to bring them to church for one of our Holy Week services, is the simplest way to break down any real or perceived barriers or resistance someone might have to walking into a new church building or being willing to engage in a new circle of people. In this sense, your opportunity and effort are to open the doors to the church, that others might look in and even experience something that could be a profound blessing to their lives.
This Sunday is Palm Sunday, followed by Holy Week and our Maundy Thursday’s Last Supper, both Good Friday services, and then Easter with its early service, breakfast, 11 worship and an easter egg hunt afterwards. One of the easiest times of the year to extend an invitation…
Take a moment, consider who you might invite, and then, if you wish, use this Old First Evite* with an image of the joy that breaks open on Easter morning with the cascarones.
It’s really easy (even if sometimes the internet feels overwhelming):
Step 1: Click on the link.
Step 2: On the thumbnail of the “Easter 2016 Evite,” choose either “preview” or “send”.
Step 3: After clicking on “send,” choose how you want to send your invitation — via e-mail, Facebook or Twitter.
Step 4: Personalize your invitation with a note (be careful — there’s limited space!), and your recipient(s)’ address(es). (You can send Evites out individually or to up to 8 people at a time, as works best with your message.)
Imagine if a bunch of us invited and brought people to these services!
Imagine, if just a percentage of those guests began to see something of what we have experienced — how Old First is different, special and adds to our lives!
It would be like an Easter gift we’re giving — not only to our guests, but to God! And worth any effort on our part if it turns out to be a way God can make someone else’s life a whole lot better!
See you in church (with friends),
* P.S. Of course, you could also invite someone with a phone call or in person! As well, offering to pick them up often seems to make it all easier…