Luke 14:15-23

“One of the dinner guests, on hearing this, said to him, “Blessed is anyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” 

Then Jesus said to him, “Someone gave a great dinner and invited many. At the time for the dinner he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land, and I must go out and see it; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please accept my regrets.’ Another said, ‘I have just been married, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the slave returned and reported this to his master.

Then the owner of the house became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ And the slave said, ‘Sir, what you ordered has been done, and there is still room.” Then the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the roads and lanes, and compel people to come in, so that my house may be filled.”  Luke 14:15-23

Is there a difference between an excuse and a reason? What does a dictionary.com say?

Reason: a basis or cause, as for some belief, action, fact, event, etc.

Excuse: an explanation offered as a reason for being excused

To the invited guests, buying land, buying oxen, and getting married were all reasons for not attending the banquet. To the host of the dinner, they were excuses. And the owner was not at all pleased. So who is right on this one?

Maybe it isn’t about being right or wrong. Maybe it isn’t about excuses or reasons. Maybe instead this is a story about the status of the relationship between the host and the invited guests. The host made an assumption – that attending a dinner at his house would be high on the priority list of his guests. They had all invited. It seems they all accepted the invitation to attend. In effect, they promised to be there. So the host planned the meal accordingly. Then they didn’t show. They thought of themselves and their own needs first rather than their relationship with the host.

In the end, it turns out that their relationship was more of an acquaintance than a friendship. Friends don’t stand each other up. Friends show up for one another. Friends are there for one another. Friends prioritize their time together. If they were really friends of the owner, they would have postponed their own plans and attended the dinner.

But the host had all that food! What was he going to do? Let it spoil? No, he wanted to throw a great dinner. So he sent his slaves out to gather people who were not invited to anyone’s dinner. The poor, the crippled, the blind, the lame, and anyone else they could find who were hungry and might appreciate a great meal.

When children are baptized, their parents promise God that they will bring them to worship, teach them to pray, to read the Bible, to seek justice, and be servants. The invitation was given long ago, the promises said at a baptism say “I accept. I’ll do it. You can count on me. I’ll be there.”

No Christian decides to attend worship on Sunday morning. That decision was already made in the promises of their baptism. The decision is never “Are we going to worship today?”, it is always only “Are we going to keep the promises of our baptism today or not?”

After the recent flooding in Louisiana, St. Paul Lutheran Church in Baton Rouge decided to invite hungry people in for an evening meal. They weren’t ready. They didn’t have enough food. But they issued the invitation anyway and soon people started showing up. And food started pouring in. Night after night people showed up to eat. One night last week they served dinner to over 300 people. This, by the way, is a congregation with an average worship attendance of 90.

Maybe Jesus in on to something here.

Let us pray: Dear Jesus, by the power of your Holy Spirit, drive this story into our hearts. Not only that we might look closely at the differences between reasons and excuses in our own lives, but that we might become willing to invite as many hungry people as we can to the great dinner you throw every weekend in the building where we worship. Thank you again for those who invited us, and those who held us to the promises of our own baptisms. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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