Advent: December 19

Luke 10:38-42

The Lord and his disciples were traveling along and came to a village. When they got there, a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat down in front of the Lord and was listening to what he said. Martha was worried about all that had to be done.

Finally, she went to Jesus and said, "Lord, doesn't it bother you that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to come and help me!" The Lord answered, "Martha, Martha! You are worried and upset about so many things, but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen what is best, and it will not be taken away from her."

We all know this story, perhaps so well that we may forget to dwell on it. If your response to hearing or reading a passage of scripture is to say, “I’ve already heard that one”, then you are in danger of seriously missing out. The Holy Spirit releases truth as we delve into scripture, reading it, reciting it, hearing it. The more we do these things, the more the Holy Spirit reveals the truth that lies behind the words. At first reading it may seem that Mary’s good, and Martha’s the wrong ‘un, but we will still feel a little uneasy about it because we’re probably on Martha’s side!

Perhaps we accept that Martha may have stepped out of line, and that we should all be sitting at Jesus’ feet, because Jesus told Martha that Mary had done the better thing. But the question still remains: can a potato peel itself?

Martha knew the ancient law of hospitality. It wasn’t only Jesus who turned up that day – his disciples were there, too. I don’t suppose they’d brought any food with them, or stopped off at the take-away on the way over. Here was a crowd that needed feeding, and over in the kitchen (in the possibly one-roomed house!) was Martha doing what she knew was the right and proper thing.

She was overwhelmed. I don’t think she was overwhelmed with anger with her sister or with Jesus, but she was being swallowed up in the waves of duty, trying to do the work of two. She may be feeling a little self-righteous – she addresses Jesus and not her sister. (Where else do we hear people speaking like this to Jesus?) If Mary had walked away from her duty of hospitality, why not speak to her directly? It’s never a good idea to address Jesus from the position of your own self-righteousness.

Jesus speaks kindly to her – he would never abuse his host, and he simply tells Martha the truth – Mary has done the better thing.

Many Christians will describe themselves as a Martha, identifying with the pull of duty and the shame of failing to provide, rather than as a Mary. Anyone presenting as a Mary in your fellowship may not be universally accepted by the Martha faction. Can the church flowers arrange themselves?

What would have happened if both sisters came to Jesus’ feet?

What would have happened if both sisters got on with the cooking?

Was Mary the one who knew better in all things?

What is the one thing that Jesus says is necessary?

Father God, so often I chose the busy thing, the duty thing, or in fact anything that will keep me from coming into your presence and sitting at your feet. Warm my heart, Lord. Amen.

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.


Advent: December 18

Romans 12:13-21

Take care of God's needy people and welcome strangers into your home. Ask God to bless everyone who mistreats you. Ask him to bless them and not to curse them. When others are happy, be happy with them, and when they are sad, be sad. Be friendly with everyone. Don't be proud and feel that you are smarter than others. Make friends with ordinary people. Don't mistreat someone who has mistreated you. But try to earn the respect of others, and do your best to live at peace with everyone.

Dear friends, don't try to get even. Let God take revenge. In the Scriptures the Lord says, "I am the one to take revenge and pay them back." The Scriptures also say, "If your enemies are hungry, give them something to eat. And if they are thirsty, give them something to drink. This will be the same as piling burning coals on their heads." Don't let evil defeat you, but defeat evil with good.

Paul encourages his listeners to consider the needy, especially the needy of the new congregations of the “followers of The Way”, as Christians were described in the early days. Some congregations were very poor, and Paul encouraged the other congregations to support them.

Paul echoes that which has been drummed into him from an early age – welcome strangers. I’d say that Paul spent quite a high proportion of his time in urban situations, unlike Abraham, but the rule of hospitality is still to be kept.

Paul now takes things to a higher level – we are to bless people who curse us. That’s a far cry from God’s promise to Abraham that He would bless those who blessed him, but curse those who cursed him. Now we see a positive change. A curse is on God’s table, ready for delivery to those who curse us, but we may ask God to turn this round to a blessing. Imagine sending a blessing to someone who hates you. Imagine asking God to give them success in work, in life, in family after what they’ve done for you. But perhaps this is an odd form of hospitality. You break the cycle of retribution, giving to that person a blessing and receiving blessing from God.

