The Great Invitation

by Rev. Randy Brown

Well, the holiday season is over! I thought I’d get a hallelujah, but I didn’t. Many times over these last several weeks, you have probably received an invitation, or given an invitation for something that you wanted somebody to do, or some kindness you wanted them to receive from you, or that they wanted to give you or bless you with. An invitation is a part of the season that we’ve just gone through, but we’re going to be talking today about another invitation that has come your way. Now during the coming year, you’re probably going to receive more invitations: there’ll be birthday invitations, there’ll be wedding invitations, there’ll…maybe even a retirement party invitation, and they’ll come your way.

When you receive an invitation, the first thing you do is to look and see who it’s from. Then, you check when and where and the particulars, but you look first of all to see who sent you an invitation. Then if it’s not important, or you deem it not important, you may temporarily lose it, or say you…I know y’all wouldn’t do that, but other folks that I know would say, “Well, I didn’t get it.” Well, you know, you first check to see who sent it, and then you look for the other details involved. Right? Okay. Confession’s good for the soul.

Invitations come to us from acquaintances, family members, neighbors…Sometimes we wonder why so and so would invite us to a particular function, and sometimes we may struggle with who it is that we would invite to a particular occasion. Invitations come, some expected, some not. Jesus invited folks to an adventure. I’ve noticed some things about the invitations that Jesus shared with folks and that he shares with us. (And in the middle section of your bulletin, on the inside, you may want to write a note or two. If you don’t, that’s okay.) But, as we look at that, as we look at invitations, there’s a couple of things I want us to look at. Invitations can cause disruptions to life. Look at what Chandler read a moment ago. There they were, Simon, Andrew, James and John; they were fishermen. They had their life planned out. They were going to spend their life in the Sea of Galilee, on the Sea of Galilee. They were going to have a commercial fishing business and that was what they were going to do. That was their life.

All of a sudden, there’s an itinerant preacher that comes along and he says, “You, and you, and you, and you, come follow me.” He invited them to an adventure – and their life was disrupted. No longer would they be reporting in at the same time every morning to go out and fish. No longer would they check the weather report to see how the fish might be biting the next day. Has God ever invited you to do something that disrupted your life? We talk to children all the time, “Well what do you want to be when you grow up?” and they have this elaborate plan of what they’re going to do and then all of a sudden, God may issue them an invitation and it disrupts all of the plans that they had for their life.

I think of a friend of mine, who was destined to be one of the top policemen in our nation’s capital. He was making great strides in his career to do just that, and then all of a sudden, boom, God says, “Tom, I’ve got something else for you. I want you to leave this job. I want you to enroll in Vanderbilt University Divinity School. I’m going to use you in marvelous ways in the ministry through the Methodist church.” God disrupted his plans – at one invitation.

I remember a church member we had in Gallatin who was a doctor, and he had all the plans to be all that he could be in the medical field, in Sumner County. And all of a sudden God said, “Boom! Walter, Africa, that’s where I want you to go.” God disrupted his life and sent him to Africa, and his wife, she wasn’t too sure about it; she went, but she wasn’t too sure about it. Sometimes God’s invitation will disrupt our lives.

So it was with James and John, the sons of Zebedee who were in the boat, and as they were mending their nets, this itinerant preacher, son of a carpenter, comes by and says, “Come, follow me.” Now don’t miss this. He didn’t say, “Go fishing.” He said, “Come follow me, and I’ll teach you how to fish for people.” One is professional. The other is spiritual. As they followed Him, and as you and I seek to follow him, He’ll grow us into what He wants us to be, and by our very lives, we will catch fish because Jesus said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto Me.” If we are following Him, He will teach us how to lift Him up, and then people will be drawn to Him.

Think back over your busy season. There may have been a time, there may have been a night that you didn’t have anything on the calendar, and you said, “I can just stay home and I don’t have to do anything tonight.” Then all of a sudden, there was an invitation, and it disrupted everything. Sometimes God’s invitation to you and to me disrupts our life, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes His invitations disrupts our life.

Sometimes, if we look at Matthew 11:28, God’s invitation is exactly what we need. For he says to us, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Sometimes after the season of year that we’ve just experienced, we need rest, don’t we? I heard somebody say earlier today, “I got to go back to work tomorrow just to get some rest.” Sometimes we get so busy that we forget that we need to rest in the Lord. That’s an important part of growing spiritually. The Scripture doesn’t say, “Stay busy and you’ll hear from me.” The Scripture says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Be still. Take some quiet time. Take some still time, some down time – a Sabbath.

