Excuses, Excuses, Excuses

by Rev. Randy Brown

Our scripture in the morning is taken from Luke’s Gospel, chapter 14 beginning with verse 15.

Now when one of the dinner guests heard Jesus’ remarks, he said to Jesus, “Happy are those who will feast in the kingdom of God!” Jesus replied, “A certain man hosted a large dinner and invited many people to come, and when it was time for the dinner to begin, he sent his servant to the invited guests, ‘Come, the dinner is now ready,’ and one by one they all began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a farm and must go and see it. Please have me excused.’ Another one said, ‘I have bought five pairs of oxen and I must go and test them out. Please excuse me.’ Another one said, ‘I have just gotten married so I cannot come.’

Then the servant returned and reported to the landowner all the excuses and the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, go to the busy ones in the side streets and bring in the poor and the crippled and the blind and the lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Master, your instructions have already been followed, and there is still room for more.’ Then the master said to the servants, ‘Go into the highways and to the back alleys and urge people to come in so that my house may be filled. For I tell you that not one of those who had been invited shall taste my dinner.’”

This is the Word of God for the people of God.

Thanks be to God.

Let us pray.

Father, would You come once again and hide me behind Your cross. May the words that are heard be Your words and not mine. May the one who is seen be You not me, and above all else, may we hear the quiet shuffling of sandaled feet and know that Jesus the Christ has to come to walk in our midst. It’s in His name and for His glory I pray. Amen.

I’ve got to warn you about this sermon. It’s aimed at one person and you’re looking at him. I don’t know when I have ever preached straighter to me than I’m preaching this morning. Now if it backlashes on you, that’s the business of the Holy spirit, but I want you to know that it’s coming straight toward me.

Excuses, excuses, excuses. How many have we offered this week? How many have we offered to get out of something or get around something? Maybe an invitation that came sincerely from another person but we just decided we didn’t want to do it so we gave an excuse. How many this week?

Have you ever been at  a place and received an invitation perhaps by phone or by mail and someone said that they wanted you to do something or sent you a note that they wanted you to do something and you said, “You know, I didn’t even know they knew who I was.” You ever had that type of experience?

Jesus was with the Pharisees in the story that we read a moment ago. Jesus loved to make conversation with them. He kind of would get them rallied up every now and then. There are those folks that do that. Jesus was rallying up the Pharisees. He had been teaching on humility and hospitality and in one part of that teaching He challenged their arrogance. Often we get it wrong. Jesus lived and taught about humility and hospitality. Humility was a great virtue that Jesus lived and showed by example. Sometimes we do pretty good with that, other times we get to thinking more about ourselves that we ought to.

For the last 10 or 12 years, I’ve had the honor of having the opening prayer at the coaches luncheon for the Music City Bowl. They always sit me toward the head table and I’ve been able to sit at the table with some pretty impressive people. Several years ago, I think it was a year that I sat with Georgia coach Ray Goth. Anyway, we were sitting there in the front of the banquet and when the waiter went behind us I said, “Sir, just a minute.” He said, “Yes? Can I help you?” I said, “Well, can I get another pad of butter?” He said, “I don’t think so.” I said, “What do you mean?” He said, “I don’t think you could get any more butter.” He said, “We just got a limited supply.” I said, “Sir, do you know who I am? I am the guy that’s going to start this whole thing by a prayer and if I don’t get a butter I may not feel like praying and I don’t know what we’re going to do.” I said, “Do you know who I am?” He said, “I don’t have a clue.” He said, “Do you know who I am?” I said, “I don’t know.” He said, “I’m the guy in-charge of the butter.” Well, I knew how I didn’t rate that day.

But you know, sometimes, with humility, we’ve got to be put back in our right place. Jesus frowns on the proud from time to time. But in this particular story, a man was wanting to justify his feelings, he was wanting to justify his thoughts. Jesus usually frowns on that. When you see that in Scripture, look for Jesus to frown on people trying to justify themselves. Look at Mary and Martha. There they were, had dinner guests and Mary went and sat at the feet of Jesus and Martha was around scurrying in the kitchen and getting everything ready. Martha goes over to Jesus and said, “Jesus, I know that Mary needs a good sermon, but I need her help in the kitchen. Would you tell to get up and come help me?” What did Jesus do? “She has chosen the good things and I will not take it from her.”

You know in that other story where brothers were kind of discussing about what was going to happen in the family and there was an inheritance involved. All of a sudden one said, “Jesus, would you tell my brother to share the inheritance with me?” What did Jesus do? He said, “I’m not coming to referee among you.” Jesus does not come to take sides. Jesus comes to take charge and we need to remember that.

In the story that we read today we see where the mindset of people in that day was that the kingdom of God was a closed affair, that invitation would be limited to a certain few. So He begins to say how great it will be to sit in the kingdom of God. It’s not a closed affair. Sometimes we think we got to be good enough, we got to be spiritual enough, we got to be mature enough. No. We just need to let God into our hearts. That’s what the entrance into the kingdom of God is all about. Let Him into your hearts and into your lives.

