Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Every wedding that I have performed as a pastor has been a happy one.  It’s the living together afterwards that causes all the problems.   Every marriage has it challenges moments. The struggles begin when the bride discovers that the “Mr. Right” she has married actually has a first name as well, and that it’s “Always.”  Or it’s when the husband who knows that love is blind, encounters those real eye openers.  Even as a pastor I  have learned  to recognize that when a man opens the door for his wife, you can be sure of one thing: either the car is new or the wife is.

The wedding banquet, however, should never be confused with the struggles of marriage.  The banquet is not the sad farewell of a funeral.  At the wedding, we are invited to enjoy the love and mirth of a celebration including the nervous laughter of the clinking of glasses and the celebratory kiss.  That is the Christian life.  It is s to enjoy the gladness and love of a wedding feast. It is the joy of knowing that God calls you by name, setting a table before you and offering the promise that you will enjoy this meal forever.  So why would anyone make an excuse and turn down an invitation to a wedding banquet, much less the wedding feast hosted by the king?

My friends, let me share with you three of the most common excuse that men and women, young and old, make to turn down the invitation to the Lord’s banquet.  Perhaps their excuses  have been your own.

First of all, there are those who are too busy to hear the invitation to come. The parable, you see, reminds us that the things which deafen our ears are not necessarily bad in themselves.  One man went off to take care of his lands; another went to his business. They were not running off on “midnight junkets” to exotic destinations, nor were they flitting away the day on mindless matters.  These loyal and faithful spouses hadn’t yet learned the old adage, “No husband has ever been shot while doing the dishes.”  Or “Experience is a wonderful thing. It enables you to recognize a mistake when you make it again.” But they went off industriously to take care of their own business affairs.

There are others of a like mind who or are so short sighted in pursuit of future happiness that they lose sight of their present joys and sights eternal. It is easy to be so preoccupied with the things that are seen, that you forget about the things that are unseen. It is so easy to be drawn into the conversations of the world that you cannot hear the gentle voice of Christ whispering his invitation to come to his eternal table. My friends, instead of waiting and preparing for tomorrow, you may need to awake anew each day with the glorious thought that this is the best day of your life, ever!  God’s table is waiting.

Second, there are those, for whom the good news of Jesus and his love is unknown. Even good church-goers can be included in that number. There’s an old saying, “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you a mechanic.”  We can be so busy and active with the social programs of the church that we forget to go to the banqueting table to be fed.

I read a story of a middle-aged couple who were taking their first Caribbean cruise.  They boarded the luxury liner in Miami and sailed away on a dream vacation.  However, in order to save money, they brought along an extra suitcase stuffed full of “junk food.”  Instead of eating their meals in the dining room looking out on the open sea, they ate all their meals in their cabin with only one porthole showing a small segment of the sea and sky.  At the end of the cruise, when they were walking down the gang plank in Miami, one of their friends said they noticed they never came to the dining room, and so they asked them why.  When the couple admitted that they had eaten only junk food in their cabin in order to save money, the other couple laughed, “Didn’t you know,” they said, “Your ticket included all the meals in the dining room.”  Aren’t we like that at times?  We cower in the dingy little cabins of life only glancing occasionally through the smallest of portholes.  Don’t you know- you have been invited to the Captain’s table to eat of the Bread of Life and to drink of the Living Waters.  God’s table is waiting.

Finally, there are those who believe they lack nothing and have grown indifferent to God’s invitation- perhaps even indignant to the offer. They would never dream of dressing for the King. Anything the Kingdom of Heaven can offer, they have already acquired.  Indeed, we compliment these men and women for their industriousness and their ability to accumulate greater wealth.  We may even envy them- though we know it may be breaking a commandment somewhere- Number 9 or 10.  Yes, they turn down the Lord’s invitation, because they lack nothing.

One day a father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the firm purpose of showing his son how poor people can be. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family. On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, “How was the trip?” “It was great, Dad.” “Did you see how poor people can be?” the father asked. “Oh Yeah” said the son. “So what did you learn from the trip?” asked the father. The son answered, “I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.” With this the boy’s father was speechless. Then his son added, “Thanks dad, for showing me how poor we are.” Too many times we forget what we have and we concentrate on what we don’t have.

My friends, you are so special in God’s sight that he is willing to go out of his way to find you and to invite to enjoy the wonders of his holy banquet, but beware of making excuses and taking his invitation too lightly.  After all, “many are called, but few are chosen.”

In Jesus’ parable, the servants went out to fill the hall for the king’s feast.  They went out beyond the main streets; they went out to the lonely corners and the alleys to find “the good and the bad.”  And they all entered in to the king’s presence.  They all enjoyed the bounty of the king’s table- except for one.  Mind you, it wasn’t the man’s clothes that startled the king.  It was something about the man’s attitude. It was something about his disrespect for etiquette.  For 2000 years, theologians have interpreted the meaning of the wedding robe.  Is it charity, good works an honest trust, is it simply faith alone?  There is little agreement.  The parable, however,  teaches us that God’s gracious invitation to an abundant life and a bountiful feast ultimately calls for a changed life.  It is perhaps as significant as the vows spoken at a wedding.  God wants more from you than just, a “yes.”  God wants a changed “you” to come to his table.  “Many are called, but few are chosen.”  And of course, that change   may mean work.

Young couples preparing for their wedding day seldom think that marriage will demand any work or change of them- and when they do, they resist.  Before her wedding, a young bride was getting more and more nervous about the ceremony so she went to see the minister. He reassured her by pointing out that the ceremony was quite simple. ‘You enter the church and walk up the AISLE. The groom will be waiting for you at the ALTAR. Everyone will then sing a HYMN to start the ceremony said the minister. Just remember the order and everything will be fine.  On their wedding day, the bride remembered the order and arrived alongside the groom muttering to herself, AISLE, ALTAR, HYMN, AISLE ALTAR, HYMN – or as the groom thought he heard “I’ll alter him!” The truth is God will alter both the bride and groom.  The love that God pours into their lives will change both of them.

My friends, that is the promise of the table the Lord has prepared for you.  So stop making excuses an making light of the invitation. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ is inviting you to come and taste his forgiveness and his peace and be changed; he is waiting for you to come and taste his encouragement and strength and be changed; he is waiting for you rise up to taste his comfort and grace and to be changed in this world and for all eternity.  Amen.

May the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.