Decline Invitation Formal Letter

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					Allison United Methodist                           Text: Luke 14:15-24
November 25, 2007 / Christ The King festival
T.A. Maurer


                 “An Unlikely Guest List”
As you just heard, Jesus was a master storyteller. By using
parables He was able to deal with controversy indirectly while
still making His point. Such was the case in today’s parable.

In the text you just heard, Jesus tells a story of a prominent man
hosting a banquet. He meant the story to be a metaphor for the
Kingdom of God. As you likely know, the Kingdom which Christ
rules as Sovereign is very much different from the earthly
kingdoms his contemporaries knew, as it is from the way think
about government today. The Kingdom which Jesus rules is
usually counter-culture from our usual way of thinking.

(Display slide of tables set for a State Dinner)

For example, most of us have heard about the White House
hosting State Dinners, though I doubt any of us have ever
attended one. That’s because these are special formal affairs
to which only heads of State, congressional members and
notable guests are invited. You have to be on someone’s short
list to attend a State Dinner.

(Display slide of Queen Elizabeth and President Bush)

Such was the case when the Queen of England visited the US
this past May. Laura Bush convinced the President to set aside
his disdain for formal dress and throw a “white tie” State Dinner.

According to the New York Times the White House State Dining
Room was brimming with white roses, vermeil centerpieces and
pearl-handled flatware. The five-course menu featured “spring
pea soup with fern leaf lavender” and “saddle of spring lamb.”
Dessert was served on silver platters.

(Click the photos of the following people as I speak their name)
An Unlikely Guest List         2                         11/25/07

Among others, the guest list included former Secretary of State
Colin Powell, Senator Trent Lott, and Calvin Borel, the
jockey who rode the winning horse at the Kentucky Derby.
You’ll recall the queen had attended that race the previous
Saturday. The world-famous violinist, Itzhak Perlman, was the
featured entertainment.

Although thousands of ordinary citizens lined up for hours to
catch a glimpse of the visiting Queen, no commoners were
invited to the splendid banquet. Though hundreds of homeless
and hungry walk the streets of the nation’s capital each day
within a few blocks of the White House, none were invited to
meet the Queen. No, this was an evening reserved for
politicians and notables.

The banquet Jesus describes started out similarly. The host in
the parable invites important, prominent guests, but for one
reason or another they all decline the invitation. They forgo the
chance to share the company of their host and dine in elegance
for reasons that pale in comparison.

Subsequently the host sends his servants out to invite anyone
who wishes to come to the banquet - regardless of their station
in life or their circumstances. The only requirement to attend is
that they accept the invitation and come.

As you might suspect, Jesus intended his hearers to see
themselves as one of the invited guests: either as one who
declined the invitation, or one of the unlikely guests. Jesus saw
Himself as the host in the parable.

Rejected by government and religious authorities, as well as
other notables who declined to be seen with Jesus, all offered
excuses for their absence. Oddly, those who accept Christ’s
invitation into the Kingdom were the tax collectors, prostitutes,
the poor and destitute, and their friends and acquaintances.
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An Unlikely Guest List             3                            11/25/07

Unfortunately, that’s often the case even today. There are those
Jesus invites to enter His kingdom, but for one reason or
another they decline His invitation. Still others never receive
word of His invitation. It’s those folks I’d like to focus on today.

(Display slide of an Advent Wreath)

Next Sunday begins the season of Advent. As you know
Advent is a period to prepare for the coming of the promised
Messiah. In our part of the globe Advent comes at a bleak, dark
and cold time of the year: winter. For some the climate reflects
the condition of their soul, a mirror of their loneliness, isolation,
and distress. For others Christmas is just another reason to
overspend on items they and their families and friends don’t
need – or want.

Well, we the people of the United Methodist Church are
attempting to make Advent a bit brighter this year, a more
hopeful time for those forlorn and alone. As a denomination,
one of the ways we’re doing this is through TV ads. Maybe
you’ve seen one of them over the past months.

During December 12th - 23rd, the United Methodist Churches of
the greater Carlisle area are co-sponsoring two TV commercials
as a way of inviting the unchurched to come worship with us.
There will be 161 spots running between 6pm and midnight on
the following channels: ABC Family, the Weather Channel,
HGTV, TBS, Lifetime, and ESPN.