He has an invitation that He has given to you. Your invitation is written in this book. To whosoever will. Aren’t you a part of whosoever? You qualify for a part of whosoever. If whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord, if we do that, then we see that invitation is for us. God loves you. He’s not mad at you. He’s not waiting for you to stumble so He can zap you. God loves you. If you don’t hear anything else I say this morning, hear this, that God loves you.

I know we got some grandparents in the audience and glad you’re here and you’ll identify with this. If God had a refrigerator, your picture would be on it. That’s how much God loves you. We try to make it hard, but just hear the invitation that a loving Heavenly Father invites you to be a part of His family, invites you to come to the banquet, invites you to live your life with Him.

Dan Homes, if you have been a part of disciple bible study you will know that name, he tells a story of Bishop Willis J. King. Bishop King tells a story that when he was growing up his father worked everyday, all day. His father was a very uneducated man. Bishop King decided he was not going to be like that. He got his PhD from one of the finest seminaries in the country.

The day after he got his PhD he goes back home and he walks into the family home and he shows his diploma. He says, “And tomorrow I’m going down to the local bank and I’m going to buy a car.” His dad said, “Well, what do you got for a collateral?” Bishop King said, “I’ve been in the seminary, I’ve been educated, but I’ve never heard of the word collateral.” His dad said, “Son, that means you got to have something of worth so you can get the money.” He said, “Dad, I’m just going to the bank.” Dad said, “Do you want me to go with you?” He said, “No. I can go by myself. I got my diploma.”

So he goes down to the bank and he walks into the banker’s office and he says, “I need to borrow $500 to buy a car.” He said, “What do you have for a collateral?” He said, “I don’t have anything except my diploma.” He said, “Son, I’m sorry. That won’t get it.” He said, “You got to have something worth the value.” He left, dejected, he walked back through the lobby part of the bank and he heard a shuffling. The shuffling was that of his father. His father had come to see if he needed any help.

He said, “Son, did you get your car?” “Well, no. They won’t give me any money. I don’t have a collateral.” Dad said, “I thought that’d be the case.” About that time the banker heard the dad’s voice. He said, “Son, why didn’t you tell me who you were?” He said, “Because I’ll give it to you based on who your father is.” He said, “But my dad can’t write his name. All my dad can do is write an X.” He said, “Son, it may be true that all your dad can do is write an X but I want you to know something, that’s a good X. It’s that X that got you into college. It’s that X that’s going to get you a car if you get one.” His father co-signed the loan for him.

I want you to hear me this morning. Jesus Christ comes to us in our lives. He didn’t co-sign the note. He paid it all. There’s an amen that goes there. He didn’t co-sign anything, He paid it all. He paid it for you and for me and He invites us to come to be a part of His family. Now, as the dinner invitation goes out, there were some excuses that were given. The first excuse was this: I have bought some land and I must go and look at it. Well, it’s the novelty of the new. Sometimes, the novelty of the new robs us of those things which are lasting. If we’re not careful, the novelty of the new will rob us of that which is eternal and that which is everlasting.

There’s nothing wrong with having things and accumulating things, but do we allow them to possess us or do we possess them? That’s the question. We have to think do we use the material possessions that God has blessed us with to bless other people or do we just look and see how great we’ve got it and not offer it to others?

You’ve heard the story, you’ve seen the cartoon. There’s a little boy, and he just got one of these great big English sheepdogs in and he’s walking the dog – well actually the dog is walking him. He’s pulling him all the way down the street. Finally, he gets the big old English sheepdog just sitting down on all fours and the little boy gets right in front of the dog and he points right in the face and he says, “Let’s get one thing straight. You’re my dog, I’m not your little boy.” Do we allow things to possess us or do we realize that we are called to be good stewards of that which God has blessed us with?

The second excuse was this: I’ve just bought five pair of oxen and I must go and try them out. You see, oxen represented wealth and power and prestige and to have one team of oxen, oh that was something, but this man had five. Hear the people go around town saying, “Have you seen Tom’s oxen lately? Aren’t they beautiful and powerful animals? Oh, he’s going to have a great crop this year.” Instead he had to go and try them out. Are we waiting for the next big thing? Are we willing to use what God has given us?

G.K. Chesterton said it like this: there are two ways to get enough. If somebody asks you how much is enough, it’s usually just a little bit more. How much is enough? G.K. Chesterton said it like this: there are two ways to get enough. One is to get more and one is to desire less. This man was captivated by the novelty of the new and by the prestige that he wanted to have in the community. You know, sometimes excuses can backfire on us, can’t they?

