The invitation

They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of your delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.
Psalm 36:8-9

Let me take you on a little trip.

You receive an invitation to a huge banquet. The invitation is beautifully decorated and very personal to you. It’s just for you. It makes you feel special and loved, even though you’re not even sure who it’s from.

You check the date in your diary and accept the invitation.

As the time for the banquet draws nearer you start to prepare for it. It’s a very important occasion so you’ll need something special to wear. You go shopping and take time choosing the perfect outfit – dress, shoes, bag, accessories; or suit, shirt, tie, shoes. You really want to look your best.

When the day comes, you might go to the hairdresser’s and have your hair done. You might even have a manicure (ladies, that is…). You’ll take your time getting ready – you’ll have a shower and get dressed slowly to make sure your outfit looks as good as it can be. Guys, you’ll have a shave; girls, you’ll take time applying your make-up.

You don’t have to worry about how you’ll get there. The invitation tells you that a car will come to collect you at 7.00pm. You make sure you’re ready in good time, and at 7.00 sharp the doorbell rings. The driver greets you warmly and opens the door for you to step into the car. You don’t really understand why, but you’re being made to feel as though you’re an honoured guest at this banquet.

Finally you arrive at the location where the banquet is being held. You’re feeling apprehensive. You still don’t really know why you’ve been invited, but you do know that something compelled you to accept the invitation and to come along. Something inside tells you this is a big deal, that you just had to be here. Your palms start to get a bit sweaty. You have butterflies in your stomach – you don’t even know how you’re going to manage to eat anything, you feel so nervous. Will you even know anyone here?

How are you going to make your entrance? Will you just go in? Will you be met at the door? Will you be able to slip in quietly, unobtrusively, without making a big fuss in front of a lot of people?

The driver opens the car door for you and walks you to the door of the house. His smile is somehow reassuring, although your nerves are still there.

Your heart is pounding. You take a deep breath and knock gently at the door. Immediately it is flung open. Your host comes out and throws his arms around you. ‘I’m so glad you’ve arrived!’ he says with a huge grin on his face. ‘We’ve been waiting for you. Come in, come in.’

You’re feeling more than a little surprised. Has he got the right person? Has he mistaken you for someone else? You know you certainly don’t deserve such a welcome. You don’t know whether to feel pleased at being welcomed so warmly, or even more worried that perhaps he sent the invitation to the wrong person. Was the invitation meant for someone else? Are you even meant to be here?

You hang back, wondering whether or not to follow him. He stops, turns round and looks you straight in the eye. ‘Don’t be nervous,’ he says. The invitation was meant for you. I haven’t mistaken you for someone else. I’ve been waiting for you for years. I know exactly who you are, and I know everything about you – yes, everything. I love you so much, and I went to an awful lot of trouble to bring you here. You belong here, and I’m so glad you’ve finally arrived.’

He takes you by the hand and walks by your side along a hallway. It’s beautiful, and so peaceful. You can see a large door at the end of the corridor, and as you approach you begin to hear noises coming from the other side. It sounds like a party, and whoever is there is having a great time!

You come to the door. He pauses and looks you straight in the eye again. ‘Ready?’ he asks.

‘I’m not sure,’ you reply. ‘I don’t know what to expect.’

‘Just trust me,’ he says. We’re going to have a ball! This is a day of great celebration!’

He opens the door and leads you in, still holding your hand. You gasp at the sight in front of you. It’s a huge banqueting hall, the like of which you’ve never seen in your life. It’s absolutely beautiful. The walls are made of precious stones, and it’s drenched in bright sunshine, like a beautiful garden. The room is full of beautifully decorated tables, and people are sitting at the tables.

Running through the middle of the hall, just near you, is a river. The water is clearer and purer than any water you’ve ever seen, and somehow you just know that it is life-giving water. It will refresh you in a way you’ve never been refreshed before, and fill you with all the energy and vitality you need, for ever.

At the far end of the hall you can see a huge throne, and on it you can just make out a figure. You can’t see him properly as so much light is emanating from him – he is the source of the sunshine – that you have to shield your eyes. To the side of this throne is another, slightly smaller throne, but it’s empty, and you just know that the one holding your hand is the one who should be sitting there. That’s his rightful place, yet he stepped down from his throne because he’s so excited about your arrival and he just had to come and welcome you personally.

You’re still trying to take all of this in and make sense of it all when you become aware of voices calling your name. You look around at the people sitting at the tables. They’re laughing and joking together. They’re singing to the figure on the throne. They’re eating and enjoying the delicious food. Somehow – and you don’t really know quite how – they’re doing all three at once!

You realise that not every seat at the tables is filled – there must be more guests due to arrive. As you look around the hall you see your friends and family. They are calling you and waving to you. You can see from the look on their faces that they’re very excited to see you.

You wave back, tentatively, still not completely sure what’s going on. Your host leads you to a place at a table and says to you, ‘Here’s your place. I’ve been saving it for you.’ You look, and there’s an empty seat, where the table is laid ready, and it’s labelled with your name. He draws the chair out for you – an ornate, throne-like chair – and invites you to take your place.

He smiles at you. He smiles with his whole face, particularly his eyes. It’s a smile that says to you, ‘You’re so very special. I’ve been waiting so long for this moment and I’m so excited that it’s finally arrived. I love you so much.’

It all begins to fall into place. He’s been waiting for me. He loves me so much. He’s kept this place for me – a place at his table. He left his throne because he wanted to welcome me personally. I don’t deserve this, yet I belong here. This is my home.

He smiles even more broadly as he sees that you are now beginning to understand. He gently pushes your chair in towards the table and kisses you on the top of your head. ‘Please excuse me. Another of my guests is arriving and I want to welcome them.’

You take a deep breath and look around you once more. Your friends and family realise you need a moment and give you some breathing space – they needed it too when they first arrived. You look towards the figure on the throne. ‘Thank you,’ you whisper in your heart. ‘I know I don’t deserve this, but thank you.’

‘You’re welcome,’ you hear a voice reply. It’s not an audible voice; you hear it in your heart. ‘As I said to you just now, I went to a lot of trouble to bring you here, and I’m so glad you accepted my invitation. I love you.’

‘I love you too,’ you say in return, and you mean it in a way you’ve never meant it before. There’s a new depth to your love that you’ve never been able to experience and express before.

You smile, and sit quietly for a few minutes, trying to take it all in. Then you turn to those around you. They’re looking at you, and they have the biggest smiles on their faces. They know exactly what’s going on in your heart and in your mind, because they’re feeling it too. They felt it when they first arrived, and they’re still feeling it now – the feeling never goes away. It’s a joy beyond understanding, a peace that cannot be defined, and a love that is deeper than any love that can ever be felt.

You smile at them. ‘Hi,’ you say. ‘I’m home.’

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