Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Hot Dogs, Wedding Feasts, and Jesus

A couple of months ago I spent 4 days in Chicago with a small missions team from my church. We partnered with a local organization called Youth With a Mission who's been serving the city for 20+ years. In fact, it was this same organization that I had spent two years serving full-time in my mid-twenties.

Since our team was so small, we joined up with another team in the city to do a couple of outreach projects. We walked around Daley Plaza during the lunch hour one day asking folks if we can pray with them. We explored Little India/Pakinstan engrossing ourselves in the culture, engaging in conversation, and eventually praying with those who accepted our offer. We passed out Jesus films and ice cold bottles of water on a warm night. We engaged with the homeless of the city, both on the streets and in a soup kitchen. We fed the hungry, prayed with the sick, and met some practical needs of those living on the streets. Anyone we could show crazy love to, we did.

Our last morning in the city, we packed up all our stuff and shoved it back into the SUV that had brought us. We ate breakfast and cleaned up the room we had stayed in, making sure to leave it spotless as it had been upon arrival. We left notes for the YWAM staff we'd grown to love in just those few short days. Then we headed to the basement to pack up all the basic essentials for our last outreach of the trip: hot dogs.

Hot dogs? Yes. You heard that right. Hot dogs. A couple hundred of them, in fact.

One wouldn't think that hot dogs could have an impact in people's lives.

The truth is, it probably wasn't the hot dog that had the impact. The impact came from the personal invitation to join us for a meal.

There's a story in the Gospels about a man who invited all these important people to his son's wedding. Presumably, these people were people he was closely associated with, probably some were even his friends. Yet the day of the wedding, these people didn't show up at the wedding. They all had excuses as to why they couldn't attend. So the man told his servants to go out into the streets and invite the poor, the lame, the crippled, and the blind.

The story seems a little far-fetched especially considering this is a wedding feast for the man's son we're talking about here. On the other hand, the closest friends and associates in this man's life turned their backs on him on a very important day in his family's life. To heck with them, right? They don't deserve to be there! They didn't honor the man or appreciate his invitation. So he extends his invitation to those whom he knows will do both. 

After we got the grilling station all set up and the buns, condiments, and chips set up on the serving table, we took an hour walking up and down the beach inviting complete strangers to share a meal with us. Tons of people looked at us like we were crazy. Many said "no." Others thanked us for the invite and said they'd think about it. A few even engaged us in brief conversation to find out who we were and why we were inviting them to eat hot dogs. 

Truth be told, I have no idea exactly how many people at lunch with is that Saturday afternoon. What I do know is a TON of people were invited and a TON came to get hot dogs. 😊

Out of all those people who were invited, I specifically remember one lady who stopped to chat after I invited her to grab a hot dog. She asked about who we were and why we were giving away hot dogs and chips, what church we were with, etc. Then she asked some deeper, harder questions.. The ones about politics and religion and gender and marriage equality. The ones that can make or break a conversation when talking about the church and Jesus. She wasn't looking to start a debate. She had genuine questions. And I loved answering them even though I didn't have all the answers. It was a real, honest conversation where both of us walked away different. Because that's what crazy love does... It changes you. 

How has crazy love changed you? Who are you inviting to experience crazy love?

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