I dreamt that it was my judgment day. There was no dark tunnel or bright light in this dream. I was being judged at the front door of our family home.
I was face to face—not with Jesus—but with a gatekeeper whose appearance I can’t recall. I was expecting to hear the words “well done good and faithful servant.” But the gatekeeper quietly told me that I would not be going to heaven. I began to argue in defense of myself. I cried that I had believed in my heart that Jesus was my Savior, that I’d gone to church and Sunday school, and that I’d really tried to be good. “But you doubted” the gatekeeper replied.
The front door of our house opened to a gigantic void of blackness. I began to run upstairs to my room (but I couldn’t get away). And my nightmare ended.
That dream haunted me for a long time. It had me questioning whether or not I was worthy for heaven. It had me worried that God would reject me because I wasn’t good enough…
When I sat down to study this text earlier this week, I really identified with the man who was thrown out of the wedding feast for not wearing the appropriate attire. He’s like a person falling short of God’s standards—and God rejecting them. But is that what’s really going on in this parable?
With all the trouble the king had getting people to come to the wedding, we’d think he wouldn’t mind that one of the guests he brought in from the street wasn’t dressed in the proper attire. But let’s think about it…
A wedding robe in Jesus’ day is basically the equivalent of the tuxedo in our day. If you were invited to a wedding, you would wear a wedding robe to honor your hosts—especially when your host was a king. Remember the royal wedding earlier this summer? It would have been national news if one of the invited guests showed up in shorts and a T-shirt. It’s more than just bad manners… It’s an insult to their host. It tells everyone that the invitation—and the hosts—mean nothing to them. It’s like saying “I’m just here for the free food.”
So it’s really no different for the man who’s not wearing a robe. So when the king asks the man why he’s not wearing the robe—and he has nothing to say for himself—his silence pretty much tells the whole story. He doesn’t care. If he didn’t own a wedding robe, he could have borrowed one from a friend—or from one of the king’s attendants. But he didn’t even do that. There’s no appreciation, no gratitude, no excitement about being invited to the king’s banquet. And now he doesn’t care that he’s dishonored his host.
So what we have here is not a parable about God rejecting human beings. But it’s also not a parable about what happens to non-Christians who reject God. This is a parable about insiders; about people who say “yes” to God and “yes” to baptism—but live a life of indifference to God. It’s about us.
We are a people whose sins have been forgiven. We are reconciled to God. We are united with Christ in his resurrection. But would you know it by what we say, what we do, how we live? Is there really anything that would set us apart from non-believers? Since we know that we are saved apart from our own good works, are we all too content for God to stay out of our way so we can just do our own thing? Are we too willing to leave discipleship and giving and serving to someone else?
Today, God’s Word brings us face to face with the painful reality of how we live under God’s authority. Far too often, we live as though God’s gifts mean nothing to us—even though our eternal destiny has changed because of them. We should all be a little uncomfortable with what God’s Word is speaking to us today—but God’s Word is not a guilt trip. Its purpose is not to give you nightmares like the one I had, to terrify you and have you questioning whether or not you are chosen by God for eternal life.
Its message is simply this: our relationship with God is not something to be taken lightly.
But God doesn’t use guilt or terror to persuade us into a life of true and faithful discipleship. God uses the promises of the Gospel. And the good news is that God hasn’t just called us to be God’s own—God has chosen us. If you’re sitting here, hearing this Gospel message today, you’re chosen. If God has called you—or is calling you—to holy baptism, you’re chosen.
So God doesn’t want us to spend the rest of our lives questioning whether or not we are chosen… God’s question for us is “what does it mean to be chosen?” What does God’s forgiveness mean for you? What does Christ’s death on the cross mean for you? What does eternal life mean for you?
As God’s chosen people, we have great cause for rejoicing each and every day. No matter what may befall us in life, we belong to Christ. God has washed all of our sins with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, so there’s no need for us to live in the shame because of the things we’ve done in the past. And God is not some distant, far-removed deity up there in heaven while we’re down here on earth. The risen Christ is here with us; never to leave us or forsake us. There is so much cause for joy, so much to be thankful for. God’s promises give us hope.
You have been chosen for new life in Jesus Christ. God has chosen you so that other people will know Jesus Christ because they will know you. God has chosen First Lutheran Church so this community will know Jesus Christ because we carry forth the light of Christ beyond our doors to those who are in darkness. If we keep the light to ourselves, the light will be snuffed out. But if we carry forth the light of Christ, his light will burn brighter in us. We will witness firsthand other people coming alive with hope and rejoicing. We’ll see the darkness of this world being banished away.
So where will you take the light of Jesus Christ? How will your life shine for Jesus?
Let us bring forth these questions to our Maker... And let us be prepared to follow Jesus when he calls us. May our hearts and our ears and our eyes be open that we would know God’s will; may the Holy Spirit give us the courage and the strength to obey God’s call; and above all, may God’s grace continue to bring us rejoicing, and God’s peace guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.