Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’
– St. Luke 14.16-24 (NIV)
In the Holy + Name of Jesus. Amen
When I was a child, on occasion, I would have to take some medicine. When you’re small, those pill can be awful big. Sometimes they can be dry on the outside and stick to the back of your throat and make you gag. It can be hard to take a pill like that. But my mother had a good trick for that. She’d take a spoonful of applesauce or if it was an especially bad pill, chocolate pudding, and she’d push the pill into the applesauce. Then I’d happily slurp up the applesauce and the pill would go down. Then I’d go away and feel better because the medicine would work. That was my mother’s way of dealing with a hard pill to swallow.
Today, Jesus gives us a hard pill to swallow, but there’s no applesauce with it. First of all, what Jesus says in this parable is something that sounds really wonderful. He says, “a certain man was preparing a banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet, he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘come because everything is now ready.’” So here’s this big, beautiful party, free of charge and the invitation is at their doorstep. Now this would not have been the only time that these people had heard about the invitation because in the ancient world, they did not click ‘going’ to a facebook invite or check a box on a little card and drop it back in the mailbox. The way it worked in the ancient world is that you would be told in a week or two weeks or a month that there would be a party and you were invited so you could have it on your mental calendar. And then on the day of, the person who was giving the party would send their servants around to tell everyone the party was starting: ‘As soon as you get here, we’re going to eat. It’s time to have fun and celebrate together.’ So this would not have been the first time the people had heard this invitation.
That’s you and me. We’ve heard God’s invitation many times. How many Sundays are there in the life you’ve already lived? How many will you have in a lifetime? How many days? As many days as there are in your life, that’s how many times God has given you His invitation. And He continues to hold that invitation out to you every day: ‘Come be with me. Come celebrate. Come love me and be with me, for I want to be your God and I want you to be my people and I want to bless you, give you forgiveness. I want to give you grace and shower you with blessings” That’s God’s invitation.
But in this parable, how do people respond? Do they say, ‘oh! My goodness! The party’s today? OK. I will drop what I’m doing and go right away!” No. “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, I have just bought a field and i must go and see it. Please excuse me. Another said, I just bought 5 yoke of oxen and am on my way to try them out. Please excuse me. Still another said, I just got married, so I can’t come.” Really? Those are the best excuses these people can come up with? I just bought a field and I have to go look at it–if you buy land without looking at it, I have beachfront property in Arizona I’d sell you. I’ll give you a good deal. I promise. The second excuse, I’ve bought oxen and am on my way to try them out–that’s like saying I just bought a car and now I need to go sit in it and see if it turns on and see if it drives. No one would do that! The third excuse, I just got married so I can’t come, sounds a little more legitimate, but you’d be tempted to ask, then why aren’t you with your spouse right now?
Obviously, this party was not high on these people’s list and if it had been, they would have gone. This invitation simply did not matter to these people.
And this is something we need to watch out for ourselves. Because we have gotten the invitation many times. And yet all the reasons that we come up with for not taking God up on His invitation are excuses, aren’t they? They’re not even good excuses. What is possibly more important or precious than spending time with Jesus and hearing His Word? A dance competition? A volleyball tournament? A softball game? Family reunion? What’s more important than your Lord? And if you don’t like that, remember what we heard in our reading from Proverbs: “Whoever corrects mockers invites insults. Whoever rebukes the wicked incurs abuse. Do not rebuke mockers or they will hate you. Rebuke the wise and they will love you. Instruct the wise and they will become wiser still. Teach the righteous and they will add to their learning.”
So if you look in your heart, and you realize that you have made excuses, as I have, as we all have–we’ve all found things that are more important or that we like better than God’s word–the important thing is how you react to that realization. Do you admit it and say yes, I have made excuses, but I don’t want to be that way in the future or will you get angry at the message?
The messenger’s job is simply to tell the message. That’s all he does. He shows up and says, hey! The party’s on! All is now ready! Come to the party! And the master gives him another job, after the people reject and push away and disdain the message. The next job is to go out and tell more people the message. It doesn’t matter what songs we sing. It doesn’t matter what musical styles we choose. Or how the pastor dresses or if you personally like the messenger. The only thing that makes a difference is the message–the invitation. Because I can’t save you. And you can’t save yourself.
The only Savior is Jesus Christ. Who gave His life for you. Who is a faithful and true witness. Who shed His blood for you. Even though you want to make excuses sometimes, He still stood in your place under the wrath of God. He never made excuses. He could’ve said–you know what, I’m God’s son. I don’t have to do this. You’re on your own–but He never did that. Jesus willingly took the sinner’s place and He paid for your punishment. That is the basis of the celebration! That Jesus gave Himself for you and not only that, but that He rose from the dead to prove your sins are forgiven. He was given over to death for our sins and He was raised to life because of our justification. Because you are right with God when you trust in His payment for your sins. That’s what it takes to throw this party–the death and resurrection of the Son of God. And He has accomplished it.
