I have a fantasy that someone extremely famous, either widely popular or perhaps controversial, would choose to worship with us. The mere mention of their presence would draw hundreds of people, filling our sanctuary to standing room only. Even on Sundays when this personality could not be in attendance, people would continue to visit just to sit in the same pew where that famous person sat. Newspapers and television journalists would show up unannounced to record worship services to analyze why we were chosen over other congregations.
I secretly hope that when we have an invite-a-friend Sunday, one of you invites a niece or nephew who happened to win a gold medal at the Olympics, or an uncle or aunt who has stared in a hit movie, or even a friend of the family who is running for election to a distinguished office. I imagine on Superbowl Sunday a player or coach from a team not playing that day would casually drop by and talk about providing bowls of soup for those less fortunate, the basis for Souper Bowl of Caring.
My fantasy imagines how even a brief visit would positively impact our congregation as their notoriety advanced the Kingdom of God in Temple Terrace. We would suddenly find ourselves in the enviable problem of having to expand our ministries and mission programs to add opportunities for all these new participants.
Two thousand years ago Jesus was the A-list guest to have at your dinner party. He would have been controversial among the rich and famous, although he was widely respected as a teacher and healer. When he was invited to a dinner party at the home of the leader of the local religious businessmen he advised them:
“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. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” – Luke 13:12-14
This biblical advice is the basis for our community dinners when we welcome anyone and everyone to come and have dinner with us free of charge. These dinners do not particularly advance our treasury. Although I have escorted a few guests at these dinners to see our sanctuary, these events have not been effective at attracting our guests to worship with us. But when we show our concern for those outside the church, we demonstrate the vitality of this congregation in our mission, our ministries, and in our worship.
I will have more to say about Luke 13:7-14 on Sunday, August 28th, 2016 at Temple Terrace Presbyterian Church.
Robert Shaw, Pastor