After months of planning and preparation for The 25th Annual Pastor Appreciation Banquet, the big day was finally here. Two dozen aluminum pans heaped with hot and cold food were catered in for the event, along with three long tables piled high with delectable desserts. Folding tables covered with crisp, white cloths filled the local High School gymnasium, along with silverware settings for 500 guests.
The planners decorated the gym with a silver theme for the 25th year, similar to a wedding anniversary celebration. They fully expected saints and former saints (who had moved on to other churches) and their families to show up by the dozens. Unfortunately the planners decided to have the Banquet on a holiday weekend in the summer, and most of the saints decided not to show up.
A reminder text message blast was sent out to everyone that morning.
“Reminder: Pastor Appreciation Banquet today! Come on out, everything’s ready!”
But what happened next is text message responses filled with excuses poured in, even as the last of the chairs were being set up.
“We’re away on vacation. Sorry.”
“We just bought a new property up north, we need to go and see it today. Sorry about that.”
“Oh, I completely forgot about it. Just got a new tractor and need to test it. I hope you understand.”
“We just got married a month ago. We’re way too busy. Thanks.”
A remnant of about 50 saints did show up, along with the planners and volunteers who already there, sweating, working.
As time went by, the excuses mounted up higher than a city dump. The head planner became angry, and made an announcement. “Apparently most of the people we’ve invited are too busy to bother honoring the Pastor who has sacrificed so much for them. We simply cannot waste all of this food. I’m asking you now for a favor: Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. Are you with me?”
The remnant of saints and volunteers responded with a resounding, unified “Yes!”
The gymnasium rapidly filled up with a hundreds of hungry souls. Many of them were homeless, and thankful for the sustenance. One homeless woman was a mother with a baby, wrapped in a blanket. The mother had no diapers for the infant; and when one of the remnant saints saw this—a young mother herself who was blessed with many things, including diapers—she gave the homeless mother all she had.
“Thank you. Thank you so much. You have no idea how wonderful this is.”
One of the volunteers reported to the head planner, “We still have about 100 seats free—there is still room.”
The head planner gathered together and asked a chosen few of the faithful remnant saints, “We need to fill this place before the Pastor arrives. Go out into the highways and the suburbs with the hedged-in homes and compel them to come here for the Banquet. They should be able to drive themselves here.”
Dutifully the saints went out and within a short time, the gymnasium was filled. There was an air of excitement as the din of noisy discussions incrementally escalated, echoing off the gym walls.
Just before the appointed time for the Pastor to arrive, the head planner stepped up to the stage and powered on the wireless microphone. “May I have your attention please?” She had to repeat herself a few times. “Welcome to The 25th Annual Pastor Appreciation Banquet. In just a few minutes—at the top of the hour—the Pastor will walk through those doors. This entire Banquet is a surprise to him. So when he walks in, I want you all to yell—”
One of the poor people interrupted by yelling out, “SURPRISE!”
The gymnasium was filled with joyful laughter.
“Yes, exactly like that. We want our Pastor to be surprised and blessed. Thank you all for coming today. You are a blessing to us: we enjoy serving you.”
Just like clockwork, the Pastor and his wife walked in the doors at the top of the hour. The gymnasium erupted with the planned Surprise! welcome, along with raucous clapping, whistling and cheering. The couple stood there in shock, holding each other, with tears streaming down their faces. Two volunteers went to them and hugged them and took their coats.
The Pastor went on stage.
“Wow! This event reminds me of a Bible story.”
Reference: Luke 14:1-27 (KJV)
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