“When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, otherwise they may also invite you in return and that will be your repayment. But when you give a reception, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, since they do not have the means to repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (Luke 14:12-14).
What would you do if you had planned an expensive and stylish wedding reception for your daughter, only to find out that the wedding was cancelled only six weeks out? Many of us would get on the phone and try to argue, cajole, and negotiate our way out of the reception costs. Perhaps, if we couldn’t change the fees, we would invite our friends and neighbors to have a party anyway…and why not? We’ve already paid for it!
But Carol and Willie Fowler chose a different option. They lived out Christ’s words (Luke 14:12-14) by deciding not to invite friends and relatives or rich neighbors. Rather, they called an organization that helps feed the homeless, and they told them their plan: replace the 200 person guest list with 200 homeless people (primarily women and children).
Buses transported residents from three area shelters to the restaurant where they had punch and lemonade, hors d’oeuvres of beef tenderloin kabob, coconut shrimp, and a main meal of salmon and chicken. Children were greeted by a clown, a juggler and a face painter. Kids ate mac ‘n cheese, chicken fingers, french fries, and fresh fruit.
In this real life “making lemonade of lemons” story, this couple fulfilled the most basic principle of Christianity: do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Luke 6:31). In Matthew 25:40, Jesus said, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” While there is nothing wrong with enjoying a meal with friends, what a blessing it is to invite those who could never reciprocate.
Does the name Rufus mean anything to you? If you are familiar with Romans 16:13, you know that Paul praises a Rufus as “a choice man in the Lord.” Where does this Rufus come from and how did he come to be “in the Lord?”
In Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we learn that a man named Simon was pressed into service to carry the cross for Jesus (MT 27:32; MK 15:21; LK 23:26). This was required, no doubt, because Jesus had been lashed and beaten severely by the Romans. Simon, who carried the patibulum (cross-beam) for Jesus, is basically unknown in scripture. The bible says very little about him, but that he was coming in from the country – basically a passer-by! The bible does record one interesting fact though. In Mark 15:21, we are told that Simon was the father of “Alexander and Rufus.”
Many scholars agree that this Rufus is the same one that Paul refers to in Romans 16:13 as “a choice man in the Lord.” If this is the same Rufus, can you imagine what an impression it must have made on him to know of (or possibly to have seen) his father carrying the cross for Jesus? And did Rufus become famous among Christians because of what his dad did? Is that what led Paul to recognize him as “a choice man” in the Lord? Was Rufus introduced to people as the man whose father carried the cross for Christ?
Of course, we will never know the answer to those questions. But what we do know is that there was a man who may have been the same Rufus, and he was a Christian. He and his family were very helpful to Paul – so much so, that Paul even considered Rufus’ mother to be his own.
Simon taught his children, in a very literal sense, to do what Jesus told us all to do: deny yourself and take up your cross daily (Luke 9:23). Simon carried a literal cross once, but if we would be Jesus’ disciples, we must carry our spiritual crosses “daily.” What are we teaching our children? Will they see us carrying our cross daily? What kind of an impact will that have in their lives? Perhaps our efforts today will help send them on a path to being recorded in the book of life in the same way that Rufus is remembered forever – as those who are choice in the Lord.
Have you ever seen a present opening frenzy? That is the only way I know how to describe the scene when a bunch of kids open their presents at the same time. We go to my in-laws for Christmas each year. Our kids, my brother-in-law’s kids, a couple of dogs, a Nana & PawPaw, etc., are all gathered in the living room, helping open and deliver presents. Wrapping paper is flying, mass confusion arises, and the kids have that wonderful/horrible dilemma with each present…”do I open the next one or play with this one?” Have you ever seen a kid run up to a present in the heat of battle and tear it open and scream with joy, “it’s exactly what I wanted” only to see that quizzical look on their face followed by, “what is it?” Or my favorite…”how did you know?”
Our Father in heaven gave us this kind of gift around 2,000 years ago. Those who were expecting a Messiah couldn’t wait to proclaim Him (John 1); the angels who had desired to look into these things (1 Pet 1:12) announced His presence (Luke 2:14); shepherds praised Him (Luke 2:20); and Mary rejoiced (Luke 1:46-55). There was a mixture in those days of “just what I wanted!” and “how did you know?” and “what is it?”
Friends, let us not lose that sense of awe and wonder at the amazing, indescribable gift (2 Cor 9:15) of grace and mercy in Christ Jesus our Lord! Let’s keep that same joy we had as children, as we come to Christ and realize that we can’t possible know and explain every detail of our Father’s plan, but that we are so thankful to have Jesus as our Savior. I’m not sure how He knew; I’m not always certain I can explain what it is that He did for us; but it is EXACTLY what I needed.
And so do you…If you haven’t received that gift, get in touch, and let’s examine what the scriptures say on how you can receive it today!