- SERMON NEWSLETTER-----------------------------OCTOBER 2006
Mark E. Hardgrove, D.Min.
Webpage: HYPERLINK "http://www.conyesrcog.org/"www.conyesrcog.org
Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:revhardgrove@..."revhardgrove@...
I�m still plugging away at the PhD program. Wew! Man this thing is tough.
I thought it might get easier, but it hasn�t yet.
God is still blessing, but it seems that my studies have been a distraction
for me. I�m not able to stay in touch with my people as much as I�d like.
I am trying to develop leadership in the church to help carry the load, but
I�m just not seeing it yet. I pray that I may be more effective in
developing these leaders as ministers in the church.
I try not to overextend myself, but I have more and more agencies asking me
to serve on community boards and such, all of which I am honored to be
considered for, but for the next two years I�ll have to decline. At least I
am almost done with one of three years of study! That�s awesome!
Let me set this sermon up for you. I preached it on a Sunday evening and
that group loved it. They said I should preach it on Sunday morning. I�d
don�t think that I will. The key to this sermon is to use humor. Looking
at just the text you might not be able to see the humor in it, but I just
shared many of the ridiculous excuses I�d heard from members of the last 20
years of ministry as to why they couldn�t come to church. We were really
laughing until we came to the end, and then we were crying.
I don�t know if you�d be comfortable preaching a sermon like this, but if
you�d like me to come and preach it let me know. When you get to the
excuses, try to think of some of the excuses you�ve heard that were
ridiculous and even humorous. Make sure the person who made the excuse
isn�t sitting in the congregation.
By Mark E. Hardgrove, D.Min.
When is the last time you had a big party? Maybe it was a birthday party,
or an anniversary party, but can you remember the last really big bash that
you hosted at your home? Whom did you invite? Did you sent invitations
ahead of time so that the people you were inviting could make plans? Maybe
you called some of them, or emailed them to invite them. You need to know
how much food to prepare, so you ask them to RSVP, to make reservations, to
let you know if they will or will not be there.
Then on the day of the party, after you�ve purchased and prepared
food, you notice that not many people are showing up. You think, they must
have forgotten, so you call them and find out that they haven�t forgotten,
they just decided not to come. You made preparations, you made purchases,
you went to all that trouble to have a big feast and after they had already
promised to come, now they just decide that they�re not coming.
Of course, you want to know why. It must have been something very
important. There must be some major issue in their life that is preventing
them from coming and in your concern you ask them, �What�s wrong? Why can�t
you come to the party?� They say, �Well, I bought some land up in the
mountains and I want to go enjoy it this weekend.� Another says, �I bought
a new car and I want to go for a drive.� Another one says, �Well, you know,
I got married earlier this year and I want to spend some time home with my
All these friends, these people you thought would be true to their
word when they told you they would be at the feast, have all given you lame
excuses, but you�ve still got a house full of food and no one to eat it.
How would you feel? What would you do? Would you invite those folks to the
In this parable, Jesus is telling us how the Father feels when His
house is empty and all we have to offer are lame excuses why we didn�t come
and partake of the meat and the milk of the Word, why we didn�t come and eat
of the bread of life. Further, Jesus tells us that God will have a church.
His house will not be empty. Those who are given the initial invitation may
not make it, but if we don�t want the feast that God is providing, He�ll
find someone else that does.
If the members on the church roll don�t want to come and worship
in the house of God, we need to find someone else who does. If the elders
and deacons can�t make it to the worship services, then we need to find a
man or woman who will. They may not fit the homogeneous rule for church
growth, they may not look like us, or come from the same side of the tracks
that we did, but if they�re willing to come and worship, then their invited.
I) THE SETTING
This parable comes during the course of a meal to which was Jesus
invited. It was in the house of a Pharisee. No doubt, this Pharisee had
heard about Jesus and knew that Jesus was a noted and popular figure in
Judea. Jesus was healing the sick and raising the dead. So the Pharisee
invited Jesus, and we can be sure that he invited other equally pious people
as himself to be a part of this Sabbath meal.
