"Spread the reign of God the Lord, Spoken, written, mighty Word; Ev'rywhere His creatures call, To His heav'nly banquet hall.
"Enter, mighty Word, the field; Ripe the promise of its yield. But the reapers, oh, how few, For the work there is to do!
If you could have dinner with any individual, past or present, whom would you invite? Some people might choose a long-mourned loved one, just to spend a little more time together. Others would invite a favorite movie star or a well-known athlete. Of course, quite a few of us would select Jesus as a dinner companion. But what if the choice belonged to Jesus? Who would receive an invitation to His table?
During His earthly ministry Jesus was criticized for eating with all the wrong sort of people. Those who considered themselves respectable and, in their own opinion, worthy of the Lord's invitation, pointed out with disdain that Jesus ate with tax collectors and sinners. According to Jesus' own parable, it is "the poor and crippled and blind and lame" who find a welcome in His banquet hall (Luke 14:21b). Jesus invites the kind of unexpected guests He described in His Sermon on the Mount—the poor, the mourning, the meek, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness and those who are persecuted (see Matthew 5-7).
These are the people Jesus calls to His banquet table because the invitation of Jesus does not begin with the worthiness of the guests. From start to finish, Jesus' invitation is all about Jesus' compassion. Everywhere He went, teaching and healing and proclaiming the kingdom of God, Jesus encountered crowds, and He had compassion on them. These people were not necessarily wealthy or famous or popular—although Jesus had compassion on those people, too. But the Lord sees all of His future dinner guests as they really are: "harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd" (Matthew 9:36b). He sees them as He sees us all, sinners in desperate need of a Savior.
These are the people Jesus invites, the ones who need to hear the invitation to His heavenly banquet hall. They are guests to be included, sheep to be carefully counted, a harvest waiting to be gathered. "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few" (Matthew 9:37b). "Pray," Jesus tells us. Ask the Lord to send workers into His harvest. Pray for pastors, teachers and missionaries who, with the Gospel invitation in hand, will enter fields ripe for harvest. Pray, and then prepare to enter the harvest fields of your own neighborhood, workplace, and community. You, too, have invitations to deliver, because the Lord is at work, here and now, filling His banquet hall.
THE PRAYER: Lord of the harvest, send workers into Your harvest fields. Bless all those who carry Your Gospel invitation into the world. Lead us by Your Spirit to be faithful witnesses for You as we invite others to Your banquet hall. Amen.
This Daily Devotion was written by Dr. Carol Geisler. It is based on the hymn, "Spread the Reign of God the Lord," which is found on page 830 of the Lutheran Service Book.
1. Have you ever been out of place at a dinner function? What was the occasion?
2. Heaven is pictured as a great and joyous gathering. Does that image appeal to you?
3. Have you ever been exclusive or selective regarding someone's attendance or participation in some event? Was that a difficult decision?
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