Did you hear the story about the late inauguration invitations? Apparently, a bunch of people received their invitations to the Presidential Inauguration two months late. The inauguration was held on January 20 and they didn't receive their invitations until March so they all missed the party.
Now, of course, there's all kinds of controversy about what happened. Some claim they were not real invitations, only commemorative ones sent to donors of the presidential campaign.
Others claim that no, they were real invitations, but the Republican Committee messed up and didn't get them out on time. Still others are saying it's a conspiracy. The invitations were sabotaged to keep the crowd size down at the inauguration of President Trump. Really?
Well as far as I know, the White House hasn't made any official statement to explain the situation and to my knowledge Donald Trump hasn't even tweeted about it. Can you believe that? At least not yet! So I guess we'll never know. I just know I wasn't invited to the party.
What a bummer to get a late invitation to a prestigious event. What a tragedy to miss a party that you really wanted to attend. We all love to get invitations, don't we? I know I do. When you get an invitation to a party, to a wedding, to a graduation, to any event you feel wanted. You feel included. And that's a good feeling.
Jesus was always giving out invitations. He was always inviting people to follow him, to come to him, to be part of the big party that he's planning one day. And as his disciples he wants us to invite people too. He doesn't want anybody to miss the party. He wants the invitations to go out to everyone, not just some, and he wants the invitations to go out on time.
This morning we conclude our series on Mission/Vision, but we're only concluding a teaching series. We're just beginning to implement the fresh mission and vision that God has given us here at Valley View.
Remember the mission is Jesus. Valley View is all about Jesus. And the vision is to make disciples. The word "disciple" means learner. That was Jesus' vision. Go and make learners of me.
And our way of doing that is four-fold. We want to invite, grow, equip, and go. Pretty simple. We actually started a few weeks ago looking at grow, then equip, then go, and today we're going to finish with invite.
Jesus invited people to follow him.
Walking along the beach of the Sea of Galilee Jesus invited two fishermen to, Follow me and I will send you out to fish for people, Mark 1:17.
Walking down a crowded city street Jesus invited a tax collector to, Follow me, Luke 5:27.
To a crowd of weary people standing on a hill Jesus invited them to, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest, Matthew 11:28.
Jesus was always inviting people to follow him, to come to him.
Last week, in his teaching on "Go," Matt taught us that "go and make disciples" actually means "as you go through life make disciples." And that's exactly what Jesus was doing. As he went through life he invited people to follow him.
Becoming a disciple of Jesus always begins with an invitation, even before belief. Becoming a disciple begins by checking Jesus out.
This week I was thinking about my own story. My story starts with an invitation. My mom was unchurched when my brother and I were young and a neighbor invited her to the church up the street because they had a children's ministry, a Sunday School. So my mom began taking us there when we were just a few years old. Eventually, she met the pastor and he shared the gospel with her and invited her to trust Christ.
And then a little later another neighbor invited my mom to drop her two boys off at a Five-Day Summer Bible Club she was hosting in her backyard. And mom said yes! I think I see a pattern here. Mom was eager to get rid of the kids!
But it was at that Bible Club that I was invited by the teacher to put my faith in Jesus Christ. And so at the age of seven I became a believer in Jesus. My brother, who was ten at the time, also responded in faith that week. And to this day that's still the best decision I've ever made in my life.
But it wouldn't have happened without an invitation. An invitation to church led to an invitation for mom to trust Christ which led to an invitation to a Bible Club which led to an invitation for me and my brother to believe in Jesus.
And I'm sure if you thought about your story you'd discover that invitations played a big part too. Jesus was always inviting people to follow him, to come to him.
If you have a Bible in your lap or on your device turn to John 1. In John 1, Jesus arrives with a big splash literally in the Jordan River. He's baptized by John the Baptist. And the very next day John sees Jesus and says these words.
Look at John 1:35-39, The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. 36When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, "Look, the Lamb of God!" 37When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. 38Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, "What do you want?" They said, "Rabbi (which means "Teacher"), "where are you staying?" 39"Come," he replied, "and you will see." So they went and saw where he was staying and they spent that day with him. It was about four in the afternoon.
Once again we see Jesus inviting others to check him out. "Come and see" he says. So they went and saw where he was staying and hung out with him.
But then look what happens in John 1:40-42, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, was one of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed Jesus. 41The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, "We have found the Messiah" (that is, the Christ). 42And he brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, "You are Simon son of John. You will be called Cephas" (which, when translated, is Peter).
Andrew invites his brother Simon Peter to check out Jesus. "We've found the Messiah," he says. And he brings him to Jesus.
But it doesn't stop there. Look at John 1:43-46, The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, "Follow me." 44Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote -' Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." 46"Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael asked. "Come and see," said Philip.
