1 Corinthians 9:19-23
Although I’m free from all people, I make myself a slave to all people, to recruit more of them. I act like a Jew to the Jews, so I can recruit Jews. I act like I’m under the Law to those under the Law, so I can recruit those who are under the Law (though I myself am not under the Law). I act like I’m outside the Law to those who are outside the Law, so I can recruit those outside the Law (though I’m not outside the law of God but rather under the law of Christ). I act weak to the weak, so I can recruit the weak. I have become all things to all people, so I could save some by all possible means. All the things I do are for the sake of the gospel, so I can be a partner with it.
I haven’t discussed this with anyone and I find this simply unbelievable but by the grace of God we will have 2 speakers here next Sunday. It will be a long service because each speaker will have 30 minutes to speak and after church you will be able to speak to them on a one on one basis. Also understand that I have absolutely no intention of advertising this. Attendance will be totally dependant on who you invite and I am sure you will invite your relatives, your friends and even strangers. Believe it or not, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will be here! Do you think we will have a full house with standing room only? Well as you know, that isn’t going to happen! There not gonna be here.
But you know who will be here next Sunday? Jesus. How many people do you expect to be here? Would you invite the same people if Clinton and Trump were here? No, probably the same old, same old, unless you invite someone. Instead of great speeches between presidential candidates, we can invite people to come to know how they can get into the greatest event / banquet of all time…………who you gonna invite?
Before we get to today’s Gospel reading we find Jesus speaking to the Pharisees. Read Luke 14:1-14 and you will find Jesus telling them and in essence asking them “Why are you happy that just you are here? Why are you happy that those you like are here and those with whom you are comfortable are here? Why are you comfortable with maintaining your mutual admiration society and not inviting people to God’s banquet?” And he closes with “Instead, when you give a banquet, invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind. And you will be blessed because they can’t repay you. Instead, you will be repaid when the just are resurrected.”
Jesus replied, “A certain man hosted a large dinner and invited many people. When it was time for the dinner to begin, he sent his servant to tell the invited guests, ‘Come! The dinner is now ready.’
In that time if you were going to host a banquet, you would send out invitations by any way before hand saying that you were going to have one, you just didn’t know the day or time. This man invited many people so they would at least know about it, acknowledge it. Of course you understand that this “certain man” is God. Easily we can understand this in our world today, and especially in our community today. Almost everybody in our community knows about God. People know the concept of Jesus and how he saves. Few would never have heard the good news from John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
Just as in the parable, people have heard in some way, they have received the invitation, and each Sunday the banquet is ready, and you are his servants sent to tell his invited guests who know about it that the time has now come. Yes, the initial invitation is accepted by all. But we find that God’s initial invitation calls only for an acknowledgement, but the second invitation calls for commitment and action.
One by one, they all began to make excuses. The first one told him, ‘I bought a farm and must go and see it. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I bought five teams of oxen, and I’m going to check on them. Please excuse me.’ Another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
Throughout history people reject the invitation. John spoke of how the Israelites did “The light came to his own people, and his own people didn’t welcome Him.” People are capable of finding many incredible excuses not to come to the banquet. The scripture examples are classic. The first buys a farm without seeing it. The second buys oxen sight unseen. The third just got married and his wife is more important than God.
Or look at the excuses in scripture another way. The first bought a farm and seeing it and in essence working around the farm is more important than God. Got mowing to do, housework to be done, home improvement items are more important than God. Five oxen to check on seems the same, I got better things to do than God. The married guy thinks relationship time with his wife things are more important than taking the time to be at the banquet, to be with God.
D.L. Moody said “Excuses are the cradle … that Satan rocks men off to sleep in.” Anyone can find an excuse if they really want to find one. Let me give you an excuse to not eat carrots. Nearly all sick people have eaten carrots. Obviously, the effects are cumulative. An estimated 99.9% of all Americans who die from cancer and heart disease have eaten carrots. 95 % of people involved in car crashes ate carrots within 60 days of their accidents. 90 % of juvenile delinquents come from homes where carrots were served. Among people born in 1839 who ate carrots, there has been a 100% mortality rate. If you don’t like carrots, now you have your excuse.
OK, so I have established what you know exists in the world today. It is easy for us to stop here. Gee we have a little over 100 on average each Sunday, that’s enough to sustain us, we have new people walk in now and then. Don’t worry, we are OK we might say, God will take care of it.
