Why Fools Avoid Church

Text: Proverbs 9:1-10

In the name of Jesus. Amen.  

A man prepared a great and brilliant feast and sent out invitations, 

"Come, everything is now ready!" 

But unfortunately, three different guests responded with excuses. The first guest had purchased a field and needed to see it. Another had bought five yokes of oxen and needed to check them out. And the third was just married and had some vague-sounding commitments regarding his new marriage. The point being, they all gave shallow and ridiculous excuses. They gave pathetic excuses. How many people would you know who would be so foolish to buy a field without examining it first? How many people do you know who would spend $12,000 for five pairs of oxen without first knowing what they were like? And for the man who was just married? It seems that his honeymoon was over and besides that, being married without kids is a flimsy excuse – married with crazy kids, yes, but being just married, no. 

And so, like a teenage girl who says to an obnoxious boy, "I can't go on a date because I am washing my hair," the excuses of these individuals show us that they really did not want to attend the banquet, to begin with. 

Now, this brings up the question. Why make up silly excuses not to go to a great dinner banquet with the finest of food and the best of wine?  

Last year when we considered this reading from the Gospel of Luke, we concluded that these individuals – perhaps – saw the banquet as an inconvenience rather than a gift. 

However, when we consider our reading from the Old Testament book of Proverbs, we may have some further insight into why people reject the great banquet – why people resist going to church.  And that reason is quite simple - they are fools. Indeed, the reason why people resist the Word and Sacraments is that they are fools.  

I realize that this might not sound very compassionate or loving for me to say. But nonetheless, this is how Proverbs speaks on this subject.

Dear friends, the book of Proverbs tells us that fools are arrogant cynics who cannot be reasoned with. Fools are scoffers who cannot be corrected. When you attempt to correct a fool, they are not thankful but hateful. 

When plain logic is presented before them, they plug their ears and lash out at the one who is presenting a clear argument. To summarize it best, fools do not fear and revere God, but they typically live life on their own terms. Their thoughts, opinions, and attitudes are the end-all-be-all for their decision-making. Perhaps we could say it very bluntly: fools like to take the place of God, which is the reason why they have a tough time being corrected, being wrong, or not being in control. 

And so, this is why fools do not like going to church. Just like going to a great banquet requires a person to be a guest, going to church requires a person to be a guest as well. Going to church requires a person to be a student, a guest, a receiver, a listener, a learner – you get the picture. Fools do not like this, which is the reason why they resist going to the great banquet of the Word and Sacraments.  

But let us not write these fools off as being completely foolish. We cannot underestimate the fool so easily. You see, in every church, there are fools sitting in the pew and at times standing in the pulpit. These fools have no stomach for solid teaching from God's Word. Instead, they want to fill their bellies with spiritual junk food and catchy ideologies that tickle their fancy. And so, they turn their back on the truth of God's Word and embrace not what they need to hear but what they want to hear. Using the metaphor of the great banquet, the fool invades the kitchen, pours the fine wine down the drain, feeds the prime rib to the dogs, and tosses the crème brûlée into the trashcan. And in their place, they serve cinnamon-flavored whisky, White Castle Burgers, and cream-filled Twinkies – because they taste better and are more fun.

If you don't believe me, consider the number of churches in America that have forsaken the Word of God and are teaching Critical Race Theory or Woke Ideology from their pulpits. Consider the number of people who flock to churches to hear about tips and principles to live their best life now with finances and special diets. Consider the number of preachers who never mention Christ-crucified but will surely talk about sex tips, cultural fads, movies, and almost every other silly myth in our culture. Dear friends, all across America, people forsake the great banquet of the Word and Sacraments but will certainly attend counterfeit banquets where their ears are tickled and their bellies are filled. 

Right now, in our generation, you and I have a tremendous temptation set before us. The great banquet of the Lord's Word and Sacraments has been given to us in the liturgy, in the historic lectionary, and in our hymns. Make no doubt about it.   However, fools do not want this great banquet of grace, mercy, and salvation. They do not want to eat, receive, learn, or listen to Jesus' Word and Sacraments that have been established by Jesus Himself and passed down by the Apostles, and contained in the wonderful gifts of our liturgy, lectionary, and hymnody.  And so, Pastors diminish the liturgy. They toss out the hymns. Congregations disregard the lectionary. And they ultimately toss out the Bible – all for the purpose of getting people to come inside the walls of the church. The temptation is real. Make no doubt about it.  

Hear me loud and clear. As a pastor, the temptation is real for me to get people into the pew by not inviting them to the Lord's great banquet but to something else that will tickle their ears and appease their appetites. And you as parishioners? You are tempted likewise to the way of foolishness. You will be tempted to believe that if you are challenged, convicted, or are uncomfortable in the church that it is bad and that you should stop coming to church. The way of a fool believes that if you are offended that you should automatically find another church, another church that will tickle your ears. The temptation is real for you to go the way of a fool.  

But dear friends, keep in mind that a church and its pastor who are untested by any criteria other than a need to huddle together to be affirmed and feel good is not only a fool's paradise but can also be demonic.  

Oh, dear Baptized Saints, you and I must be drawn to the great banquet of the Lord's Word and Sacraments, where we sit as guests. We must understand that when we set our feet in this sanctuary, we walk with reverence, speak with reverence, and think with reverence because we are not God. We are not in control. We are guests at the Lord's Banquet. We are here to receive, learn, and listen to Jesus' Word. 

And this is perhaps the whole point of our Gospel reading and the reading from Proverbs. When fools are invited to the real great banquet of the Lord, they must conjure up all sorts of lame excuses for not going to the great banquet because they don't want to go in the first place. They don't want to go because they do not fear, love, and trust in God. 

We must repent of our foolish ways as well for we are not immune to this foolishness. Let us beat our chest and confess our sins. May the Lord chase away our foolish thoughts and grant us faith to fear Him, love Him, and Trust Him. May the Lord give us ears to hear the invitation to His great banquet and not listen to our itching ears.  

So now, at this moment, listen to the invitation,

"Come and receive not fresh-baked bread, roasted lamb, and selected wine but receive from the pulpit, the altar, and the font." 

Yes, listen. When your conscience is burdened by sin, come to the banquet and be of good cheer for your sins are forgiven. 

When you are burdened by fear, come to the banquet to receive the words of Jesus,  

"Fear not, little flock. It is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom."

When you are tired, burned out, and worn out, come to the banquet to take Jesus' yoke upon you, for Jesus' yoke is easy, and His burden is light.  

When you are confused with life, beaten up by sin, overwhelmed with death, come to the banquet to receive Christ and His gifts of immortality – all for you as sheer gift.

So, come, all is now ready.  Come to the banquet, and come often. It is the Lord's banquet for you – He loves to give to you.  And you can rejoice while receiving.    

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

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