What Do You Mean, “I’m Not the Only One?”

‘You ever fix a meal, bring it to table, and nobody came on time? Ever call the fam to dinner, only to call them over and over? God knows the feeling! ‘Ever been the one who dawdled? ‘Had some perturbed someone say, “We’re waiting…!” God knows what you’ve been up to. See, today, the Table waits. And God can’t wait for you to come to Table. But not alone. It’s not God’s will! God neither sets God’s table nor bears witness to Jesus-on-the-cross for us alone. Heaven’s desire for the others is every bit as urgent and passionate as for us. God in Christ calls us to dine with him, and to feel the same passion and urgency for the rest… as for ourselves.

“What do you mean, ‘Jesus went to the cross for me?’” we asked last week. Our answer: because of who Jesus is (Word become flesh, Victor over temptation, Good Shepherd, Suffering Servant), because of who we are (apple of God’s eye, children of God and inheritors of God’s promises, friends of Christ), and because of what God has declared (that Christ shall come in final victory), the cross and it’s saving-power-and-grace are for us, p e r s o n a l l y!

Now turn the question around. “What do you mean, ‘I’m not the only one for whom he did it?’” Our era teaches us that faith/church is but a personal exchange between us and God. It’s all about feeding us… only. Spirituality, our personal journey, is the sum and substance of it all. Whether I attend or not, stay or go, is all about me (and mine). Nothing more, nothing else. And God? God loves the scrubbed, the church-going, the modestly wealthy, the right-thinking, right-leaning politically (oddly enough, the very ones who think and lean like… us). It’s largely (but not only) the message of the mega church. Once Beverly and I had added Micah and Meg, my silent table grace became, “God bless us four, no more!” I referred to the size of our family. Today, many a believer, family, church, nation… prays such prayers to limit the size of God’s family! Scripture knows this simply, certainly, as sin. Our walk to the cross with Christ is personal, but absolutely not private. John’s Gospel says it this way, “God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” God’s heart loves us all, universally, yet in a singular way… by way of the cross. Many of us grew up coming to the Lord’s Table reminded, “He is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (I Jn. 2: 2) “Not for ours only.” The words still ring in my ears. Friends, God hungers for every heart. Six billion: beating just now. I Tim. 2 reminds, “God our Savior…desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all…. (3-6) It’s not all about us; it’s all about everyone: women & men, Jews & gentiles, free & unfree, even Methodists to Muslims. (Stay tuned) His passion is for all, but his way is one: by the cross of Christ. He has set a place at the Table for all. So who will issue/accept the invitation? You? Me?

The Table invites us to the grace of Christ. The invitation, at once a mercy and a rebuke. The mercy: he died for us. The rebuke: he died for all. Fully 5/6s of all living souls have not accepted the invitation. Places: empty. Heaven must feel crushed! Often we have failed to feel the urgency to invite them to come, from our next door neighbors to the ends of the earth. Some years ago, a devoted believer asked me if those not believing were still children of God. Answer: yes! And God pines for them. And Christ dies for them as for us. Across the centuries, we believers struggle with this tension. God loves all, yet provides just one way. I appreciate the most recent document of the church (RC) on this subject. It says this, in part (in sorta English, not Churchese). “The saving act of Jesus Christ extends (with/through the Spirit) beyond the visible bounds of the Church to all humanity. …The mystery of Christ’s sacrifice (the cross) binds the believer to Christ in a living way. And in the Spirit, it gives the believer the hope of resurrection. All this holds true not only for Christians but also for all of good will in whose hearts grace is active… invisibly. Because Christ died for all, and all are in fact called to the same divine destiny, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers all the possibility of being made partners in the saving mystery, in a way known to God.” Dominus Iesus II Vatican Council Whew! Try that once more. No, God doesn’t just save everybody any old way at all. Yes, Christ is the center of God’s heart, God’s only full and true revealing. Yes. God wants us to confess with our lips, “Jesus is Lord.” ‘And believe in our heart God raised him from the dead. Thus we will be saved. (Rms. 10: 9) But the work of the cross is soaked in God’s mysterious power. His work can be accomplished down to the last whisper of a soul, outside our hearing, or the tenants of every other spirituality, making Christ alone the ultimate source of all God’s saving acts. We dare not write anyone off, because God-in-Christ does not, to our last gasp. Our mission, our calling, is not to declare how God in Christ is working his mysterious mercy or with whom. Ours is to spare no effort or opportunity to invite everyone we can to the Table! Come with a hunger for the bread and cup today. But leave with a passion to bring somebody else to the Table!

Maybe the eight skate boarders I invited from the church parking lot need a leap-of-faith as much as a half-pipe on our lot. Maybe our guests in the shelter this week need a word only you can share. Or an ear only you can give. Maybe your neighbor that nobody likes needs a break, and a breakfast at the Table of the Lord. Maybe our strife-filled world needs our passion for welcome more than our penchant for self-separating the sheep from the goats. After all, the same Lord who says, “I am the good shepherd, I know my own and my own know me”… says… “I have other sheep that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice. So there shall be one flock and one shepherd.”

‘You ever bring a meal to table, only to call folks over and over? And nobody came on time? God knows the feeling! ‘Ever been the one who dawdled? ‘Had some perturbed someone say, “We’re waiting…!” God knows what you’ve been up to. See, today, the Table waits. And God can’t wait for us to come to Table. But not alone. God neither sets God’s table nor bears witness to Jesus-on-the-cross for us alone. Heaven’s desire for the others is every bit as urgent and passionate as for us. Will you make his invitation your passion to extend, all the time, and everywhere, to everyone you can?

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