Paul tells us to turn the other cheek, not because we like suffering, or consider it a religious duty. Neither of these attitudes will bring any blessing at all to you or the person who wronged you. In turning the other cheek we offer unconditional love to a person – it may be costly for us – but returning when we can an insult with a blessing will be part of a process that leads to the venom being drawn.

If your enemy at a disadvantage, don’t take the advantage. If they’re down, don’t kick them – pick them up! If he or she is hungry, then offer food. Crazy hospitality, but it will work! Your enemy will eventually be in debt to you, and that’s as painful as having a shovelful of hot coals in their hat!

Defeat evil with good. What other way can evil be defeated? It’s what Jesus did.

What can you do to welcome strangers, by yourself or with others?

Read 1 Corinthians 16:1-4. Do you know where does your church’s money go?

Read 2 Corinthians 8:1-5. How does your church compare with the Macedonian Church?

Father God, I pray that you will protect your people from harm, and that, as we pray for the nation in which we live, you will grant us a quiet life. For those churches in other countries where there is state or religious oppression, I pray that we who are comfortable remember those who are not. May my church be like the Macedonian church in giving and supporting. Give strength and grace to all those who suffer for their faith. Amen.

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.


Reflecting upon Christmas

This reflection was offered at our Carol Services. It is based on the traditional last reading from the Nine Lessons and Carols service, which is the opening of the Gospel of St John:

In the beginning the Word existed. He was with God at the beginning…

John’s Gospel is not the easiest to understand. It would be best read when you have time and space to read a bit and then ponder on it for a bit. Perhaps by yourself in a deckchair in the garden on a warm summer’s day when all the domestic chores are done and the day is yours.

John explains to us in words something that is almost impossible to understand – that God became Man. But we start at the beginning, but of course there is no beginning, for God lives in eternity and eternity has no beginning and no ending. As far as mere mortals can express time unknown, or that which existed before time itself existed, it’s probably simplest to call this the beginning.

He, the Word, Jesus, was there with God. There was never a moment (and here we have to talk about time again!) when the Word did not exist. The Word was not Jesus – Jesus was not born, but that’s who He became as He came from Heaven to our little planet, embodying Father’s love and charged to carry out Father’s plan. Since the time of Adam, Man had fallen away from God. To bring Man back to God, God came, The Word came, in human form, to live a human life, to be like us.

This is the most amazing and distinctive miracle that separates our faith from any other – God became Man. He who spoke everything, absolutely everything into existence – light, the cosmos, life – came to us like one of his own creation, like one of us, to live like us, to demonstrate His Father’s love to us, the bring us God’s Kingdom and to take us back into His family.

As the hymn puts it – I cannot tell why He, whom angels worship, should set his love upon the sons of men.

But that’s what he did. He came, in human form, as a baby who was named Jesus, born of a mother, who lived like us, and who knew that before he grew old he would suffer and die to pay the price of our sins so that we may be brought back to Father God as his adopted Children.

The carols we’ve sung speak of the birth, the Incarnation, of God taking on flesh. Christmas is not about the baby – it’s about God’s inestimable love and about the greatest man who ever lived.

Advent: December 17

Matthew 25:31-36

When the Son of Man comes in his glory with all of his angels, he will sit on his royal throne. The people of all nations will be brought before him, and he will separate them, as shepherds separate their sheep from their goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the king will say to those on his right, "My father has blessed you! Come and receive the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world was created. When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me, and when I was naked, you gave me clothes to wear. When I was sick, you took care of me, and when I was in jail, you visited me."

I’m sure you know the script on this one. Those who are standing on the right are baffled that Jesus has said that they had looked after him. Jesus replies that in doing such things for any of God’s people they had done it for him. The ones standing on the left are somewhat aggrieved that they get the opposite treatment – you did not visit me, etc. But they had done nothing for anyone.

While it’s a simple story, helped by the two balancing scenarios, it states plainly and starkly that we are called to be hospitable. Hospitality is extended to include clothing the naked, caring for the sick and visiting the prisoners. Not all prisoners across this world are in prison for doing bad things.

