Friday Evening Arrives
Jessi greets her friend Tricia with a bright smile at the chime of the front doorbell, "Hello, Tricia. Come in. We'll leave for the restaurant after prayer with my parents," Jessi said, the two girls heading into the den to meet with D.L. and Sarah.
"Good evening, Tricia," D.L. said, rising in greeting the girls as they enter the room.
"Good evening, Sir," Tricia returned, "And you, too, Mrs. Whitcombe." Sarah nodded, she sitting in that wingback chair inherited from Grammy O'Brien.
After a brief time of prayer, the girls are sent off, yet with D.L.'s continued blessing, "We'll here for sure keep you and the event this evening in mind before God."
At the Banquet Hall
Lively chatter fills the dining room at Fireside Grill with the arrival of the group from Faith Fellowship Church and their guests, music heard softly through the ceiling speakers. The evening is an occasion more so for the guests than for the church members.
Gradually they're all seated at the linen-covered tables; linen napkins peaked at each place setting. At the table's center, a chrome-cross candleholder supports a lighted candle. Various sliced pies at each place setting, as well as a Caesar salad, whets the appetites of those attending the banquet.
Jessi saves a couple of seats at her table for Nurse Carol and her friend. Glancing eagerly about, expecting her arrival, she then sees her on the arm of her boyfriend.
"Nurse Carol," Jessi said, rising to greet them. "Welcome. I'm glad you've come. And your friend."
"Hi, Jessi. Ah, I'm Nurse Carol at the hospital," she whispered. "But, let it be just ‘Carol' when I'm off duty, please." She smiled.
"Sure," Jessi whispered in return and then glanced at Carol's friend.
"And this is my friend, Alex Grater," Carol continued, turning toward him.
"Hi Jessi," Alex said, with a wink, "Carol told me all about you," he stopped short of continuing. But then said, head-nodding toward Carol, "She talks about you all the time. At first, I didn't know if I should come tonight. I was tossing back and forth the whole idea, whether I should come here or go to the baseball game."
"But, as you can see, Jessi," Carol interrupted, "which event he has chosen, and in my mind, the better."
"Thinking," Alex went on slowly, "There will be another game tomorrow night I can attend."
"It's good to meet you, Alex," Jessi acknowledged, "I'm sure you'll be glad you've come here tonight," she added.
She then introduces them to Tricia and the others at the table. "And that young man there," she said, "is my friend Thomas-John Melleson," she beamed her dimpled smile. "We graduated from high school together." Thomas-John returned a smile of his own toward her.
"You look like a baseball fan to me, Thomas-John?" Alex asked.
"Well, yes, Sir, I guess I am – sort of," Thomas-John answered.
"Sort of?" Alex chuckled. "Well, maybe I can find out just what you mean by ‘sort of' if you'll come with me to the game tomorrow evening? How about it? My treat."
"Maybe. I'll think about it."
"Thinking about going to a baseball game? Hm," Alex said surprisingly. "Ouch," he glanced toward Carol, who returned the glance out of the corner of her eye and turning her head side to side.
The music ceased, the associate pastor, host for the evening, welcomed all to the festivity, in particular, the guests. He then gives the blessing for the meal and the food is served; the restaurant servers place before the diners a plate of country-breaded chicken, mash potatoes with gravy, and a vegetable medley, observing that the guests have finished the salad. Chatter again fills the room, all dining, friendships also being nourished.
After a while, most everybody finished eating; the pastor rises, the guests observing, the chatter gradually ceases. The pastor introduces the first of two speakers of the evening; it is Jessi. She, rising from her table, approaches the podium. After a prayer for her, Jessi shares her story. (Yet, she knew of several others also in the room that had a worthy story to tell, like all whose lives Jesus had touched for the better. One in particular she knew was her friend, Tricia, sitting with her that evening, and whom God had healed miraculously of asthma when a child. As often as He gives her the opportunity, Tricia shares her story as well.)
Tonight, however, was Jessi's turn, and so Jessi began, perhaps mainly for the hearing of Alex and Carol, her guests. Both, as well as all in the room that evening, seemed to give Jessi their rapt attention as she shared.
