Fifth graders have a few awkward moments. Remember in gym class the agony of picking teams. We hoped we make the cut before the last pick. Another moment came at the end of the day. The whirlwind of leaving school wreaked havoc. You could see one of your classmates with a stack of sealed envelopes. He or she would subtly pass them out. You and I would play it cool by taking extra time zipping our backpack while anxiously waiting to get our card.
Part of our childhood experience does not change. Even with a calm demeanor on the outside, we wait, anticipate, and hope for the invite. The verbal gesture or the sealed envelope says to us, “You’re included.”
One of the most powerful scenes of the Gospels comes from Matthew 9:9-13. The writer of the book recounts the moment Jesus called him. An unsuspecting and looked down upon tax collector leaves his both to follow Jesus. Not only that, but Jesus eats at his house. Someone who the religious leaders would deem non-invited and non-included, Jesus welcomes.
In this moment in scripture, consider what Matthew says to all his readers. The grace of Jesus invited and included me in my brokenness, so to Christ invites and includes you. When we experience the Gospel, we not only recognize how Christ has invited but how He has called us to include others.
Brennan Manning in the Ragamuffin Gospel titled a chapter “Grazie, Signore,” Italian for “Thank You.” He makes this connection of our thankfulness for Christ’s grace and our relationship with others:
Each encounter with a brother or sister is a mysterious encounter with Jesus Himself. In the upper room, the Man like us but ungratefulness spelled out the game plan of gratitude: “Love one another as I have loved you.” To Peter on the beach along the Sea of Tiberias, He said, “If you love me, Simon Son of John, tend my sheep.” Quite simply, our deep gratitude to Jesus Christ is manifested neither in being chaste, honest, sober, and respectable, nor in churchgoing, Bible-toting, and Psalm-singing, but in our deep and delicate respect for one another (pg. 123)
Gratitude for the grace of God moves us far beyond answering the question at the table, “What are you thankful for?” Our response of gratefulness to the Gospel calls us to invite and include others. When we encounter people, grace reminds us of what Jesus has done for us which leads us to see what Christ has done for the people He brings into our lives.
In this season of Thanksgiving, who has God brought to you to say, “You’re invited. You’re included”? The momentous invitation from Christ has brought us into His grace, and He calls us to extend this to others.
Photo credit by Kaboompics.