While they were at the meal a man with dropsy, a form of
paralysis, happened to be there. The text implies that this was a setup on
the part of the Pharisee who wanted to see if Jesus would heal this man on
the Sabbath, and in so doing break their Pharisaical rules.
There is no law that said healing on the Sabbath was wrong, but
the Pharisees went beyond the law, and added their own traditions make the
law even more stringent.
Why would they do this? Their reasoning was that they did not
want to even come close to breaking the Law of Moses, so if they made their
own laws even more strict, then that would be a buffer between them and the
Law. The Law of Moses said that no work was to be done on the Sabbath. It
was to be a day of rest, but the Pharisees considered healing as and act of
work, therefore, they believed healing on the Sabbath was wrong.
They were watching Jesus to see what He would do. He asked them,
�Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?� Jesus knew that they could
not quote a Scripture saying it was wrong to heal on the Sabbath. In fact,
when Jesus asked them the question, no one said anything. Jesus gave them
to opportunity to speak, to provide a Law or a precedent from Scripture that
would prevent healing someone, but they could come up with nothing. Even
they seemed to realize that their own laws would not hold up to the question
in the manner that Jesus asked it.
So Jesus healed the man and sent him away. Then Jesus said, �If
one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day,
will you not immediately pull him out? And again, the Pharisees said
nothing. The question was rhetorical; of course they would pull their ox
out of the ditch.
Next Jesus confronts the pride of the Pharisees with a lesson on
humility and challenges them to invite people to their feasts who cannot
repay them. If you ask only people who have the means to return the favor
and repay you by asking you to their feasts, then you haven�t done any more
than the unrighteous would do. Jesus says in verse 13, �If you really want
to show your righteousness, then �when you give a banquet, invite the poor,
the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed.��
Jesus said the blessings that really matter are those that we will
receive at the resurrection of the righteous. At this point, in verse 15,
one of the guests at the table with Jesus said, �Blessed is the man who will
eat at the feast in the kingdom of God�
Based upon the words of the prophet Isaiah in chapter 25 verse 6,
the Jews believed that when the Messiah came to establish His earthly
kingdom it would be inaugurated with a major feast, a banquet of
unparalleled proportions. The man who now speaks to Jesus is referring to
this feast and he obviously believes that he will be at that feast.
He sounds like the Pharisee Jesus spoke of in the parable on
prayer. In the parable the Pharisee prays, �I thank thee, that I am not as
other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess� (Lk. 18:12,
Jesus had a way of bursting the bubble of the self-righteous.
Instead of looking at this man, or the others who had been invited to this
Sabbath meal provided by the Pharisee, and saying, �What makes you think
you�ll be at that meal?� Jesus tells a parable that provides a picture.
II) THE PARABLE
A The Invitation
Look closely at verse 16. Jesus skillfully crafts this parable to imply
more than He has to say. Jesus replied to the man who was assuming that he
would be at the feast, with this parable. �A certain man was preparing a
great banquet and invited many guests.� It was customary to make two
invitations. One invitation let everyone know the date, and these
invitations were usually extended by a servant who would take a tally of
those who said they would come. The time of the feast was not announced,
but the date was set and the reservations were made so that food could be
procured and prepared to meet the needs of those who agreed to come. Those
invited knew the day of the feast, and they would basically set aside that
day to be ready when the second invitation came.
Look at verse 17, �At the time of the banquet he sent his servant
to tell those who had been invited, �Come, for everything is now ready.��
The second invitation was informational. It was assumed that those who
agreed to come to the feast would show up when they were notified that
everything was ready. But in this parable there is a twist that would
immediately elicit feeling of indignation on the part of those who were
hearing this parable. How could anyone do such a thing? It ran contrary to
all social custom and culture to fail to come to the feast that they had
already agreed to attend.
