A recent television commercial features a young girl sitting on the walkway to the front door of her family’s home. She is chalking the concrete but also looking rather longingly at the people passing by to see if anyone will give her a smile. We see a delivery person walking rather quickly; he may or may not see the girl, but he does not acknowledge her. She looks disappointed but then we notice, from her facial expression, that she’s come up with an idea that might be more inviting to the passers-by. All throughout the ad, the 1930’s song, “On the Sunny Side of the Street,” is playing.
Very soon we see that she has drawn a beautiful hopscotch diagram on the sidewalk. Two teen-aged boys approach and one gleefully plays the game. A woman on her daily run smiles as she hops from square to square; she also gives the girl a grin to thank her for the artwork. An older couple hop sedately from section to section of the game. Finally, the same delivery person returns, pauses, and then conquers the hopscotch diagram with a dramatic flourish – but more importantly, with a smile. The girl is delighted and the commercial ends.
I love this commercial; if I’m in another room and I hear the music, I run to see it. It makes me smile to see the girl be acknowledged for bringing joy to others., although I wish I could stop singing the background music. But there must be more about this ad that has caused me to be drawn to it, and after thinking about it, I realized that it’s a wonderful example of an invitation to enter into a relationship if only the recipient of the invitation will accept it.
During this past year, entering into – or sustaining – a relationship with someone has been difficult. We’ve been relegated to our homes with only limited trips to the grocery. During warmer weather, it’s been possible to meet with others outside, but even then, we are masked and cannot see facial expressions. We’ve learned to reach out via telephone or Zoom or Skype or any number of new services that have popped up, and although I’m grateful for these conveniences, it’s not the same as seeing someone face to face. With all this space between us, it may have also seemed that God is more distant and God’s invitation to love and be loved is harder to perceive.
How can we sense God’s invitation to enter into a relationship of love? Of course, we need only turn to Scripture to hear God’s call to us. Isaiah 55, one of my favorite Scripture passages, is a powerful invitation to enter into a loving relationship with God:
Come, all you who are thirsty,
Come to the waters;
And you who have no money,
Come, buy and eat! . . .
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
And you will delight in the richest of fare.
Give ear and come to me,
Listen, that you may live. . . .
You will go out in joy
And be led forth in peace;
The mountains and the hills
Will burst into song before you,
And all the trees of the field
Will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper,
And instead of the briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
For an everlasting sign,
That will endure forever.
It is not the wealthy who are extended this invitation – it is those who are poor, who are thirsty, who have no food. We can also imagine that this invitation is extended to the lonely, the forgotten, the marginalized, the despised. In short, to each and every one of us.
In the New Testament, Jesus invites us repeatedly to God’s banquet of love – whether we are saints or sinners. In Luke 14, Jesus makes sure that the host invites those who cannot repay the kindness extended to them. The host sends out messengers to invite all who they encounter, whether members of the establishment or beggars on the street. In Mark 2, Jesus calls Levi, the tax collector (and thus a sinner), to follow him. Regardless of who the individual is or what she or he may have done, Jesus extends an invitation to enter into an everlasting, life-giving relationship.
Who will extend an invitation today? Certainly, God is still calling us through Scripture, but we also need to be receptive to the invitation through other means. In his new book, “Faith After Doubt”, Brian McLaren discusses how we encounter God’s love. Although he lists several ways, one is through our fellow humans. “We humans encounter and experience divine love in the experience of the other, the stranger, the outsider, the outcast and even the enemy.” [P. 170]. God speaks to us through our neighbors, our co-workers, our friends, our family members, the cashier at the grocery store. Although we may not always recognize it, God is calling us in ways too numerous to describe. We must, however, be open to hear – and accept — the grace-filled words of invitation.
So, grab your coat and get your hat – whether literally or figuratively. As you journey through this life, keep your eyes and ears open to the invitation of God that is all around you. You never know when and where it will come, but it will be there. God’s invitation to live a more full, abundant life is calling you.
Let us pray...
Dear Lord, help us to be ever open to enter into a deeper, more meaningful relationship with you. Let us hear you through the voices and actions of others. Let us respond with joy and thanksgiving to Your invitation that is ever present. In Your Holy Name we pray. Amen.
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Thanks, Kathryn, for these words. God is certainly speaking through you in this devotional to me. You quote one of my favorite authors, Brian McLaren. I have his latest book on my book shelf but have not cracked it yet. Perhaps it is time.