We love what the Salvation Army does. It might be that we are glad that they’re doing it so we don’t have to. We might not like getting into the sort of places they go or dealing with the sort of people they deal with. We might not like regular commitment as it makes demands on our work, family and social life. Left side or right side – you choose.

Do you feed the hungry or give water to the thirsty? Yes/No

Do you welcome strangers? Yes/No

Do you clothe the naked? Yes/No

Do you care for the sick? Yes/No

Do you visit prisoners? Yes/No

Which of these does your church do?

Father God, I do not want to stand on the wrong side of You. If I or my church is found wanting in the care we offer to others then I confess my personal or our corporate failure before You. Help me put it right. Amen.

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.


Advent: December 16

John 7:37-44

On the last and most important day of the festival, Jesus stood up and shouted, "If you are thirsty, come to me and drink! Have faith in me, and you will have life-giving water flowing from deep inside you, just as the Scriptures say."

Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit, who would be given to everyone that had faith in him. The Spirit had not yet been given to anyone, since Jesus had not yet been given his full glory.

When the crowd heard Jesus say this, some of them said, "He must be the Prophet!" Others said, "He is the Messiah!" Others even said, "Can the Messiah come from Galilee? The Scriptures say that the Messiah will come from the family of King David. Doesn't this mean that he will be born in David's hometown of Bethlehem?" The people started taking sides against each other because of Jesus.

Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him.

Jesus tells it as it is, and he gets a mixed reaction. There’s no encounter with a person, just a bold statement shouted out. Teachers usually sat to teach, but Jesus stands. It is likely that people listening would not necessarily understand what Jesus meant, but the teachers of the Law would.

Jesus was quoting from Isaiah chapter 55:

If you are thirsty, come and drink water! If you don't have any money, come, eat what you want! Drink wine and milk without paying a penny. Why waste your money on what really isn't food? Why work hard for something that doesn't satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and you will enjoy the very best foods.

And Jesus has claimed this scripture for himself. He has fulfilled it – “Come to me!” Those teachers that realised what Jesus had done would probably have taken a dim view – to their minds this would be blasphemy. It was probably not the best time to arrest Jesus, when emotions and religious fervour were running high on this special festival day.

Jesus is offering the Holy Spirit, symbolised, amongst other things, by running water. It is available to all who call on the name of Jesus as Lord and Saviour. Jesus doesn’t talk about the milk and wine, attractive though they may seem in comparison to bland water, but the gift Jesus is offering is free and unlimited, ever flowing, and it reaches parts milk and wine simply cannot reach, and they will deteriorate rapidly. It is the ultimate quencher of thirst, the thing most needed in a dry and barren land, or in a life of faith that feels like it’s crawling through the desert. An outpouring or an infilling of God’s Holy Spirit refreshes and enables, empowers and emboldens us to do the work Jesus calls us to.

Many Christians live a life of faith but have no experience of the Living Water Jesus offers. They may be dutiful, obedient and attentive to prayer, bible-reading and living according to God’s way for them. However, the prospect of being inundated is something they shy away from, standing at the side of the pool while others swim, or worse, like Pharisees considering those swimming to be irreverent and disorderly. Some may even claim that the source has now dried up. I believe it still to be wide open to anyone who has faith in him.

Jesus is risen, ascended and glorified. That turn of events has opened the floodgates of God’s Holy Spirit. Jesus wants to set his Holy Spirit water-canon on us. He wants us to dive into the sparkling deep spring. He wants this water to flow from deep within us.

Are there areas of your life that still resist the call of Jesus?

Do you have the experience of Living Water?

If not, then who could you talk to?

Father God, You sent Jesus not only to raise us up to be kings and priests before you, but also to fill us to overflowing with your Holy Spirit. Fill me/fill me once more with your Holy Spirit so that I may be the person You have called me to be. Amen.

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.


Advent: December 15

John 4:3-30 (shortened)

Jesus sat down beside [the well]. It was noon, and a Samaritan woman came to draw water from the well. Jesus asked her, "Would you please give me a drink of water?" "You are a Jew," she replied, "and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink of water when Jews and Samaritans won't have anything to do with each other?" Jesus answered, "You don't know what God wants to give you, and you don't know who is asking you for a drink. If you did, you would ask me for the water that gives life."

