The walls of my heart were near bursting in the middle of the evening service last night. If ever there was a sermon that hit the home I'm coming from as much as the home I'm headed to, it was this sermon. The passage came from Matthew 9, when Jesus called Matthew to be a part of his motley crew. Jesus was just passing by Matthew's shameful tax stand when he simply said, "Follow me."
It was an invitation and a command and a whole bundle of things all rolled into one. Matthew didn't have the luxury of reading over Jesus' words to examine their meaning. He had only the moments flashing in front of his money-dirtied table to decide what to do. This man in front of him looked him in the eye and he didn't just say "Follow me."
He did, but Jesus said something else, too.
The invitation is much more than a cold command to walk behind a dictator. The invitation is nothing like that. The Greek word, akoloutheó, means not just to follow but to "accompany, attend" or literally, "to go the same way with."
I squirmed in my pew when my pastor explained, "Jesus wasn't just saying, 'Walk with me.' He was also saying, 'I want to walk with you.'"
The invitation to follow Jesus is an invitation to accompany Him on the kingdom mission of heaven.
This invitation to follow Him means that He wants to walk in the same direction as me - that He is pleased to be going the same way. It is His perfect sovereignty that guides and directs our steps on the path, but He is not embarrassed to be seen at my side. He knows about my lopsided steps - about my clumsy, Amelia Bedelia ways. He knows that I've got baggage and that I get distracted.
He knows ALL these things and still He is pleased to invite me to walk with Him. And inside that invitation I know He wants to walk with me.
And do you know the first thing Matthew did as he walked alongside Jesus? He threw a party. He invited all the vagabonds and wanderers and outcasts and unlikely party guests to his house for the feast of all feasts and Jesus was at the center.
And there they walked together - Jesus and Matthew - hosting a beautiful gathering where more people could view the result of Matthew's unlikely invitation to be a follower.
I'm still giddy with all this. Vito went on to preach a "party culture" into his congregation - a message of accountability that Christians should be hosting the craziest parties. Christians should be inviting the rich and poor and awkward and smooth into their homes to break bread and drink wine and give thanks to the Lord because we have been invited to accompany Him along the way.
We should be doing what Matthew did when Jesus called him to walk along the same path. This kind of thing is in my bones. I want to invite my car dealership/drug dealing neighbors and the owners of the cutest pizza place on Rogers Street and my co-workers and the young runner couple that lives on 2nd floor... I want to invite them all over for a party in honor of the Lord who has invited me to follow Him!
I know, I know - all my dear, safe Iowan friends are worried. I won't go doing anything crazy until Patrick gets back in town and can make sure my ideas aren't too dangerous. For now, I'll just be giddy with the idea that Jesus called me to walk with Him, which means He is pleased to walk with me.
It's good to be giddy about such things.