The Failed Excuses For Not Attending Church, And What To Do About It?

Text: Matthew 22:1-14

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

All right, I need to say it. You are not going to like today’s sermon, at least the beginning half of it. I don’t even like it.  But nonetheless, what I am about to preach needs to be said. And you need to hear it, as well.

So, let’s just get right to the point. Let’s rip the Band-Aid off right now and speak plainly and clearly…

According to your sinful natures, you do not want to act like or talk like a Christian. Yes, according to your sinful natures, you do not even want to be a Christian. Now, please hear me clearly. I am speaking about your sinful nature. In Christ, you most definitely have faith, hope, assurance, righteousness, and a desire to do good works. You have the Holy Spirit; therefore, you will have good and holy impulses. But at the very same time, you have this old sinful nature – the old Adam as we often call it – that hates the kingdom of God and especially hates receiving the gifts of God. The sinful nature is like a dull and lazy sloth that clings to you, and despises God and His gifts.    

 And so, when we read the parable from the Gospel of Matthew, about people purposely choosing not to come to the wedding banquet, Jesus is talking about the sinful nature in all of us – the sinful nature that resists the kingdom of heaven.  

You see, in the Old Testament, time and time again, God sent prophets to invite the people to receive His free and good gifts. Yet, time and time again, the people of the Old Testament chose not to receive good gifts from God. The people were lazy, slothful, careless, and obtuse. When invited over and over again, they finally became so agitated that they killed the prophets. It was just easier that way – nobody likes a prophet calling them out.  And the same attitude still exists today. 

Dear friends, God still invites people to the kingdom to receive His free and good gifts. And where are those gifts located? Quite simply, they are right here at this font, at this lectern, at this pulpit, and at this altar. They are here and distributed every single week – freely. And yet, people do not come to receive.  

But this is where it is going to get really uncomfortable. The reason why people do not respond to the invitation to come to church to receive God’s good gifts - the reason why you have to drag yourself out of bed to come to church with all your morning grumbles - is quite simple: the sinful nature does not want to be here.  

Trust me, I have heard every excuse in the book for why people miss church. And frankly, while there are indeed some legitimate reasons for missing church, the majority of the excuses are nothing more than lies. The reason why I know this to be true is that I have a sinful nature, just like you. My old Adam is careless, slothful, and lazy. And frankly, I don’t want to admit just how careless, slothful, and lazy my sinful nature is. And so, I get it. It is easier to try and come up with a clever excuse for missing church than it is to admit that our sinful nature gets the best of us. 

Consider our parable a bit more closely. Notice that the people were invited to the great wedding banquet. And when things were ready, the king sent servants to call them, but they did not want to come. And so, the king invited them again. And this time, some brushed it off, while others became annoyed. To the point, this is how our sinful nature will always respond to the call to receive God’s good gifts. Our sinful nature brushes the invitation off, “Yada, yada, yada,” or the sinful nature becomes annoyed!  

For example, I have heard countless stories of pastors and elders in various churches inviting members to come back to church to receive God’s gifts. And nine times out of ten, it always seems to end up the same way. Some parishioners completely ghost the pastor and elders – they don’t respond to any form of communication. They go silent. But for others, the pastor and elders get accused of being mean, disrespectful, or judgmental for calling them back to church. You see, excuses only work so long to cover the fact that the old Adam does not want to come to church. In other words, when a church invites and invites and invites, eventually those who are neglecting the Word and Sacraments will turn and attack the church, for it is easier to attack the church than it is to admit that the sinful nature is reigning on Sunday mornings.

Now, there is more to all of this. We must keep in mind that our old Adam is very sly, so sly that a person can come to church regularly and be no better off than those who refuse to come inside the doors of the church.  

Look at our parable again. At the wedding banquet, there was a man who was in attendance, but he did not have a wedding garment on. You see, wedding garments were gifts provided by the king for those in attendance. And so, this foolish lad was in attendance, but he was still rejecting the gift of the wedding garment. That is to say; you can come into the church and attend every single week while still allowing the sinful nature to reign with lazy slothfulness. It is quite possible to sit in a pew for 50+ years, with no faith, while apathetically rejecting God’s gifts in the church every single week. You can break the 3rd Commandment outside the walls of the church and inside the walls of the church too. 

Now, speaking of the 3rd Commandment, what we have covered thus far is exactly what God condemns in the 3rd Commandment. In fact, in our parable, those that rejected the king’s gifts and chose not to come, their cities were burned by the king. And that foolish lad, who rejected the king’s wedding garment? Well, he was bound hand and foot and tossed into the darkness, where there was weeping and gnashing and teeth. 

And so dear friends, the meaning of the parable is quite clear – rejecting and despising God’s invitation to the banquet is serious. It angers the Lord. God is not about making accommodations to our sinful natures, and you and I should not, as well. Too often, we give safe harbor to our sinful nature with our lame excuses and slothful attitudes when we should be much harder on our sinful natures.  

But how should we be hard on our sinful natures?  

Well, it is quite simple. We need to confess our sins. We need to confess that our sinful nature gets the best of us, especially on Sunday mornings. We need to beat our chest and say, 

“God forgive me for not only neglecting your gifts but also seeing your good gifts as a nuisance or a curse! God forgive me for rejecting and being apathetic to that which is good – treating your gifts as something evil when they are not.”

Now, you and I might think that admitting something like this might infuriate the Lord even more, for we are essentially saying, “God, we don’t like your good gifts.”  But here is the catch, with the Lord. He already knows this about our sinful nature. And furthermore, He is quick – not slow – to forgive us of our sins and then… proceed to pour gifts upon gifts upon us. In fact, when we admit our sins and confess that we consistently have been callous towards God’s invitation, the Lord does not make us do penance or dig ourselves out of our slump into His good grace. But instead, we hear, 

“Dear children, you are forgiven for Christ’s sake. Come to banquet. Everything is forgiven. The table is set. Your spot is read. The prime rib is ready for carving. Come to the feast!”

Listen up!  If you find yourself skipping church because the old Adam hit the snooze too many times, the next week, boldly get up, come to church, confess your sin – and in so doing, you are kicking your old Adam to the baptismal font while hearing, “Your sins are forgiven!” And then, dear Baptized Saints, in confidence approach the altar and receive forgiveness, life, and salvation from Christ’s bountiful banquet of the Holy Supper, so that your faith is strengthened and the devil is chased away. 

And the next week, if the old Adam gets the best of you? It is the same thing. 

Baptized Saints, do not let the old Adam keep you in shame and fear from confessing your sins unto God, thus keeping you from God’s free gifts. The Lord is quick to forgive, and the Lord never stops giving good gifts to you. God’s gifts of His Word and Sacrament are not in short supply. Christ’s blood on the cross has more forgiveness than you have sin.    

So, come! You are forgiven of your sins. Christ has His body and blood for you at this altar to strengthen your faith to Him and your love to your neighbor. Come and receive. All is ready. The banquet is for you!

In the name of Jesus. Amen. 

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