…The woman replied, "Sir, please give me a drink of that water! Then I won't get thirsty and have to come to this well again."

Jesus told her, "Go and bring your husband." The woman answered, "I don't have a husband." "That's right," Jesus replied, "you're telling the truth. You don't have a husband. You have already been married five times, and the man you are now living with isn't your husband."

…God is Spirit, and those who worship God must be led by the Spirit to worship him according to the truth. The woman said, "I know that the Messiah will come. He is the one we call Christ. When he comes, he will explain everything to us." "I am that one," Jesus told her, "and I am speaking to you now." The disciples returned about this time and were surprised to find Jesus talking with a woman.

The woman left her water jar and ran back into town. She said to the people, "Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! Could he be the Messiah?" Everyone in town went out to see Jesus.

Jesus was an itinerant. He had no fixed place. He could not invite folks over for a meal. He relied on others to give him the things he needed. You may like to think about the long journeys he made from place to place with his disciples, journeys that could last days, away from their homes. Where did the food come from?

You ought to read the full story if you can – it is unfair to copyright holders to quote large chunks.

It’s only water, not a banquet. The whole conversation comes from a sinful woman’s act of kindness in giving water to someone she despised. Jesus had no means of drawing the water himself. She despised Jews, but she obeyed the ancient law. She didn’t believe that this Jew could actually give her water that gives life, but as the conversation goes on, and Jesus reveals himself to the woman, her faith rises. For all her feistiness and religious identity she listens to Jesus. The clincher comes when Jesus discloses his knowledge of her married status and history.

The woman who responded to Jesus’ request with a small act of hospitality became the recipient of something far, far greater.

Would you be prepared to tell the world that Jesus knew about your sinful acts?

Why did Jesus choose a disrespected woman who had little influence in her community?

Are you prepared to offer hospitality to someone you despise?

Father God, I won’t always see the results of my giving to strangers, or to the charities who act on my behalf, but I know that you see every small act of kindness I make, and will reward it. Loosen my pocket/purse, Lord. Amen.

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.


Advent: December 14

Genesis 24:9-21

The servant gave Abraham his word that he would do everything he had been told to do. Soon after that, the servant loaded ten of Abraham's camels with valuable gifts. Then he set out for the city in northern Syria, where Abraham's brother Nahor lived. When he got there, he let the camels rest near the well outside the city.

It was late afternoon, the time when the women came out for water. The servant prayed: You, LORD, are the God my master Abraham worships. Please keep your promise to him and let me find a wife for Isaac today. The young women of the city will soon come to this well for water, and I'll ask one of them for a drink. If she gives me a drink and then offers to get some water for my camels, I'll know she is the one you have chosen and that you have kept your promise to my master.

While he was still praying, a beautiful unmarried young woman came by with a water jar on her shoulder. She was Rebekah, the daughter of Bethuel, the son of Abraham's brother Nahor and his wife Milcah. Rebekah walked past Abraham's servant, then went over to the well, and filled her water jar.

When she started back, Abraham's servant ran to her and said, "Please let me have a drink of water." "I'll be glad to," she answered. Then she quickly took the jar from her shoulder and held it while he drank.

After he had finished, she said, "Now I'll give your camels all the water they want." She quickly poured out water for them, and she kept going back for more, until his camels had drunk all they wanted. Abraham's servant did not say a word, but he watched everything Rebekah did, because he wanted to know for certain if this was the woman the LORD had chosen.

You might care to read the opening of the chapter to get some introduction into this story. God rather enjoys carrying out his plan with hospitable acts in mind. It’s not clear if God had prepared Rebekah like he’d prepared the widow of Zarephath. It’s interesting that Abraham, having been promised by God that he would have innumerable descendants didn’t seem to mind passing on the responsibility of choosing a wife for the next generation to a servant. What a task the servant had, never mind being responsible for a shed load of valuables!

