THE "Shoebox" Service at Crediton Methodist Church on Sunday, October 15 was planned by our Worship Team and led by Pam Murphy. 

The challenge was to show an invitation that we had received.

Pam showed a ticket to the presentation ceremony when her son received his degree at Bath Abbey.

Hilary used to work for the Prince’s Trust and showed an invitation to a reception at Kensington Palace in 1989 hosted by the then Prince of Wales.

Marjorie had found an invitation to her parents’ wedding in 1932 and June showed an invitation to a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace in 1995 and also to an investiture in 1996.

Pam explained that we would explore what Jesus means when He told the story of invitations to a wedding. Those who were invited did not attend and others were then invited in their place.

It was Shoebox Sunday when we send shoeboxes to Eastern Europe via the local charity Christian Response to Eastern Europe based in Exmouth.

The Shoebox Appeal is in addition to Soup Kitchens, medical and educational projects, family support etc that is provided each year by the charity.  It sends out three huge trucks each year to Moldova, the most deprived part of Europe.

The congregation was invited to take along shoeboxes they had filled.

A total of 16 boxes had been filled by Crediton Rainbows and six by a lady who could not get to Exmouth and had brought them to our coffee morning the previous day.

The shoe boxes were filled with toys, stationery, sweets, toiletries, woolly hats and gloves.

They are symbols of love and hope and that people in the rest of the world really do care.

Pam said a friend had admitted to making up an excuse not to attend a party as she did not want to upset the person who had invited her. She did not think that was the reason why the people in Matthew 22 had turned down the invitation.

It was Jesus’ last few days before He would be arrested and crucified.

He had been busy in the Temple talking to the religious leaders about their behaviour and told them the parable of those invited by the king to a wedding banquet but who refused and made up reasons for not attending and even killed the servants sent to fetch them.  

The king sent other servants to invite people off the streets – good or bad – and they did attend the banquet. The first people invited would have despised the "riffraff" and the forgotten. 

With only a few days to go, there was no time for Jesus to be subtle with his message to the religious leaders and they knew that He was getting at them. They had protected their ways and rituals and believed in their own righteousness and refused to be changed by Jesus.

They had not done as God had repeatedly asked them to do – they had not listened to His prophet.  They had refused to share God’s love with everyone. They had cast apart the sick, those with dubious lifestyles and the gentiles. 

Today, we have had an opportunity to reach out to the poor people of Eastern Europe. We may feel that this is a small drop in the ocean of need. This drop will make a difference to some people. It really will be felt to be offering hope to some people and reinforcing that God does love them.

It will enable them to reach out to God and accept what God offers to everyone. Pam hoped it spurs them on to be loving and caring.

We should not think that we have "done our bit" or that we do not need or are too old to be changed by God. No-one, Chief Priest, Pharisee, church attendee is so perfect that God’s transformation would not benefit them.

Those religious leaders steeped in the scriptures and dedicated to obeying the law heard Jesus with their ears but were not prepared to listen to Him, not hear the message from God or to be changed by it.

Those who truly listened to Jesus and believed – like the tax collectors Matthew and Zaccheus who went on to follow Him. Like the Samaritan woman who met Jesus at the well.

She ran into town and told the people all about Jesus and it was through her that they heard Jesus’s message.

It is no different for us today. If we become too complacent or confident about doing the right thing we can still fail to listen with out hearts and miss what God wants us to hear. We can miss the direction He wants us to go and miss out on changes and chances to get a closer relationship with God.

Pam told of a man who became a Christian when he realised that, despite career success and wealth, his life was empty. In his seeking for something different he encountered Jesus. He listened to Jesus and took a leap of faith and found a new freedom and inner peace.

Jesus’s parable tells us the king was outraged because they refused his invitation. God actually bypassed those first invitees and Jesus went direct to those who needed Him and those who would listen.

Pam asked us to go away and ponder the following questions: 1. What have we learned from today’s gospel? 2. May we really listen to Jesus and may our hearts respond. 3. How prepared are we to accept the presence of Jesus in our lives with joy and thanksgiving that longs to be shared.

Bronwyn Nott