iStock_000001223028XSmallImagine I invite you to dinner at my house. Next Friday @ 6 pm, we would like you and your family to join me Liz & our three daughters for dinner. Now, imagine getting to our house at 6, knocking on the door and as we lead you into the dining room you notice that the table is set for 5, and each of the spots are taken up by one of the Wilsons.  And while the roast on the table looks and smells great, a quick glance is all you need to know that there is no way there is enough for your family and mine.

Now, once she sees you Liz jumps up from the table, says, “we weren’t sure if you were coming,” runs into the kitchen and begins fixing more food.  I tell my kids, hey, our visitors have arrived, we need to get more chairs.  And although our dining room table is expandable, we have it small, because, well, it fits the five of us really comfortably.  And now, with all of the food already on the table, it would be way too difficult to make it any larger. So my kids bring out some folding chairs and tv trays and begin setting them up.  While your first assumption is that all the kids will sit at this little make-shift table, my kids set them and quickly head back to their place at the dining room table.

By this time, Liz has arrived back from the kitchen with some soup she has just microwaved and a few left-overs she was able to find in the kitchen.  As we get back to eating, Liz & I  talk to our kids about their day at school.  We discuss our plans for the weekend, tell a number of jokes that clearly mean a lot to my family but make absolutely no sense to you.

At the end of the meal, we tell you how happy we are that you joined us, and we’d love to do this again sometime.  And you can be sure, that next time, we’ll be ready for you!

A couple of quick questions for you…Did you enjoy yourself?  Are you coming back again?

A couple of quick questions for us…If we invited you, why weren’t we ready when you came?  Why didn’t we go out of our way to make you feel at home?

When Liz & I first moved to Ithaca, there was a pastor & his wife who invited us for dinner…when we got there, they weren’t home.  A couple of months later, they called us, apologized, and invited us over again.  You guessed it, they weren’t ready for us that time either.

Most of the people in the various churches that I’ve met, want to see people connecting with Jesus.  They want more and more people to come and have their lives impacted with the gospel…they pray about it…they have meetings to talk about it, but then when Sunday morning hits…the time when most of these currently unconnected people would actually check out their church, they are caught by surprise.

What if God is looking for a church where He can send people, and where He knows that when they get there, they were not only expected, they were welcomed, and it was clear that their showing up actually mattered?   Now, we can’t “make” God do anything.  We can’t figure out a magic formula to make God send people to our church…And, if we really believe that God sovereignly moves on people’s hearts and draws them to himself, then wouldn’t it make sense that He would send them to a group of people that we’re preparing a place for them, that weren’t just praying for them to show up, but actually acting like they believed God was going to answer those prayers?

Back to my dinner story…what if we’d cooked enough roast for that other family, set out enough chairs, and then they didn’t come?  We’d have enough food for an extra day or two.  Would you rather have prepared too much or not enough?

What if on Sunday we save the closest 12 parking spots for our 1st-time guests & only two of the spots get taken?  What if we have 25 packets ready for people who decide to start following Jesus and only 3 do?  What if we talked to them rather than simply engaging our closest friends.  What if we… Would you rather have prepared too much or not enough?

Sunday morning is the time when the family gets together for dinner…but we’re expecting and preparing for guests.  We’re ready for them, and we are excited they’re here!  One of the things I love about being part of the Ithaca Vineyard is that this is the heart of so many of the people here…God has been so generous to us, and I’m pretty sure He loves it when sees that same radical other’s focused generosity in His children.

edited: fixed a couple of major typos