The Gutter: Where Life is Meant to be Lived by Rick Burdette
THE GUTTER: WHERE LIFE IS MEANT TO BE LIVED.
Luke 14:15-23 (p739) June 12, 2011
I’ll always remember the old story of Charles Spurgeon being invited to speak at a large London church and on the night before the services Mr. Spurgeon and a friend were returning from dinner when they came upon a drunk passed out in the gutter. He was covered in grime and vomit and Mr. Spurgeon’s friend remarked about how disgusting and revolting it was. As Charles Spurgeon knelt down to help the man he said, “There, but by the grace of God…Go I”.
I believe those are the two reactions everyone experiences when it comes to the gutter-revulsion and compassion, and most of the time…BOTH.
The gutter isn’t clean or sanitized. It’s filled with dirty, broken, messed up people, people who have made horrible choices, people who have reached a point where they no longer care what the world thinks about their appearance, nor do they care themselves.
Craig Gross who established XXX Church, an organization that deals with individuals who struggle with pornography, also tries to bring the gospel of Christ to those engaged in that industry and wrote:
“The gutter can be described in different ways with different terms. Put simply, my gutter is not necessarily your gutter. The gutter is the place where we discover that we need God most. Some would believe the gutter is attached to a lack of money. Wrong, I have seen people with millions lying face down in the gutter. Some believe the gutter is the place with a lack of success. I have seen many gutter-dwellers who would be considered “successful” by the world’s definition. Ask them and they would tell you that their success only masked the misery of the gutter. The gutter is a place believers aren’t willing to go because they remember what life was like when they escaped from it.”
What does the gutter look like? It’s a difficult question to answer. The gutter is often defined by the vantage point from which it is seen. It’s a tough thing to peg, but for a moment let me lay out a workable definition of the gutter: The gutter is the place I am least likely or inclined to go because it is a place where people are not like me; they are not Christian.
For us to become Lambs that Roar the church must become intimately acquainted with the gutter, individually and corporately.
It’s my firm belief that individually our gutter is the place we came from that separated or separates us from Jesus. It all has to do with sin, but while my gutter WAS a place of rebellion, drugs and selfishness, your gutter might be broken relationships, sexual sin, and greediness. Your gutter can be white collar or blue collar. It can be free of vomit and dirt, but covered up with pride and arrogance.
Zaccheaus was in a treetop gutter…and the woman caught in adultery was in a gutter of shame and condemnation. One had a lot of stuff, one had very little, both needed rescuing. The Rich Young Ruler
was in a gutter of self suffering and blind Bartimus couldn’t even see the gutter, but lived in it. Both needed to see the way out of the gutter. One did, the other left blind.
In our story this morning we learn a great deal a about God’s plan for gutter dwellers and how we fit into it as lambs that roar. It starts with…
I GOD’S DESIRE TO CELEBRATE WITH THOSE HE LOVES
“A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who’d been invited, come, for everything is now ready.”
When you throw a party you want to share it with people you love. All the planning, all the expense goes to waste if no one shows up.
The best part of the wedding dinner isn’t the food (although my wife loves wedding cake). It’s the best man’s toast, it’s the maid of honor’s story, it’s the hugs, the well wishes. It’s sharing this time with people you want there and who want to be there. It really is all about the relationship more than the banquet.
And for whatever reason God desires that with all people. He loves the world. He loves everyone-black, white, male, female, young, old, rich, poor. He is not a respecter of people. His banquet is prepared for all.
His house is so big you cannot fill it up. His Table has enough chairs for everyone.
“Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the Kingdom of God” The blessing doesn’t come because of the feast. The blessing comes because you eat with the King and with tons of other people who love the King and each other.
Maybe that’s why those who have been invited to this banquet from the gutter are so grateful. Why would a King want to be with me? Well, that’s what makes God so amazing in His grace.
But on the other hand, he won’t make you accept the invitation.
II EXCUSES REVEAL PRIORITIES
“But they all alike began to make excuses…” Most of us know Israel is the prime example Jesus is referring to here. John 1:11 says, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him”.
Israel was expecting a Messiah. He’d been promised for generations. The prophets had foretold His birthplace, His lineage and His leadership. They were the Bride, if you will, awaiting the Bridegroom, and unless he showed up they rejected him, even with John the Baptist being the best man to introduce his entrance into the wedding feast.