Now the message goes out to the whole earth, to all people, every day. It’s better than writing it in the sky or taking out a flashing billboard or ads on the internet where people see it on the sidebar as they scroll to see the ESPN scores or the weather. Instead, He sends people with the message. He sends pastors, teachers–He sends you. Yes, you Christian. He sends you with His word. With word of His pardon. The invitation goes out to all the Earth.
As we look at this, we see the first group of people who rejected it, who pushed it away the invitation and didn’t really feel like comings and made excuses instead are God’s Old Testament people, the Jews. And that is what they did. They chose other things instead. They didn’t value God’s Word, so they lost it. What does God do with His anger over their refusal to listen? “The owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant: go quickly into the streets and bring in the poor, the cripple, the blind, and the lame” He sends his invitation out to other people. He sends it to the kind of people who wouldn’t normally be invited to this party.
And that’s you and me, my Christian friends. We are the gentiles. The ones who were not God’s people originally, but God has sent His invitation to us and gathered us into His church and made us His own, so we belong to Him. And that invitation is why you and I are here today. Because somewhere along the line, someone came along and told our ancestors about Jesus the Christ and invited us to feast with Him forever. That is why we are here. That also means we need to pay attention to this invitation. Take it seriously. When people say that God will accept you even if you don’t’ go to church every single Sunday and that God loves you no matter what, sometimes people misuse those kind of statements. They use it as a reason to neglect God’s word rather than to come to the celebration. You shouldn’t use God’s grace as a license to ignore His grace. That’s not why He gave it to us.
This invitation is so very precious and it’s worth so much. There’s nothing else that can replace it in the human heart. Nothing at all. It’s worth asking why is the master so insistent that people come and celebrate? Why doesn’t he just do what the rest of us do? Stick the leftovers in the fridge and eat on them for the next week? Why is he so insistent that everyone come to his party? Jesus gives us an answer to this in John 17 where He says: “So that they may have the full measure of my joy within them.” Think about that. That you would have the full measure of Jesus’ joy in your heart. The joy of the Son of God, perfect and complete and holy in every regard, The joy and delight He had with the Father and the Holy Spirit before time began and that they still have today. That comes to you and moves into your heart and fills your whole life because Jesus is your Savior and He did everything for you. And in His grace, He invites you to share His joy, every day.
See, this is what people who miss out on the invitation and ignore it don’t understand and they never find it out. Because the reason the master is so insistent that the invitation is sent out is people share in his joy. Because he loves them and wants to give them his grace. That invitation is true whether you believe it or not, whether you follow it or not, God’s grace is real and is there for all people. And that invitation goes out to the whole world.
Just this past week I was in New Ulm for our synod’s district convention. Pastors and teachers and lay people, about 500 of us, from MN, IA, MS, and a sliver of western WI got together to hear reports and updates on what our synod is doing. You would not believe the amount of mission work we are getting to do!
One of the biggest areas of our mission work right now is VietNam. It’s still a communist country, but they are tolerant of religion. And there is a Hmong pastor in our synod who is posting his sermons on the internet for anyone to find and read. A group of Vietnamese believers, about 100,000 of them, found his sermons online and they said, this is what we are looking for! Thank God He gave us this teaching. So they contacted our Hmong pastor and he has made mission trips over there and the next thing you know, the Vietnamese government is asking our synod to build a Christian training center in the city of Hanoi. The lady in charge of vetting and making sure the churches do what they’re supposed to do according to the rules for the country of Vietnam, told our synod leaders they like what we teach. When we look at the Bible, you teach what the Bible teaches. You are honest and your teaching is having a good effect on our people. We want you to come and teach all these people in our country. Franklin Graham, the son of Billy Graham–you may have heard of him–went to Vietnam recently and had a rally event, seeing the potential for mission work in their country and he asked the vietnamese government to build a training center, but they told him no. Yet they told our synod to come to spread God’s word. This is something that our synod was not looking for. In fact, we’re struggling to keep up with the opportunities. God’s word simply grows and brings people in and the invitation goes out. It’s spreading like wildfire.
What about here at St John’s? This is a pivotal and exciting time for our congregation. I don’t know if you know this, but we are starting lots of new events, opportunities for fellowship, teaching God’s word, new ways to reach out using our school, and over the internet and in person in our community. We have the life-giving invitation. We are starting new worship opportunity every Monday night with different music and atmosphere. This is not the time to harp or criticize or say, I would do it differently. This is the time for us to pull together because this invitation is so precious and so many people need to hear it. We are the way that news gets out to the whole earth. So today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts, but instead turn to Him and listen and accept the Word that is planted in your, which gives you life. Because it does give you life; it gives you eternal life. And it makes us alive. Amen.