Before Jesus leaves for Galilee he invites Philip to follow him and like Andrew did with Peter, Philip invites Nathanael to come and see if Jesus is the real deal.
And Nathanael gives Philip a cynical response, "Really? Can anything good come out of that town?" And there are reasons why he said that. But notice, Philip doesn't try to answer his question. Instead, he just points him to Jesus. "Come and see. Come and see for yourself."
Not only does Jesus invite people to follow him. Disciples of Jesus invite people to follow him too.
One way we express our love for Jesus is by introducing others to him as well. He loves to meet our friends and family. And there are a variety of ways we can invite others to Jesus. We can invite others to Jesus through the Scriptures.
I've talked to people over the years who've told me that they met Jesus for the first time simply by reading the Bible. The Gospel of John was written for that purpose. It was written by the Apostle John, an eyewitness, to convince us that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing we may have life in his name, John 20:31.
So often I encourage those who've never read the Bible to start with the Gospel of John. It's only 21 chapters long which means in three weeks you can read through it by just a chapter a day. It's better than starting out in Leviticus. Trust me!
John records seven miracles all designed to demonstrate that Jesus is the promised Messiah. The word "faith" or "believe" occurs almost 100 times in his gospel. And that's his purpose, to get us to believe in Jesus and have life in his name. If you want to point people Jesus, point them to the Word of God. The Scriptures are powerful and life giving.
A few weeks ago, Jennifer gave a copy of the Daily Bread Devotional to a young woman who's curious about Jesus and she wrote her a nice thank you note and said how much that meant to her. "Come and see. Check Jesus out." We can invite others to Jesus through the Scriptures.
We can invite others to Jesus through prayer. Prayer is powerful as well. Rarely do I meet a person who refuses prayer. Even if they don't believe in it, they'll take it when they can get it.
On Monday afternoons from 1 -' 2, Jan Vanning and I have been going over to the Rehab Center at Shannondell and praying for the patients. If you want to join us, let us know. You're invited. The average stay in Rehab is only about 10 days so we're seeing new people each time we go.
When we arrive we're given a list of the names and room numbers of those we can visit on all three floors. We knock at the door, introduce ourselves, and ask if we can pray and read a short portion of Scripture. And most, not all, are very receptive and delighted that we've come.
And sometimes we get into some fascinating conversations about Jesus. This week we visited a woman who turns 98 in May. And she asked us right away if we had memorized the books of the Bible. And before we could answer she rattled off all 39 books of the Old Testament. Then before we could say another word she asked us if we knew how to say the alphabet backwards. And before we could even think about it she rattled that off, Z Y X W V U T S R Q P O N M L K J I H G F E D C B A.
And then we had the chance to pray with her and tell her how much Jesus loves her and what he's done for her on the cross. It was precious. We can invite others to Jesus through prayer.
We can invite others to Jesus through community. Every Sunday we gather together as a faith community to worship Jesus. The church IS the body of Christ. Jesus shows up here in powerful ways especially at a church like Valley View where Jesus IS the mission. It's hard to miss him around here.
When I invite someone to Valley View I want them to meet YOU, because you host the presence of Jesus. I love this community and I want them to meet others who know and love Jesus. I'm not inviting people to a show or to a performance. I'm not inviting people to fill seats or to give money. I'm inviting them to meet Jesus in the presence of his people. Jesus lives in us.
On our resource table we have business cards and I carry a bunch of them in my wallet. And just like prayer, when I invite someone to Valley View, most, if not all, appreciate it. They may not come, but they're glad to be invited. And sometimes they show up and surprise me!
At the Dunkin Donuts where I often write my messages one guy often sees me banging away on my laptop and teases me that it must "a long sermon this week" because I've been there all day. I keep inviting him to come to one of our worship gatherings, but he hasn't yet. So this week I gave him a copy of my transcript and said, "Listen. If you're not going to come to hear the message, I'm going to bring the message to you!"
Invite people to hang out with the community. I read an article this week by Ed Stetzer who put it this way, "In our post-Christian nation, people who are skeptical of the faith are often attracted to the Christian community before they are attracted to the Christian message. Therefore, introducing people into the relational network of a local church community becomes an important step in their faith journey."
You can invite friends to meet the community on Sunday or to your Life Group or to an IF Table or to a roller skating event like today or to the Sunnyside Kid's Sale coming up at the end of the month. There are always opportunities to invite.
And how do we know when to do that? That's what Matt was talking about last week. We keep in step with the Spirit and pay attention to his voice and his promptings. He will give us those opportunities if we're looking for them. Jesus wants everyone to be invited to the party and he doesn't want the invitations to go out too late.
In fact, the whole story of the Bible ends with an invitation. In Revelation 22:17 we read, The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let the one who hears say, "Come!" Let the one who is thirsty come. And let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.