10-15-23 “Bring as Many People as You Can!”

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Matthew 22:1-14

Pastor Jenny Lee, Ph.D.

“Bring as Many People as You Can!”

I want to start with something funny I found on an internet site: After dying in a car crash, three friends go to Heaven for orientation. They are all asked the same question, “When you’re lying in your casket, and friends and family are mourning over you, what would you like to hear them say about you?” The first guy immediately responds, “I would like to hear them say that I was one of the great doctors of my time and a great family man.” The second guy says, “I would like to hear that I was a wonderful husband and school teacher who made a huge difference in the children of tomorrow.” The last guy thinks for a moment and then replies, “I guess I’d like to hear them say, “Look, he’s alive!”

What about you? What would you like to hear your people say about you at your celebration of life service? In Chicago, I led the young adult group at a retreat. We had a special event at the retreat: “to experience a funeral service.” The group was in their twenties and thirties. We all had a holy, but fearful moment to think about the end of life through that event: We wrote a last wish letter to loved ones and experienced lying in a casket while others had a celebration life service around us. After that experience, we rethought life: How we should live our lives as a child of God, as God gave us only one chance to live in the world. After that, I often think of my end of life and try to live in a good Christian way, one in which God intended for me.  I realized I want to save time and love others rather than fight or hate people. I lost my elder sister last year. I never knew I wouldn’t be able to visit her before she passed away. It has been for 15 years since I have seen my family in person. As you know, time flies so fast. Please save time to live out in God’s guidance; save time to love family, your people, and God, as life is short!

Today’s scripture is another parable story Jesus tells us, beginning with, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son.” We don’t know what the kingdom of Heaven looks like, but we can imagine through the several parable stories Jesus tells us. Today’s story is one of them. Here is the story in a brief way: there is a king who prepares a wedding party for his son. He prepared everything perfectly for the party and invited many people. But for his first invitation, no one wanted to come for several reasons, and they even killed his servants. He was upset and sent his troops, destroyed those murders, and burned their city. He sent other servants to bring everyone, whether good or bad. So, the party venue was full of people, but the king found one person who didn’t fit in the proper dress code. He ordered his servants to take him out.

Well, it is a challenging parable story to understand. You may think, what? Is it Heaven? Is Heaven like the king who invites people to his son’s wedding party, and then he gets upset and destroys the city?  Even though people came, because of a dress code, he kicks someone out?

Jesus tells this story before he dies on the cross. The king is likely God, who sends many missionaries, God’s people, and prophets to invite people to Heaven. However, few people listen to the prophets, God’s people, and missionaries’ invitations. The people sometimes persecute the people of God, even kill them. God may punish those who persecute God’s people. Some biblical scholars interpret this event as having occurred after Jesus died on the cross and related to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in the 70’s. The first group of people who received the invitation were Jews, but they rejected it, killing many prophets, even Jesus Christ. After Jesus’ crucifixion, the invitation was open to everyone, whether good or bad, whether Jews or Gentiles. The invitation is like the Good News of Jesus Christ, which is “For God so loved the world and gave his Only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Then, the invitation of Jesus Christ came over the world through many missionaries. Some of them were killed by those who rejected their invitation. And, finally, the invitation of Jesus Christ came to us. I know you all accepted that invitation and prepared to go to Heaven. But that is not all. We must get the invitation of the Good News of Jesus Christ and invite people around us. We are the people who received the invitation to Heaven, and at the same time, we are God’s servants sent by God to bring as many people as possible.

Do you know what our 2023 parish ministry theme is? We put the theme on the bulletin; you may see it every Sunday. Some of you might have seen my article in January’s newsletter, “Fill My House.” Our ministry theme is taken from the Gospel of Luke 14:23, “The master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in so that my house will be full.” The scripture story is similar to todays. A man was preparing for a great banquet and invited many guests. But no one would come for many reasons, and the master sent his servants to bring as many people as possible to fill the place, whether they were poor or rich or sick or healthy. But there were still rooms, and the man told his servants, “Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in so that my house will be full.”

How often do you invite your people to come to the church? How often do you tell non-Christians about Jesus Christ? You may say, “I used to do it a lot for many years, but no one heard me and came.” It is OK whether they heard you or not. Your duty as a child of God is to tell them about the Good News. In other words, you can invite them, but the decision is theirs. Even though they didn’t hear you, that’s not your fault. It matters whether you tell them or not.

A few weeks ago, I attended “School for Ministry” in Green Lake, and we had a small group gathering as provisional elders. We talked about how to make disciples in a local church. “Making Disciples” is Jesus’ great commission: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20a). I said that making disciples begins with “GO,” but we often miss “GO.” We mostly stay at church and at home, saying, we have “Open Doors,” but nobody comes in, so how and whom can we make disciples?

What do you think? If we don’t try to “OUTREACH,” how can we expect to fill God’s house? So, I suggest that if you don’t go out to see people, you may have a chance to see people around you, such as your family members, relatives, and friends. You may know who doesn’t have a church to attend among them. Why don’t you invite them before it is too late? Some of you may think you are too weak to go out to invite people to the church. If you feel this way then why don’t you put people as many as you can in your prayers? Make a list of whom you would invite to be Christians, and put them on your refrigerator door or on a mirror where you can see them well. Then, as you see the names, you may pray for them. Every morning, lift them to God in your prayers.

I am not talking about the number of members when I say, “Fill God’s House.” Instead, I want to fill God’s House with children’s joyful noise and people’s dancing minds and with vision and hope towards God. Remember, we made VBS together: we didn’t have enough money, people, or kids. But as God pleased us, God sent us money, volunteers, and kids. God makes things happen for us as long as we have hope with prayers. Let’s invite as many people as we can, and then we may see how God works for us! Thanks be to God. Amen!