But that explicitly ignores the rest of the parable and Jesus’ command. Luke 14:21-23 “When he returned, the servant reported these excuses to his master. The master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go quickly to the city’s streets, the busy ones and the side streets, and bring the poor, crippled, blind, and lame.’ The servant said, ‘Master, your instructions have been followed and there is still room.’ The master said to the servant, ‘Go to the highways and back alleys and urge people to come in so that my house will be filled.”
If you say you are a follower of God’s commands then you have no excuse to not….GO OUT! Jesus commands you to go out to all the streets, all the community, to people you might never imagine ever coming. If we don’t do it, who will? If we do not do it then who will? And if we do not do it here, where will it be done? And if not now, when?”
We don’t need to go out to people who are going to church somewhere else, we need to go to those who know of Jesus and don’t understand that they need to truly commit and have an ever growing relationship with Jesus in their life. We need go to the people who really NEED Jesus. It is one beggar telling another beggar where to get food. We are simply a guest at the Master’s table and are commanded to call others too. The church is under orders. Each of us are under orders. Not actively doing this is disobedience to God. Disobedience is what….sin!
God wants His house to be full! Our God with His love for no soul to perish will never settle for His house half full. Our Lord is clearly not pleased with: fishing without catching (Luke 5:4-11) sowing without reaping (Matt. 13:3-9) a fig tree that bears no figs (Luke 13:6-9) lost sheep that are not brought into the fold (Matt. 18:11-14) a lost coin that is sought but not found (Luke 15:8-10) a ripe harvest that is not reaped (Matt. 9:36-38) a proclamation without a response (Matt. 10:14).
Our Lord is not pleased with empty seats in church and when we understand that, what excuses do we offer up? Our Lord seemed to be very much concerned with numbers. The fish in the miraculous catch were counted. The leftovers after the feeding of the five thousand were counted. And the five thousand themselves were counted! Converts at Pentecost were counted. And in the parable of the lost sheep, the shepherd would never have known that one of his flock of one hundred was lost, unless he had counted them!
We are commanded to in scripture to “urge.” Webster’s – to press the mind or will of, to ply with motives, arguments, persuasion –to press hard upon, to insist upon, to persist pressing onward and forward. If we can convince and show people that we are onto something that’s full of joy and meaning, they’ll stampede one another to follow us. Won’t they? Or would they rather come listen to Clinton and Trump?
Our worship ought to be full of joy and meaning. Our worship is to be adoration of God. Singing with gusto no matter what the song is, making a joyfilled noise, praying, laughing and crying together. Do we need to consider that we have become stale in our worship? Is our worship urging other people of other generations? Worship without creativity is like inviting a congregation to come and chew on Kleenex for an hour.
Our fellowship ought to be urging people to be here. John 13:35 “This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” Galatians 5:14-15 “All the Law has been fulfilled in a single statement: Love your neighbor as yourself. But if you bite and devour each other, be careful that you don’t get eaten up by each other!” Never forget this. Seldom will anyone come to a church where you have spoken ill of your fellow worshippers or a church that has developed a reputation for that. No backbiting.
People join churches more because they want warmth than light. We like to think it’s our stunning proclamation of the truth that keeps them in the pews. Sermons may get them into church the first time, but what keeps them coming are friendships that foster inward awareness and support. Never forget, the doctrine may be biblical, the singing inspirational, the sermon uplifting, but love must be the common thread that says to others “I know you’re here and I and Jesus are glad you are here.”
Our personal witness ought to urge people to be here. The American Institute for Church growth asked 10,000 people in 2010 “What was responsible for your coming to Christ and this church?”
I attended a gospel meeting – .5%
I visited there – 1%
I had a special need – 2%
I just walked in – 3%
I liked the programs – 3%
I liked the Bible classes – 5%
I liked the Pastor – 6%
A friend or relative invited me – 79%
If you want your neighbor to know what Christ will do for him, let the neighbor see what Christ has done for you. When Christians live the gospel, sinners will listen to the gospel. When Christians live the Gospel, people see that the whole of your life is different than those “good” people they know. When Christians live the Gospel they obey the Gospel because they love Jesus and their obedience includes Jesus’ demand to: ‘Go quickly to the city’s streets, the busy ones and the side streets, and bring the poor, crippled, blind, and lame.’ Go to the highways and back alleys and urge people to come in so that my house will be filled.”
Let’s reach out to a world in need with the Good News it needs. Everyone is invited and Jesus warns us of what will happen to those whom don’t answer the invite: “I tell you, not one of those who were invited will taste my dinner.” Go urge all you know to come to the banquet.