The servant was prayerful over the task he had. He had no idea of what to do. His prayer is delightfully simple, and God’s response to that prayer is more than confirmative. Rebekah is more than ready to offer the servant a drink. She might have dismissed him as being of a lower caste than her, but she didn’t. She responded to the ancient law of hospitality, and even offered to water the camels. Matthew 10:42.

This was enough for the servant to believe. Rebekah had blessed him with kindness, and now he could move forward to approach her family.

We may as well deal with elephants – was there inbreeding, or did God want to keep the line of descendants pure? Perhaps we might look at Numbers 25 (ADVISORY: contains sexual references and violence!), which may or may not clear the issue, and the book of Ruth, with its small acts of kindness.

How important is it that we act out God’s plan through hospitality on our part?

How would you respond to the accusation that Isaac and Rebekah are second cousins?

What nationality was Ruth, and why was she significant?

Father God, teach me to see and not miss opportunities for small acts of kindness and prompt me to act on them. Amen.

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.


Advent: December 13

John 2:1-11

Three days later Mary, the mother of Jesus, was at a wedding feast in the village of Cana in Galilee. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited and were there. When the wine was all gone, Mary said to Jesus, "They don't have any more wine."

Jesus replied, "Mother, my time hasn't yet come! You must not tell me what to do." Mary then said to the servants, "Do whatever Jesus tells you to do."

At the feast there were six stone water jars that were used by the people for washing themselves in the way that their religion said they must. Each jar held about twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus told the servants to fill them to the top with water. Then after the jars had been filled, he said, "Now take some water and give it to the man in charge of the feast."

The servants did as Jesus told them, and the man in charge drank some of the water that had now turned into wine. He did not know where the wine had come from, but the servants did.

He called the bridegroom over and said, "The best wine is always served first. Then after the guests have had plenty, the other wine is served. But you have kept the best until last!"

Jesus and his family were among the probably many guests at a wedding. Hospitality at events like these was something that the host would have saved up for. As much as the host knew his obligation to celebrate the marriage well with fine feasting, the guests also knew that they could expect it!

The host also knew that you don’t save the best wine until last. After merriment sets in, and with it, a lessening of discernment, any old wine is everybody’s best friend. We should dwell on the failure of the host to gauge the thirstiness of his guest for a moment, in order to sense the shame and the dishonour the host would have brought to the family had the wine run out – the guests would be talking and gossiping about it for generations (imagine the host’s name is Ahab) –

“Darling, for goodness’ sake get plenty of wine in for our daughter’s wedding – remember Ahab?”

“When your neighbour’s grandparents married, they ran out of wine. They’ve never lived it down.”

“The whole village was shocked that Ahab had kept half of the wine for himself.”

“That good-for-nothing Ahab always did do things on the cheap.”

Shame expands into spaces where it had not existed before, through inventive re-telling of an event.

Mary senses the impending disaster. She tells Jesus. Jesus rebukes her, but Mary knows he’ll do something. When Jesus orders 150 gallons of water to be poured into the ritual-washing jars the servants do, without question, as requested. Upon the pouring out of the water it is wine, fine wine, the very best wine. Jesus, in response to the hospitality offered him, blesses the host with vast quantities of “previously undiscovered” wine, around 80 cases of the stuff in today’s measurements.

“We’ve never had a wedding since in the last fifty years anything like the one Ahab hosted – that was something else.”

Why didn’t Jesus just produce enough wine to keep the party going?

How generous is God? Do you base your answer on your experience or God’s promises?

Can you agree with Luke 6:38?

Father God, you long to lavish the very best upon us who honour you. How could You give us any less? Build up my expectation of your goodness and provision in all things that touch my life. Amen.

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.



Advent: December 12

Luke 19:1-10

Jesus was going through Jericho, where a man named Zacchaeus lived. He was in charge of collecting taxes and was very rich. Jesus was heading his way, and Zacchaeus wanted to see what he was like. But Zacchaeus was a short man and could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree.

When Jesus got there, he looked up and said, "Zacchaeus, hurry down! I want to stay with you today." Zacchaeus hurried down and gladly welcomed Jesus.

Everyone who saw this started grumbling, "This man Zacchaeus is a sinner! And Jesus is going home to eat with him." Later that day Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "I will give half of my property to the poor. And I will now pay back four times as much to everyone I have ever cheated." Jesus said to Zacchaeus, "Today you and your family have been saved, because you are a true son of Abraham. The Son of Man came to look for and to save people who are lost."