Having finished, Jessi returned to her table and was greeted by a hug from Carol. "Thank you," Carol said. Alex, however, seemed to be thinking of other matters, perhaps the baseball game he was missing. (Ah, that evil one entices Alex's thoughts; you want to be there for sure rather than here, don't you? You wonder what you're missing.)
As introduced, Pastor Jacobs, Jr., then approaches the podium to speak. (The Sr. Pastor Jacobs retired from his pastoral role a few years ago.) "Thank you, Jessi," he begins. Pausing momentarily, he then continued, "I think we could close the evening with that."
(Alex straightened up. Yeah, let's do, he silently spoke to himself. So we can depart this place, that evil one gladdened at hearing such words.)
"But, I'm here," the pastor said, "and so I'll go ahead and share with you the few thoughts that I've prepared."
Alex's forearms placed on the table, his head, too, dropped, as the pastor began sharing the Bible story of the wedding banquet told by Jesus initially to the people of Jesus' day when He walked the earth. As the pastor spoke, Jessi recalled the story herself most vividly as Grammy had related it to her as a child and her childhood friend Timothy.
Jessi Reminisces Another of Grammy’s Reading Time
Young Timothy and Jessi perched themselves on the ottoman in front of Grammy sitting in her wingback chair, their favorite position for Grammy's Bible reading times to them. Grammy opened her Bible and began her story: "Jesus spoke to them again in parables, saying, 'The kingdom of heaven is like a king who prepared a wedding banquet for his son....'
Through Jessi's imagination, she found herself and Timothy in a king's palace standing among other children of the royal court. They heard the king proclaim his plans to give a wedding feast for his son. Even though the king's servants had called all those guests to the feast, in compliance with the orders, they refused to come.
"Look," Jessi said to Timothy, "How the king appears so disappointed."
"I don't blame him," Timothy responded. "I think you would be too if no one came to one of your parties. And his guests don't want to come either to his party for his son."
Timothy and Jessi then stood fast as they heard the king calling his other servants, "Tell those to please come," he said, "and not to ignore my invitation. My oxen and fattened cattle butchered; everything is ready."
But, they paid no attention; they all went their way, minding their own business, doing their own thing, showing no interest at all in the wedding banquet the king had prepared.
Timothy and Jessi shuddered, watching some taking hold of his servants, mistreating them, and killing them. Realizing the unworthiness of the guests enraged the king so that he sent out his armies and killed them all and burned their cities.
As Timothy and Jessi stood fast, watching, the king's servants, being so ordered, dispersed throughout the highways and byways, calling all they could find, both good and bad, to the wedding banquet. At last, the banquet hall filled with guests, and the king arrived. Greeting the guests, he looked about at them all, and then his eyes fixed on one improperly dressed.
"How did you get in here without the proper garments?" the king asked him. That guest suddenly found himself at a lost for words, the king ordered him bound hand and foot and thrown into the outer darkness.
Young Timothy and Jessi shuddered. ("My children," Grammy interjected, "do not be frightened. The righteousness of Christ is your wedding garments.")
Timothy and Jessi then rejoiced that they were considered worthy of being counted among the real guests. Because of their acceptance of the invitation offered so freely and lovingly, they entered the banquet clothed with the proper garments.
Grammy, having then finished the story, closed her Bible; her children returned home.
An Invitation Ignored
Pastor Jacobs, Jr., extended the invitation to all in attendance at this evening's event at Fireside Grill, especially to those who have come as guests so invited. Some stood, accepting the invitation. Alex, however, remained un-yielded, and at the closing prayer dismissing the evening quickly rose. "Come along home, Carol," he said, turning toward her. (That evil one aspiring a hateful glare, applauding, relieved that Alex did not give way to the pastor's call. Appearing on Alex's left, he escorted Alex out of Fireside Grill into the dark of the night.) Turning back momentarily at the exit door, Alex motioned toward Carol for her to come.
Shaking Jessi's hand, Carol replied appreciatively, "Thank you, Jessi and Tricia," and nodding to the rest at that table. "I'll see you at work Monday, Jessi," she smiled. Jessi nodded, prayerful tears swelling her eyes.
Go to Chapter Eleven
© 2018 Charles O Newcombe