It’s important to note it wasn’t the gutter dwellers who rejected Jesus. They flocked to him. He ate and drank with them. He was in relationship with them and they with him.
The excuses came from these who claimed to be God’s best friends. The rejection of the invitation came from those who expected the best seats at the table, but didn’t like the way the bridegroom was dressed when he showed up. And they really hated the fact that he invited everyone to the feast.
Mike Yacconelli in “Messy Spiritually” says:
“According to his critics, Jesus did “God” all wrong. He went to the wrong places, said the wrong things, and worst of all, let just anyone into the kingdom. Jesus scandalized an intimidating, elitist, country-club religion by opening membership in the spiritual life to those who had been denied it. What made people furious was Jesus’ “irresponsible” habit of throwing open the doors of his love to the whosoever’s, the just-any-ones, and the not-a-chancers like you and me.”
The reason we make excuses is, “We don’t want to go!” (Gee, Kari, I know you want me to go to the Micheal Buble concert with you, but I’ve got to trim my toenails)
The excuses mentioned in our story are “I bought some property I’ve got to check it out,” “I just bought some oxen and I want to see how they work,” “I just got married and need to go be with my wife (it’s really her that doesn’t want to come you understand) Send our regrets”.
Folks it doesn’t matter what excuse you put in there the reason is still the same: I don’t want to be there. I have other priorities. You’re not important enough for me to take the time out of my schedule. I love my stuff more than I want to celebrate with you.
It’s no wonder the owner of the house, the one who prepared the feast at great expense for those he loves, gets angry and send his servants into the gutters.
If we really believe that God is the one who has prepared the great banquet and sent out the invitations then we also learn a great deal about how he feels about being way down on the list of peoples’ priorities. He will not be satisfied with making your top five. He will not feel good about coming in 2nd, 3rd, 4th or 5th, no matter how good your excuses are.
Matt 6:33 finds Jesus saying, “But seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.” Not second, not third. Seek it first. But, Rick, I’ve got important things to do right now. I’ve got some things I need to accomplish for me. And more and more God falls farther down the list of priorities. Satan is the God of busyness and the urgent. He will continually put important and urgent things in your schedule before God, before His church, before celebrating Him. And we excuse ourselves from His presence only to find what we thought would be a onetime exception has become the rule, but surely God will understand. Right?
Not according to scripture. Saying God is in your life doesn’t make it true. Loving God means you keep His commandments. Words without actions=dead faith. Excuses might make us feel better, but they make God angry. ”The owner of the house became angry.” You mean God gets angry?
Yep. Both Israel and the church need to understand the nature of God. The owner of the house, God, hasn’t changed nor will He. Listen to His directions to the house of Israel:
Deut 6:4-9, 13-18 (p130)
Here is God saying love me first, love me with all you’ve got. Show your children how much you love me every chance you get because it will be very easy to become just like the people who surround you. I’m jealous and I won’t share you. If you want my blessings, if you want to receive my promise, remember to put me first in your priorities. Excuses make me mad.
Let me end with this earth shaking truth:
II GOD SENDS HIS SERVANTS TO THE GUTTER FOR A REASON.
And that reason is because His son came through the gutter. Jesus wasn’t received by those who expected the invitation, but those who never thought they deserved a seat at the banquet flocked to Him.
Tax collectors, wayward women, the blind, the handicapped, the broken, lepers sought him out, friends cut holes in roofs to get paralyzed friends into his presence. He came and lived in the gutter. He spent his life in the streets and alleys. He walked the roads and county lanes. What drove him there? He came to seek and save that which is lost…He understood it wasn’t the healthy who needed a doctor, but the sick. The Good Shepherd was searching for the lamb who had fallen over the cliff and was trembling on a ledge.
This is the primary reason why Jesus left a Church. He sends us just as He was sent. Even as we gather together on Sundays and Wednesdays it’s so we can be better “disciple makers.” It’s not so we can just sit around his table and get fat. It’s not time to set down yet, not when there are so many empty seats. We’ll have time to enjoy the feast, but until the Bridegroom returns we still have invitations to deliver.
I’ll bet the servants in our story knew where the highways and byways were. I bet they knew where the gutters were, probably because they’d been there before. But as they served the owner of the house they received tons of rejections and excuses. But they also learned where the most effective responses come from–the gutter. It’s where life is meant to be lived. It’s the place lambs roar the best. It’s usually a place you’ve been before and it scares you to death to go back there.