Zacchaeus was the chief of all the tax collectors in Jericho. I can’t begin to imagine how much money came his way, how much of the hard-earned cash from the toil of labourers, farmers, shepherds, vineyard workers, builders, carpenters, grocers, fishermen, boat-builders, tent-makers, and so on, came into his grasp. I don’t think Zacchaeus’ work was hard – he could employ someone to do the books, and possibly a henchman/woman or two to make sure the cash came in. We see him too often as a funny little man – is that realistic?

Again, something stirred. Perhaps this was the moment that God had prepared long ago for Zacchaeus, before he was even in his mother’s womb. Did Jesus know who Zacchaeus was? How did he know his name? Had Jesus been in Jericho before? Or did the Holy Spirit prompt Jesus with the knowledge? One thing God knew was that Zacchaeus was a cheat, and he’d amassed more wealth than was due to him. Jesus did not need to tell Zacchaeus this – Zacchaeus openly confessed what he’d done. Was he fearful of being found out? I doubt that. I prefer to think that the presence of Jesus at his house, at his table, a most significant and intimate place, shone a light into his own heart, and revealed his sin.

Zacchaeus’ response is more than generous. Paying back those he’d cheated, and this suggests to me that Zacchaeus knew exactly who he’d cheated, with four times the overcharge would cut a chunk out of Zacchaeus’ wealth. This man did not leave his work. Having Jesus at table with him resulted in restoring him to a true Son of Abraham and an honest man.

Did God’s plan for me start before I was born? How can I tell?

How do you feel when a known cheat comes to church?

Does God condemn tax collectors?

Father God, it is when I am surprised by evidence of your love and care for me that I am more able to respond to you. Make each day for me a surprise. Aman.

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.



Advent: December 11

Luke 14:15-24

After Jesus had finished speaking, one of the guests said, "The greatest blessing of all is to be at the banquet in God's kingdom!"

Jesus told him: A man once gave a great banquet and invited a lot of guests. When the banquet was ready, he sent a servant to tell the guests, "Everything is ready! Please come." One guest after another started making excuses. The first one said, "I bought some land, and I've got to look it over. Please excuse me." Another guest said, "I bought five teams of oxen, and I need to try them out. Please excuse me." Still another guest said, "I have just got married, and I can't be there."

The servant told his master what happened, and the master became so angry that he said, "Go as fast as you can to every street and alley in town! Bring in everyone who is poor or crippled or blind or lame."

When the servant returned, he said, "Master, I've done what you told me, and there is still plenty of room for more people." His master then told him, "Go out along the back roads and fence rows and make people come in, so that my house will be full. Not one of the guests I first invited will get even a bite of my food!"

We’ve heard something similar a few days back. In this parable we hear the excuses people put up when they receive the invitation. Why would anyone not look at land before they bought it?! Oxen can wait, as can the marriage bed.

The greatest banquet of all time is being prepared for you. It will be the most lavish, the most abundant in provision, with every food you love prepared just for you. The Master of the Feast has an eye for detail. Your place-name will be engraved in the finest gold; your seat will be encrusted with the finest jewels (and a fine cushion so you don’t chafe), and there, at the head of this banquet, will sit The Lamb, the Bridegroom, and we will understand that together we are His Bride.

Now would you be wanting to try out that new car you just bought, or check out the new extension when this invitation is to the Banquet of the King of Kings – no royal banquet can touch it. Jesus hints again that it’s God’s chosen people who are making the excuses, and that their casual responses will lose them their place.

In Jesus’ time people like us would have been the ones Jesus’ parable describes as incomplete or far away. We are now among the first invited guests. How might we respond to this request of Jesus to attend the wedding supper of all wedding suppers?

Isn’t the extravagance of this Supper a little over the top?

Do we eat food in heaven?

Is there nothing else to do but eat and drink?

Father God, I have so many questions about heaven. Teach me and reveal to me how in your great love and kindness it is a wonderful and right thing to accept your lavish and overflowing provision. Amen.

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.