invitationsInvitations are wonderful things. They open doors to new opportunities allowing us to experience the world in different ways. Each of us receives and provides invitations in a wide variety of ways. When we think about invitations it might normally be in the context of an evening out, to a child’s birthday party, a wedding or an anniversary. However, there a variety of ways that we can extend an invitation.

From a faith perspective we often talk about inviting someone to church. An invitation into the worshiping life of a community of faith. For many it is a welcome invitation, but for others the invitation itself is a stumbling block. What does it mean to be invited to church? How should I act, how should I dress? Will I know what to do?

There is a story about two young girls one a Baptist and the other Presbyterian. They decided to experience each other’s church services. They went first to the Baptist service, when the friend had questions they were answered. The following week they attended the Presbyterian service, again all questions were answered. However, when it came time for the sermon the Baptist girl noted that the minister took his watch off and placed it on the pulpit. She asked what this meant.

The Presbyterian girl’s father leaned over and replied in a thick Scottish accent, “Absolutely nothing.”

Invitations come with expectations and they may contain assumptions that we have created. For example not all Presbyterians are Scottish. Often these expectations and assumptions prove to be false, however the barrier they create causes us to prejudge the people we meet and the experiences we might enjoy. How we invite others and how we receive invitations impacts our world in profound ways.

There is an old Cherokee teaching about life. A grandfather is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me. It is between two wolves. One is evil, his anger, envy, greed, arrogance and pride. The other is good, he is joy, peace, love, hope and humility.”

The grandson thought about this for a moment and then asked, “Which wolf wins?”

“The one you feed” came the reply.

What do you invite into your life? How does it shape and influence you? Do you feed the traits which create a division between you and others? Or do seek out invitations which allow peace and joy to prosper?

In Matthew’s gospel Jesus tells us “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” God has already made an invitation to each of us. How we choose to respond to that invitation is up to us. It is my prayer that each of us will respond with open hearts full of love because with God’s invitation we need but knock and enter in.

Unexpected Invitations was first published in the Northumberland Today on January 21, 2016.