Here’s an expanded version of one of the two ads you’ll be
seeing.

(run the DVD, “Journey” clip [60 seconds]

(after the clip is over display the slide of the United Methodist tag line
shown on the top of the next page)
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An Unlikely Guest List          4                            11/25/07




You’ll note the tagline at the end. It’s an open invitation to
anyone seeking greater meaning and purpose in their lives with
the promise that we are a church with “open hearts, open minds
and open doors.”

Now, if the commercial didn’t engage you personally, that’s
okay. Remember, the ad wasn’t designed for those of us who
already attend church, but for those seeking something more in
their life.

Last week, Bonnie Scott concluded her sermon by asking us
three questions:
     1. Is there a story that is living inside you?
     2. Is it the story of Jesus’ redeeming love?
     3. Is your life telling that story?

These are great questions to be asking ourselves as we enter
into Advent. Are we opening our hearts, our minds and the
doors of our lives to those who have never heard Jesus’
invitation to His Kingdom? Not just as a Church, but on a
personal level?

What about those we know who are alone, forlorn or simply
obsessed by all the frivolous activities associated with this
season? What are we doing to help them learn about the true
meaning of this season? What are we doing to help them hear
Christ’s invitation to come and enter His Kingdom?

(Display the 4 letters [F R A N K] with lines behind them)



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An Unlikely Guest List           5                          11/25/07

To help you consider this question, I want you to take your
bulletin or a slip of paper and write on it the five letters you see
on the media screen. If you haven’t notice, collectively they
spell the name FRANK. Write each letter below the other
followed by a line behind each letter. Take a moment and do it
now.

(When I give the clue, show the next slide with following words)

              Friend
              Relative
              Acquaintance
              Neighbor
              Kids

Now, on the line behind each letter write the name of someone
you know in each category who is unchurched and needs to
meet Jesus. If you don’t know anyone in a certain category,
leave the line blank.

During the season of Advent I want you to pray for the persons
you name. I also want you to discern ways you can invite them
to something here at Allison this holiday season.

Maybe there’s someone you named who enjoys Christmas
decorating. Then why not phone them and tell them about our
decorating party this afternoon at Allison. Sure, it’s late notice,
but if they don’t have anything else planned for the afternoon,
they might just enjoy getting out and join in the fun.

Know anyone with preschool kids? Our Children’s’ Minister,
Janet Borden, has planned a Kids’ Advent Festival in
Fellowship Hall tomorrow morning from 10:30-12:30. Why not
invite someone you know with small children to come and enjoy
the planned activities?


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An Unlikely Guest List              6                  11/25/07

(Display slide for climbing wall)

Know anyone with youth? Why not invite them to join our Youth
Group this Wednesday evening as they conquer the climbing
wall at Kline Center at Dickinson College. What a great way to
get to know the youth of our church in a non-churchy way.

Know a lonely adult looking for opportunities to socialize? Why
not invite them this Wednesday evening to the first of four
Advent studies being taught by my wife, Louise Rynd. This is a
great opportunity to invite someone to an informal small group
where they can meet others from Allison, as well as learn about
the real reason we celebrate Christmas.

(Display slide of last year’s “Messiah” concert)

Do you know anyone who enjoys classical music? Then be
sure to invite them to Handel’s Messiah concert next Sunday at
3:00 PM. This will be the 71st anniversary of the community
concert.

Know anyone who likes to eat? And who doesn’t? Then invite
them to the Congregational Christmas Dinner on Sunday
evening, December 16th at 6:00 PM. It’s a great opportunity to
introduce them to Allison disciples in an informal and festive
setting.

(Display slide of 2006 Christmas Eve service)

What about Christmas Eve? Anyone you can think of who
might accept an invitation to come to one of the three Christmas
Eve services at Allison?




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An Unlikely Guest List        7                         11/25/07

My point is we have multiple opportunities this Advent /
Christmas season to invite those who are unlikely to attend
church at any other time of the year, but given the holiday, they
might consider the invitation. The question is, will we invite
them? Will we extend to the most unlikely an invitation to come
and be a guest of the King whose birthday we celebrate?

I pray we at Allison will take advantage of this holy season and
invite unlikely guests with an “Open Heart, Open Mind and
Open Doors.” Will you do your part and invite them to come?

Amen




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