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Please excuse me, I cannot come

Dear X,

It is with great pleasure that I extend to you a most cordial invitation to attend a banquet in the White House….

Imagine that you have just received an invitation to dinner with a head of state. What would be your reaction? You would check your calendar and re-schedule any other appointments. You would look for details regarding the dress code. You would reply, accepting the invitation. You would make an appointment to get your hair trimmed or styled. You would select a tie to match your shoes. ‘Let’s see, a black belt to go with black shoes. Do I need to bring anything? What must I not bring, so as not to upset the security personnel?’

Or, would you throw the invitation aside and say, “Let me think about it,” make no attempt to reply and totally forget the matter?

In Luke 14:16-24, Jesus tells the parable of the Great Banquet. It seems those invited accepted the invitation but when the time was ready to start the banquet, they all began to make excuses. Were their reasons valid or mere excuses? One mentioned the purchase of a field and another said he bought five yoke of oxen. Any normal person would check the condition of the land before buying it. Who would buy five oxen and then decide they need testing after the transaction? A classic excuse was given by the one who claimed he had married a wife. Adding a family member to the household is a big event of life. It involves two families and much preparation for the wedding. One does not just get married without planning. We do not see a valid reason for the invited not to turn up. None of them had an accident or illness that prevented them from joining the banquet. The sad thing about excuses is that they are made for convenience and clung to in desperation. Some are so thinly veiled that they insult the intelligence of the receiver. Is one trying to convince oneself or the other party?

As I go through this passage, my focus turns from the parable to my daily life. I ask myself whether I have, on occasion, given excuses to our Lord — to escape the invitation to attend worship services in person, the encouragement of leaders to join a prayer meeting via Zoom, or a call for pianists. Granted, I may not have the skill of a pianist, but what about sharing the gospel? Giving words of encouragement? Visiting the sick? Feeding the hungry? Jesus spent much time with the masses, catering to their physical and spiritual needs. The excuses that I give the Lord are a reflection of my priorities. I have observed fellow believers who are senior citizens going for missions trips, singing and giving testimony of God’s goodness and faithfulness. I know of a brother who is visually impaired. He is able to be a great encouragement to our fellow believers overseas. We who are more abled-body should be motivated to take the challenge and go forth to be salt and light.

We are blessed to be in a country with religious freedom. A place where Christians are the minority. There is much opportunity to share God’s love and His message of liberation. COVID-19 has made us realise that the freedom to travel may not always be there. With the lifting of travel restrictions, many have made plans for overseas vacations. It is wonderful to travel as a family — it provides a great opportunity for bonding and making memories. How about visiting our foreign missions partners as a family if you happen to be in Malaysia or Thailand? You can pass on the vision to the next generation.

While we have many responsibilities in fast-paced Singapore, we need to review our activities regularly. May the Lord grant us wisdom to know what counts for eternity. Time spent with God and spent serving Him in His ministries allows us to grow in Him. The Lord is still inviting people to come to Him. Will you come to Him or declare, “I cannot come”? - Dn Richard Yew

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