“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
I write my fair share of food stories in the space. Readers know by now how much I enjoy cooking, how much I appreciate creative recipes, and how the entire farm to table process fascinates me. A great meal, well presented, is one of my favorite things.
But it’s so much more than that. It’s the community aspect of sharing and serving, it’s the conversation around the table, the spiritual nurture, the κοινωνία (koinonia – literally, “being in community”).
I thought about this a lot Sunday, because we followed up a beautiful morning worship experience at church with a dinner group in the evening. The commonality, the thread that brings the two elements together, is the word “invitation”, and the idea of God’s wide open arms bringing each one of us home.
At its best, going to church for worship is the 400-person version of nine friends around the table enjoying dinner together. We gather, we pray, we celebrate, we learn, we are nurtured, we are encouraged, we are nourished, we are blessed, we serve, we are served, we are invited into something deeper, and then we take this strength – and this invitation – back out into the world.
Sunday morning, I was pleased to be back down in the CLC for our praise service. I felt God’s presence profoundly as we sang “He’s a good, good Father” together. I love the intimacy of the atmosphere in the informal space. Then, at 11:15 in the sanctuary, that same electric “buzz” of an enthusiastic, passionate faith community was still very much present.
It was in the Lord’s Prayer, interestingly, that I was touched most deeply. I could hear all the voices together – not rote recitation but deep unity, and the presence of God in the context of the shared prayer was real, with a distinct clarity.
The overwhelming message of Sunday morning at Wake Forest Presbyterian Church felt just as invitational, just as nurturing, just as intimate as the dinner we shared with friends that evening.
God’s arms open wide; the Creator’s generous heart receptive to everyone who walks through the doors; the faith community speaking God’s “Yes” with a clear voice into a world where affirmation is sometimes scarce; the invitation of Jesus in all its simplicity and power: come, everyone who is carrying any kind of a burden.
Or, as Eugene Peterson paraphrased the passage in The Message, “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” – Matthew 11:28-30
The table is set. The invitation is “now.” So come.
Derek has published seven books in the past decade (you can find them at https://www.amazon.com/Derek-Maul/e/B001JS9WC4), and there’s always something new in the works.
Before becoming a full-time writer, Derek taught public school in Florida for eighteen years, including cutting-edge work with autistic children. He holds bachelor’s degrees in psychology and education from Stetson University and the University of West Florida.
Derek is active in teaching at his church: adult Sunday school, and a men’s Bible study/spiritual formation group. He enjoys the outdoors, traveling, photography, reading, cooking, playing guitar, and golf.