The story came at the end of one of our many Sunday worship services. This was a particularly special occasion as a wonderful couple, we’ll call them Mike and Cindy (not their real names) had made the decision to join the church. As I finished asking the traditional questions to them and our congregation… Mike asked if he might share a few words…
They were few but powerful. Mike told of how they had been away for a long time but had made their way back. Of how multiple people had continued to invite them back home time after time… They eventually surrendered to the multiple invitations and came back. Mike then named those that hadn’t given up on them and named each one with Cindy’s help! Then Mike issued a tearful challenge. Don’t give up on inviting those that have left to come back home. Continue to invite!
It makes, and made a difference in their lives and it will in others.
It’s odd that Mike and Cindy’s story of returning from exile would come at a time when I was deep into N.T. Wright’s book, Simply Jesus. Odd that I was just reading about the Israelites returning from the Exile. Oddly it was making parallels of the Old Testament and the parables of the New.
Here is what it said…”The parables, in fact, are told as kingdom explanations for Jesus’s kingdom actions. They are saying: “Don’t be surprised, but this is what it looks like when God is in charge.”…Specialists who have studied the way in which Jesus’s language works describes a “speech-act” effect, whereby telling a story creates a new situation, a new world….It was a new world in which God was in charge…This was the new world in which God was in charge at last, on earth as it was in heaven…This was the new world in which promises were coming true, in which new creation was happening, in which a real “return from exile” was taking place in the hearts and minds and lives both of notorious sinners and of people long crippled by disease.”
There comes a time when we all need to return from exile. To a place that offers a loving accepting new world. A new world of possibilities. That place can be the church and all us sinners are in need.
I wonder if Mike and Cindy’s story will have a “speech-acts” effect on those who heard it. To create an atmosphere of generosity and hospitality with a simple invitation for those who have entered the exile, to come home again.
I wonder how many invitations will be offered to exiles this week or even in one’s lifetime? An offer to come home.
One can hope.