B The Excuses
Next, Jesus lists three lame excuses that those who were invited
to the feast began to give for not coming. Look at verse 18 through 20: 18a
"But they all alike began to make excuses.�
1. First Excuse
18b The first said, �I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it.
Please excuse me.�
This excuse is lame on several accounts. First, people don�t (or
at least shouldn�t) buy land without looking at it first. Second, even if
this man had done such a thing, he had already purchased the land and the
land wasn�t going anywhere, so how does this prevent him from coming to the
Some folks allow their material possessions to become their
immaterial excuses. They bought land in the mountains, or along a lake, and
now that God has blessed them so richly, they can no longer make it to the
house of the Lord where the table is spread with the Word of Life.
I�ve seen too many people allow their blessings to become their
curse. They came at the first invitation, they considered themselves
friends of the Lord, but then things, land, houses, boats, and motorcycles
became more important than setting aside a few hours on the Lord�s Day to
come to the Lord�s house to worship the one who blessed them.
2. Second Excuse
19 "Another said, 'I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I'm on my way
to try them out. Please excuse me.'
Again, this is a lame, pitiful excuse for not coming to the feast.
A yoke of oxen are two oxen that are bound together by a yoke for plowing or
pulling a cart, so five yoke would mean he bought ten oxen that he had never
even tried out yet. This was a lame excuse. It would be like buying a car
before you�d ever driven it. This man was obviously interested in trying
out his new investment. But like the land, this purchase will still be
there tomorrow. He could have come to the party if his priorities were
I�ve known people who want to use the Lord�s Day for everything
but the Lord. Oh, they may come on Easter or Christmas, but Sunday is their
day to do what they want to do. If they want to go to a ballgame, hey, it�s
their day. If they want to go on a drive in the new car they bought, hey,
it�s their day. But I�ve got news for them, it�s not their day, according
to the Bible it is the Lord�s Day (Rev. 1:10).
I�ve known women who didn�t clean the house all week, but then on
Sunday they just had to clean it, and therefore they could not come to
church on the Lord�s Day. I�ve watched men who didn�t mow the yard all
week, stay home from church on Sunday to mow the yard or wash the car. Give
God His day, the dirt will still be there tomorrow.
3. Third Excuse
20 Still another said, �I just got married, so I can't come.�
This man at least tried to claim a biblical reason for his
absence. He appealed to Deuteronomy 24:5, which says a man who got married
was exempt from military service for one year. It did not say that the man
could not attend a feast. This was an attempt to use something as sacred as
marriage for an excuse not to keep his vows to the host of the feast. We
can assume the man knew the date of his wedding when he agreed to come to
Maybe the new bride didn�t want her husband to go to the feast,
after all, women were not generally invited to these public feasts. So
maybe she told she wanted him to stay home and help her put up curtains or
something. This wasn�t an excuse worthy of man who gave his word. He
needed to man-up and tell her, �Honey, I gave my word and need to keep my
word. I�ll be back in a couple hours and then we�ll hang those curtains.�
Sadly, people will use their family as an excuse not to come to
church. I�ve heard people say, �I can�t come to church today because I have
family visiting.� I wonder how many people would accept that from the
pastor? Yet many people will use that excuse to say out of the house of the
Lord on Sunday. Besides, what kind of family do you have coming that you
can�t trust to be alone in your house for a couple hours? What are they
going to do, burn down the house? If they�re that bad then you need bring
them to church with you or pay for them to stay in a hotel!
I�ve heard people say, �Sunday is my family time.� Here�s a wild
idea, spend Sunday with your family on the pews of the church and let them
see and know how important God really is in your life. Instead of spending
all day Saturday watching college football, men, why don�t we take our kids
out on Saturday for family time, so we can get to church on Sunday for a
little God time. (I�m preaching to myself now!) Women, why not go to the
mall on Saturday? If you want to have family time, then have family time
and raise your children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.
