Summary: A common everyday item. Every house has one. A simple table or a meeting place. Perhaps a classroom. Could it be that a simple table is really a blank canvas?

The Table

Pt. 3 - Dinner Dates

I. Introduction

In week one, we learned that the table is set. From the beginning moments of time God has been working on the table so that we might join Him there in fellowship and communion. He was so determined to have us as dinner guests that He sent His own son to pay the dinner dues. Then last week we talked about table manners. Getting to the table isn't enough we must also learn how to behave and conduct ourselves once we get to the table. Remember our meals should heal. We must get a nose fix. We must keep our elbows to ourselves and we must invite those who can't pay us back.

Last week we examined the first 14 verses of Luke 14. I want us to revisit Luke 14 and see what else Jesus said about the table and in particular what He says about Dinner Dates!

II. Text

Luke 14:15-24 (after dealing with table manners someone tries to cut tension.)

15That triggered a response from one of the guests: "How fortunate the one who gets to eat dinner in God's kingdom!"

16 But He said to him, “A man was giving a big dinner, and he invited many; 17 and at the dinner hour he sent his slave to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come; for everything is ready now.’ 18 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first one said to him, ‘I have bought a piece of land and I need to go out and look at it; please consider me excused.’ 19 Another one said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am going to try them out; please consider me excused.’ 20 Another one said, ‘I have married a wife, and for that reason I cannot come.’ 21 And the slave came back and reported this to his master. Then the head of the household became angry and said to his slave, ‘Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ 22 And the slave said, ‘Master, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ 23 And the master said to the slave, ‘Go out into the highways and along the hedges, and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled. 24 For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste of my dinner.’”

III. Dinner Dates

A. Excuses can get you excused.

We have a dinner date! We have received an invitation to come and dine with the master of the universe! And yet many of us rather than being filled with a sense of gratitude are filled with excuses! Reasons we can't commune or why we are disqualified from communion!

Excuses are the cradle ... that Satan rocks men off to sleep in. - D. L. Moody

Is it sin or schedule that gets us removed from table? Or could it be that our schedule is a sin? The folks invited were so busy that they missed God!

I also want you to notice the nature of their excuses . . . 2 of their excuses were ridiculous. The first says, "I bought a piece of property sight unseen and I need to go see it." Really when was the last time you bought a piece of property unseen? The 2nd says that he has bought a team of oxen and needs to go try them out. Really, would you buy a combine without trying it out first? Would you buy a car without test driving it? Crazy, absurd reasons! Then the last person gives what sounds like a reasonable excuse... just got married. And yet even that excuse was cast aside. Two thoughts here . . . we make some crazy excuses and act like they are reasonable and second even our good excuses are ridiculous in light or fact that we throw away an invitation from the King of Kings, God of the universe to do things that pale in comparison! I can't go to church I need to go to the lake. Crazy! I can't worship today I am had a fight with my kids. Crazy! I can't serve I stay up too late on Saturday. I can't witness I am too busy. I can't lead us to some very painful YOU CANT'S!

We let us off the hook easier than God does. This isn't an average, normal invitation! It is the greatest honor and privilege we have ever or ever will receive!

I think the real issue is that some of us take the meal for granted. We have eaten so often and so well that we ignore the incredible privilege that we have to even be at the table!

It is time for us to reconsider the nature of the invitation! It is time for us to realize that this dinner date trumps every trivial pursuit! If we continue to excuse our excuses our Excuses may just get us excused! Is it possible that we are missing invitation to a better life, a greater influence, a new level of relationship simply because we have excused ourselves out of an invitation?

B. A Dinner Date Is Required!

You need a dinner date (some of you are saying . . . you don't even know how badly)!

What Jesus teaches us in the account is that the Master refuses to throw a banquet and allow us to enjoy empty seats around us! The price was too high to get the table ready! If we are comfortable it may be a good indication that we are complacent! Get all dressed up but it isn't the proper attire that is the key to admission . . . it is whether or not you have a date!

There is room at the table . . . it is our responsibility to fill it. God doesn't send the LOST into the church. He sends the FOUND into the world to find dinner dates!

See the reality is that it doesn't matter if the table is set if we don't expose those who are hungry to it. Cook all the lobster and filet mignon you want, but if there is no one there who is hungry it is wasted!

So who should we bring to the table?

Jesus had dinner dates with folks that were suspect at best. He spent His time dining with misfits, outcasts, and the unwanted. He did this so often that the accusation against Him from the church folks was that He ate with tax collectors and sinners! Or as one translation says it, "Why does your master eat with such scum?"

Who do we eat with? Why are we only willing to eat with those who are cleaned up? Been accused of eating with any scum lately?

Who should we be bringing to the table with us? The unexpected should be expected and accepted.

We clean up nice . . . but I wonder how many of us were in the byway and highways and really shouldn't be at the table? I wonder if we had an old fashioned and real testimony service how many would stand up from the table and say I messed up sexually . . . but now I am at the table? How many would say I was addicted but now I am at the table? How many would say I was a trespasser but now I am at the table? I used to be in the pit but somehow some way I ended up in the King's Palace and I am so thankful that it forces/requires me to do more than just enjoy, feast or praise. I now feel compelled to compel others to come to dinner.

I think forget that we used to be the unexpected and so we fail to go after the unexpected! Why is it that those of us who have been forgiven so much forgive so little? I think we also miss that we don’t get to eat until the house is full!

We have our instructions, our marching orders . . . go out and get the unexpected and bring them in! It says nothing about judging them or cleaning them up. Jesus simply says go get them and compel them to come in! Who are you compelling to come in? I said who are you compelling not repelling!

“Tony Campolo tells the story of a trip which he took to Hawaii. Jet lag kept him awake late into night and he went for a walk on the streets of Honolulu. At 2 in the morning, he found himself in a doughnut shop. Sitting at the counter, he overheard several prostitutes who were sharing a booth. One of the girls whose name was Agnes mentioned that it was her birthday.

After she had left, Tony turned to the cook and the other prostitutes and said, “Let’s throw a party for Agnes.” The other girls agreed to bring decorations and the cook said that he would bake a cake.

The next night, they all gathered at the shop and when Agnes walked in, they brought out the cake and began to sing, “Happy Birthday.” Tears streamed down Agnes’s face and, when it came time to cut the cake, she just stood there. Finally, she said, “Could I buy another cake and we eat that one? I want to take this one home and show it to my mother.”

With that, she took the cake and left. In the sudden silence that filled the shop after she left, Tony bowed his head and began to pray. “Lord, we thank you for Agnes and for your love for her. You loved her enough to send Your Son to die for her on the cross. We thank you for the best present of all - the present of your own Son. Amen.” When he raised his head, he saw that all of the prostitutes had their heads bowed and had been praying with him.

The cook looked at him and said, “You’re a preacher!” When Tony admitted that he was, the cook asked, “What kind of church do you have?” In a sudden flash of insight, Tony replied, “The kind that throws parties for prostitutes and gives invitations to sinners.”

We must decide . . . we can be the church that enjoys a good meal and goes home. Or we can be the kind of church and the kind of people that refuse to do dinner without a date! The date may limp to the table but we allow them to lean on us until they get to the table. The date may reek a little but while we hold our nose we won't blow our nose! The date may not know the manners but we will mind ours while we teach them how table guest should act.