In the Gospel we hear the Parable of the Great Feast (Luke 14.16-24) in which Christ calls us to fill His Church. The reality of poor church attendance is not a new phenomenon in the Church. For decades our national Church has struggled with the trend where half-full Churches have become the norm rather than the exception. In fact, just as in this parable, we have heard year’s worth of excuses from our brothers and sisters as to why they are not in Church. Excuses have ranged from language difficulties to lack of sleep and from work requirements to personal disagreements with fellow members. And we have politely listened to our brothers and sisters with pain and frustration.
We have pain in our hearts because despite our best efforts, many have chosen to stray away from the Church. We have frustration because despite our best attempts to address various concerns over the years, it seems some are just not ready to attend the Church of Christ on Sunday or any other day.
But we should not be surprised or frustrated because our Lord in this parable taught us to expect such difficulties as He said, “But they all with one accord began to make excuses.” (Luke 14.18) After multiple attempts to call those who had been invited the Lord’s servants were ordered, “Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and the maimed and the lame and the blind…that My house may be filled.” (Luke 14.21-23)
Notice the Lord does not tell His servants to force, guilt, and drag or by other means carry people into the Church who do not desire to be present at the banquet. For those who do not desire to be present in God’s Church, we are called by Christ to allow them freely and without guilt to go their way.
Nonetheless, Christ desires that His Church is filled with those who desire to attend – whether born in the Church or not, whether of Greek ancestry or not, whether wealthy or poor – He desires and commands that we must fill His Church.