Lame excuses will not fly when we stand before a Holy God who have
everything, who spared not His own Son so that we could have the privilege
of worshipping Him one day a week without a veil of separation. What excuse
will we give at the Great White Throne? �Lord, the Falcons were in the
Super Bowel so I had to stay home and watch them play.�
People complain because they haven�t gotten their breakthrough,
but it just might be that their breakthrough was ready on the day they
decided something was more important than spending time with the people of
God in the presence of God.
C The Extended Invitations
1. Include the Excluded
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.'
In this parable the owner of the house represents God, and God is
angry. Some folks ask, �Do you think God will be angry if I lay out of
church this Sunday?� According to Jesus He is. But God is going to have a
church. Pastors who can�t the regulars to come to church need to go out and
find some irregular people, people with blemishes, people that have been
marginalized and looked at as second-class citizens. Go out and bring in
the poor (who can�t give good offering or tithes), bring in the blind (who
didn�t have employment in Jesus� day, but who begged for alms), bring in the
lame (who could do much to help, but need the Lord just as much as the
The Pharisees viewed such people as ceremonially unclean, they
could not enter into the court of the Jewish men to worship, but Jesus said
these people are welcomed to the Master�s table. Go get the people that the
upper-class and the upper-middle class churches aren�t interested in
reaching. Oh, they�ll send money, but they don�t want them in their pews!
Go get these folks and fill the house.
I�ve had pastors tell me that they were catering to the
upper-middle class. I said, �Well, I�m a whosoever will kind of guy.� He
didn�t seem to like my response. In truth, he has managed to bring in
people with money and they�re getting ready to build a new sanctuary. But I
realize that when I was growing up poor in West Virginia, my family would
not have felt welcomed in his church. I would been welcomed in ours,
2. Invite the Marginalized
22 "'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is
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.
Even after inviting the poor, the blind and the lame, there was
still room. So the master told his servant to go to the roads and country
lands and make them come in. The King James Version says, �compel them to
come in.� In the middle ages, the church took this word to mean that
forcing people to make a confession of faith was acceptable, and forcefully
baptizing Jews was justified, but that almost the exact opposite of what
this verse is saying. By compel, Jesus speaking of making a compelling
Think of it this way. The people in the roads and country lanes,
the highways and the hedges, were homeless people. They were lower on the
social ladder than the poor, blind and lame. They wore rags and existed day
by day on any morsel of food they could find. They were the people who live
under the bridges in America, the people I saw living on the garbage dumps
in India, they were the marginalized and forgotten. The master said, �Go
and compel them to come to the table.�
Why would these hungry people have to be compelled to come to a
feast? Because the invitiation itself would be too good to believe. You
can almost see them saying, �Who? Me? The man who lives in the mansion
wants me to come and eat at his table? You�re playing some kind of cruel
joke on me aren�t you?� This man has to be compelled, not by force, but by
compassion and by love. Someone has to go to them and let them know that
they are welcome at the table.
3. The Point of the Parable
24 I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my
In this verse Jesus drives the point home. The Jews who rejected Him, more
specifically, the religious elite who had been given the first invitation
through the words of the Prophets and the Law, and yet who refused to
believe in Jesus and come to the party, would not receive another
invitation. Instead, the invitation would go to the lowly in Judea, it
would go to the rejected Samaritans and to the despised Gentiles, but Jesus
is going to have a church.
Sometimes if we�re not careful, we will take the invitation for
granted and miss the real meaning of the moment when two or three come
together in the name of Jesus and He is here! How can we yawn at that! How
can we find anything more important? What excuse will we offer?
I want us tonight, and I know this the Sunday night crowd when
some of the most faithful attend, I want us to examine our own lives. We
are the servants of the Master and we have been told to go out and bring in
the people to fill the Master�s house. If the people on the Sunday School
rolls won�t come, then invite the people who don�t fit. Get out of the
subdivision and go to the housing projects. Go to the homeless, the hungry,
the rejected and the dejected and let them know that the Master has given
them an invitation to come and dine.
Let us, tonight, commit to be more diligent in personal
evangelism. The Master�s house and the Master�s table should always be
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