I heard the story about a man who was in the military. He was on one of these big destroyer ships and he asked for two weeks furlough and they granted it to him. Shortly after he left, this lady walked up and wanted to see the commanding officer and she got an audience with the commanding officer and she said, “I want to see Ensign James Parker.” He said, “You do?” She said, “Yes. I’m his grandmother. I want to see Ensign James Parker. I want to surprise him,” to which the commanding officer said, “Well, he’ll be surprised all right because we gave him a furlough to go to your funeral yesterday.” Sometimes excuses would backfire on us.

Then thirdly, a man said I just gotten married and I don’t have time. I wasn’t sure if I’d get amen on that one or not. Nothing wrong with starting your marriage off in the presence of Almighty God. You know, all of these excuses are good things but they fail in comparison to the invitation that they were given. Nothing wrong with having new things, nothing wrong with material possessions, nothing wrong with starting a family, but when it comes over against an invitation to be a part of the family of God. There are good things and then there are better things and sometimes you let go of the better things and settle for the good things.

Excuses. How many have we made this week? When I think about excuses, I think in my own life. I don’t have a hard time coming to the banquet because I feel like God has always been there and God has always loved me and God has always invited me to be a part of His family. I don’t have a hard time with that at all. But once I’ve been to the banquet and He tells me to go and invite others, tells me to go and share His love with others, sometimes that where I have a hard time, sometimes that’s where I make excuses. Let me share one of those and I’ll be through.

It was years ago, I was in theology school in Atlanta. I was serving three churches on the weekend in Warm Springs, Georgia. A buddy of mine and I had decided that on Saturday we would ride back to Atlanta and go to the Braves game, they were playing the Phillies. We’ve been trying to do that so we just thought we’d do that. Well, there was a gentleman in my church at that time, and I’ll just call him Ernest. Ernest, when I met him, was battling cancer. Ernest would sit out on his front porch and we’d sit together and we’d talk. We’d watch cars go by, we’d talk about the weather. Ernest never would come to church. I invited him. We talked about faith and eternal life and all those things. Never felt like I was making any progress whatsoever.

To be honest with you, I’d given up on him. I just said, “Lord, let me work on somebody else.” Ernest is never going to make a commitment. He was fighting the physical disease. He was fighting that very hard. Right before I got ready to leave to go to Atlanta on that Saturday for the baseball game, there was a knock on the door. It was the daughter of Ernest and she said, “Mama said you need to come to the house. We think Daddy’s ready.” I thought, you don’t know your daddy like I know you’re daddy. I said, “I’ll tell you what. I’ve got a commitment that will have me tied up most of the rest of the day, but as soon as I get back from my commitment – which was the baseball game 80 miles away – “As soon as I get back I’ll come to the house.”

My friend showed up, we got in the car, we drove to Atlanta. Had great seats, it was a great ballgame. That was the most miserable baseball game I’ve ever set through in my life. About halfway through I said, “God, I promise You, as soon as I get back I won’t even go in the house. I’ll get in my car and I’ll go out to their house. I promise You that, God. Just let me enjoy the ballgame.” The longer it went the more miserable I got. My friend said, “You want to stop and get something to eat on our way home?” I said, “No. Get me home. Get me home.”

Got home, drove out to their house, walked in to the house. Ernest is lying there in his hospital bed and his wife said, “The preacher’s here.” He just woke up for a few moments and I think for those few moments he was more totally aware of things than I’d ever known him to be. That’s why I said to him, “Ernest, don’t you want to give your heart to Jesus?” But I’d ask him that half dozen times. He’d always turned me down. He said, “Yes, I think I do.” We prayed together. He received Christ as his Lord and Savior, asked Him to come into his heart and life.

This was not one of those death bed conversions that said God, if You’ll heal my body I’ll get up and serve You the rest of my life. That wasn’t the prayer. The prayer was whatever time I got left, I’m Yours. That was the prayer. We prayed, we cried. Then his wife said, “Ernest, do you want to be baptized?” I thought, she’s doing my job. He said, “Yes, I think I do.” She went in and got the finest china bowl that she could find in the house, put water in it, I said a few words over it, placed my hand with that water on top of his head and baptized him in his hospital bed. There was a holiness of that time that I’ll never forget.

We talked for a few more moments. Probably 30 to 40 minutes later, I left. As I walked out their front porch, got ready to walk down the steps to the highway, I stood there for a moment and I heard God’s voice and God’s voice simply said to me, “Randy, I can use you. I can’t use your excuses, but I can use you.” From that moment on, I tried not to make excuses. I don’t always make it and my family will testify of that. A lot of times I give excuses, but I realized that God’s not going to use my excuses.

God’s not going to use your excuses, but God will use you if you’ll let Him. If you’ll let Him, He’ll use you. He invites you to the party. He invites you to the banquet. You are invited. You are welcome. There is a seat set at the table for you. It’s got your name on it. If you’ll come to the banquet there’s a seat there for you. Don’t miss the banquet because of an excuse.