NO FORMAL WEAR REQUIRED
Since there was no name attached to this story, I cannot be sure if it really happened or it was written by someone who hoped it would happen. In either case, I wanted to share it just in case there may be someone out there who would like to try it.
Some young people were going around the city passing out invitations to all the homeless people they came across. It was an invitation to a special banquet to be held at a local church in their annex where such functions took place. One man who received an invitation decided to go. But he looked at the invitation once more time and these words caught his eye, “Come as you are. No formal wear required.”
When he arrived at the church, he shook my head in disbelief. This couldn’t be the right place. Instead of it being a small church building, it was a beautiful structure and a place that only well-off people would go. He thought to himself, I couldn’t possibly be welcome here. He saw a sign near a door that said, “Special Banquet! Come on in!”
As he stepped gingerly through the door he saw a room full of people whose faces seemed to glow with joy. All were neatly dressed and were serving people setting at tables that looked much like him. But he was still embarrassed at the way he was dressed. His clothes were tattered and torn and covered with stains. He had not had a bath in months. An unpleasant odor seemed to consume him and he had no way to wash away the grime that clung to his body.
At first, he felt like turning around and leaving before he was asked to go. But a man standing behind a lectern, much like you see a Maîte D at a fancy restaurant, was motioning for him to come forward. So mustering every bit of courage he could find, he walked up to the man standing behind a podium. “Welcome!” the man said cheerfully, “We have been expecting you!” The man didn’t seem to notice this homeless man’s terrible condition, so he continued. “Let me take you to your table.” And with that, he led him over to where another man was sitting.
He handed him a menu and asked if he wanted any water to drink. There was chicken, pork chops, and skirt steak on the menu with a choice of sides such as coleslaw, french fries, corn, etc. After the man came back with the water, he asked the man if he was ready to order. He chose the pork chops with mashed potatoes and baked beans.
After a short while, a nice lady brought him his hot meal, she told him that the dessert menu was on the reverse side. The homeless man turned it over and saw the following fruit listed: “love,” “peace,” “joy,” “blessings,” “confidence,” “assurance,” “hope,” “faithfulness,” and “mercy.” I realized that this was no ordinary dinner at an ordinary church. He quickly looked at the top the see the church name and it read, “God’s House of Grace.”
By this time, the homeless man could no longer control his emotions. A sick, painful ache jerked through his stomach and tears filled his eyes. The lady who brought his meal asked if he was okay. Between sobs he said … “Miss, look at me. I’m dirty and nasty. I’m filthy and don’t really deserve this kind of treatment. I don’t know how you can afford to give such a wonderful meal away and not charge anything. Oh, said the kind lady, It’s all be provided and paid for by a special sponsor of our church. His Name is Jesus, and He did this because He wants to be your friend and sponsor too.
After the meal was over, the homeless man left with a full stomach after eating a dish of hot peach cobbler. He noticed a nicely dressed man at the door. The man told him he could come back any time, even come to the church auditorium next door to attend services. The homeless man looked down at himself and asked, “You mean I can come just as I am?” The Pastor said, “Yes, you can come just as you are.”
Although this is not part of the original story, my imagination led me to envision the following scene. The homeless man does come to church the next Sunday, looking as he always does. He watches as people, who drove up in nice cars, and in very nice clothes are standing with hands raised as they sing praises to God. At this point, the homeless man cannot relate to them and has no reason to sing. But when the Pastor rises he welcomed the man as if welcoming an old friend. Then after preaching on how making God first in your life and turning your situation over the Jesus, it can bring about a dramatic change, he asked the choir to sing that grand old hymn, “Just as I am without one plea, but that Thy blood was shed for me, and that Thou bid’st me come to Thee, O Lamb of God, I come! I come!” I’ll let your imagination take it the rest of the way.
While we all agree that the first part of this illustration about inviting homeless people for a free meal at a church social center is quite logical and practical. But the second part about the menu listing spiritual fruit as a dessert is something that the Holy Spirit would need to be in control of. It may take a lot of explaining to some people who never went to church and know nothing about the Fruit of the Spirit. It serves as a reminder to all of us of what God has for those hungry for more of His grace and goodness. But no one will ever never know how realistic this illustration is until they try it. – Dr. Robert R Seyda