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Summary: Get Off Your “Buts” 1) The Lord’s banquet is ready, so hurry! 2) The Lord’s banquet hall is huge, so herald!

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An article in the Edmonton Journal last week reported that children are spending an average of six hours a day in front of some type of a screen. Add that up and it’s about as much time as their parents are spending each week at work! Such an inactive lifestyle so early on will lead to future health problems like high blood pressure and obesity, concludes the article. What’s the remedy? Simple. Turn off the computer and TV and get off your butts! Play a game of tag. Climb a tree. Do anything to get your heart pumping.

Interestingly enough our sermon text too talks about the importance of getting off our “buts.” No, not your hind end, but the excuses we often give in response to God’s gracious invitation to eternal life. Today, through the Parable of the Great Banquet, you’ll hear Jesus say in so many words: “Get off your ‘buts.’ The Lord’s banquet is ready, so hurry! The Lord’s banquet hall is huge, so herald!” Listen to our text from Luke 14:16-24. Jesus said: “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 make them come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’”

This is the time of year for invitations. Everyone seems to want you at their graduation, wedding, retirement, or just plain ol’ summer patio party. In our text Jesus spoke about an invitation to a banquet that’s more than a one-day celebration; it’s a new life that begins here on earth and continues into eternity. On the menu at this banquet is the forgiveness of sins, peace for our guilty conscience, and the confidence that at death we’ll go to heaven and that one day our bodies will be raised back to life and made perfect so that we will live without sin or pain forever. God is now inviting you to this banquet.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? So what do I need to do to prepare for this banquet? Nothing. Jesus made that clear in the parable when he had the master say: “Come, for everything is now ready” (Luke 14:17b). God not only spent an eternity planning this banquet, he not only sought you out with an invitation to it, he also paid for the banquet with the blood of his Son. We don’t have to bring anything to this heavenly banquet in the way of good works. The fact is we dare not try. Being good in God’s book doesn’t mean trying your best; it means never losing your patience, never harbouring impure thoughts about another person, and always helping others no matter what the cost or inconvenience to us. Thinking we can contribute to God’s banquet of salvation is like showing up at a wedding reception with a dish to pass. Tell the bride and groom that you brought a casserole just in case there isn’t enough prime rib to go around and they won’t be grateful, they’ll be offended! (Justin Cloute) And so is God when we insist on bringing our sin-tainted “goodness” to his banquet of salvation.

On the other hand there are those who don’t think very much of God’s gracious invitation to begin with. The three men in the parable are an example. They said: “Thanks for the offer BUT…” Let’s take a closer look at their excuses. The first man refused the invitation because he had just bought some land and “had to” check it out, as if the land was going somewhere. The second man declined because he had just bought five yoke of oxen and was going to try them out. Regrettably, the invitation had come at an inconvenient time. And the third man simply said: “I just got married. I can’t come.” Really? Why not bring the wife and treat her to a sumptuous banquet that won’t cost you a cent? At least the other two had the manners to say, “Please excuse me,” but not this one.

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