The Scripture talks about our hearts are restless until we rest in him. First Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all of your cares upon him because he cares for you.” Rest is a spiritual discipline. And sometimes we need to just get rid of things, and get rid of the clutter, and spend time alone, and allow God to come and restore us. “He leads me beside the still water, he restores my soul.” The invitation of Jesus is to “Come all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

The third invitation is this: out of Matthew 14:29 sometimes his invitation can take us to places that we would never expect to go. Peter walked on water. If you’d have asked him earlier that morning, he’d have said, “I can’t do that.” Jesus invited him to come, to step out into an adventure that on his own he didn’t have the power to do. He stepped out in faith and God took him to places that he never thought he could go. “Moses, Moses.” God said to him, “I got the plan for you. I got a job for you.” And Moses said, “I’m slow of speech. I can’t do that. Who am I to go to Pharaoh?” and God said, “You’re my chosen one.”

Sometimes the invitation of God will take you to unexpected places. He’ll call you to do unexpected things. It was his invitation to the woman at the well that gave her new life. It was the invitation of Lazarus to come forth from the dead. It was the invitation of Zacchaeus. Now Zacchaeus, that short little guy, he didn’t have any problem going and sitting on the limb of the tree, but his invitation to Zacchaeus was, “I want to go home with you.” I want to go home with you. Zacchaeus would’ve never dreamed in a million years that that would’ve been the invitation of Jesus, to go to his house.

Where is God calling you to go this year? What’s God calling you to do? He’s probably calling you to some unexpected places and to do some unexpected things, but that’s the call that he has for you. His invitation can disrupt your life. His invitation may be exactly what you need and his invitation will take you to unexpected places.

Now the fourth one is this: His invitation causes me, and you to establish priorities. I told you how we do things, how when we get that invitation, the first thing we look at is to see who sent it? Then we prioritize, “Well, if I don’t have anything else to do, I might go to that.” His invitation causes us to establish priorities.

There was a few years ago when I was at church one night, and a friend of mine was talking and we had just had a good conversation. I got home later that night and he called me and he said, “What are you doing tomorrow?” I said, “I don’t have any plans. What do you need?” He said, “Well, I got to go to Nashville.” I said, “Okay.” He said, “I need somebody to drive me.” I said, “Okay. “ I said, “What time are we leaving?” He said, “Oh, late afternoon.” I said, “Where are we going?” He said, “Well, can you go?” I said, “Yeah, I can go, but tell me where we’re going and I’ll make sure I can go.” He said, “We’re going to LP Field and the Titans are playing the Colts, and we got sideline passes.” I said, “It don’t matter what else I got going.” That was a priority. Sometimes that’s the way we do things. It’ll take us to places that we never thought we’d go, but we have to have our priorities right.

When Jesus invited the fishermen, James and John, to follow him, they had to get their priorities right. Can you imagine what daddy Zebedee must have felt? He’s there in the boat; he’s about ready to hand this business off to his two boys and then all of a sudden this preacher comes by, plans have changed, disrupted, and they’re saying, “Dad, it’d have been great to be part of the family business, but we got to do this.” They had to get their priorities. What would they do?

What are your priorities? Do you know? Or, do you think you know? This isn’t a beat down sermon. It’s a wake-up sermon because sometimes we may think we know what our priorities are, but we may just be fooling ourselves. If we want to know what are priorities are, make a list. I challenge you this week, make a list. What do you think your priorities are in whatever area of life you choose? Write those down and then to really discover what our priorities are, let’s get out our checkbook and see if it matches up. Let’s get out how we spend our time, devotionally, and see if it matches up.

How much time do we spend in the study of God’s word? How much time do we spend in prayer? How much time do we spend in other disciplines? Let’s look at what we thought our priorities are, and what we’re actually doing and see if they match up. Because the only way to grow is to realize that we need to grow and the only way we grow spiritually is to take where we are and see where we want to be and let God take us there. You see His invitations sometimes can disrupt our life. Sometimes can be exactly what we need. Sometimes His invitation will take us to unexpected places, to do unexpected things, but His invitation, we have to establish priorities.

What areas of your life do you need to be disrupted? Where in your life do you need to find rest? Are you willing to follow him into those unexpected places? What needs to change so that our priorities are in order? His great invitation to you is, “Come, follow me, and I’ll teach you.” That’s what he wants to do. He wants to teach us. Are we willing? What will we do with the invitation?

I’m through preaching and now you got to answer.

Let us pray.

Father, in these moments together, we realize that your invitation is for us, to come to you, to follow you, to leave it all behind and follow you. Heavenly Father, some of us are going to really struggle with that. Some of us really need courage to do what you call us to do. Some of us may be hearing your call and are scared to death. Some of us don’t know how we’ll respond, but Lord, continue to invite us until we accept your invitation to follow those nail-scarred hands. Give us courage, grace and boldness. In Jesus’ name.