Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Our text for today is the parable of the wedding feast from St. Matthew chapter 22.
When it comes to grace and the kingdom of God, we are all skeptics. How can grace and eternal life be free? How is it that God would give us forgiveness of sins, life and salvation with nary a thought for his own well-being? Surely there is a catch. Surely God wouldnâ€™t just give everything away. What kind of a God is that? We even hear this a bit in our Old Testament reading for the day:
â€œFor my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.â€(Isaiah 55:8â€“9 ESV)
When we think about Godâ€™s thoughts not being our thoughts, what we gravitate toward is all of the terrible things that happen in this life. How can God want cancer, or tragedy, or natural disasters, or war, or the many other things that so define us and hem us in here in this life? Surely God cannot want such things! Surely God is not like that, is He?
While it is true that there are many things we do not understand this side of heaven, the one characteristic of God that we really, truly do not understand is grace. What is grace, you might ask. Grace is Godâ€™s underserved love toward us for the sake of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord. Grace means that God loves you, no matter what. Grace means that God is always, ALWAYS on your side, that He is always looking out for you, guarding you and keeping you. Grace means that Godâ€™s commitment to you is beyond anything you can even understand.
Now our heavenly Father knows how dense we are when it comes to understanding grace and mercy. He knows this, and so He uses parables to hide and to reveal, to get us outside ourselves and our own fallen way of thinking. He uses parables to show you how crazy Godâ€™s love is for you. So hereâ€™s the story for today.
Itâ€™s a crazy story. I know. Who would believe such a deal? Come, we have the most beautiful house for you. It is huge, with high-vaulted ceilings. Oh, and the utility company has agreed to waive all billing. Thereâ€™s a yard, and a pool, and we made special arrangements so that you can control the temperature both inside the house and outside. Itâ€™s a perk weâ€™re starting to throw in to all the new houses. This house will be more than you could ever want for all the days of your life. Thereâ€™s no home owners association. This place is a peach. I canâ€™t believe itâ€™s still on the market. It is an amazing house.
And the price, you say? Well, we are having a special deal right now. If you act now, the price, well, how can I say this. Itâ€™s free. Yes, thatâ€™s right. Absolutely free. No ginzu knives. No tricks or gimmicks. The house is yours. Free. The last people I offered this house to, well, the last people thought free was too expensive. They were afraid that if I started to give this house to them, what would I give to the next guy who came in looking for a house? What would the neighborhood turn into if I started giving away houses willy nilly? I mean really. Think of what kind of neighbors you could end up with.
Itâ€™s crazy. I know. If you were to be offered such a deal, you would think that the realtor had lost it for good. What kind of a commission do you get on free? Whatâ€™s in it for them? Surely this must be some kind of trick. Surely there are hidden fees that are hundreds of thousands of dollars. Surely this will end up costing more than anything else.
But no. There is nothing hidden. Itâ€™s all right there. Itâ€™s free.
And this realtor is persistent. They are not going to be satisfied until you either take this house or kill them for trying to give it to you! Now thatâ€™s persistence. But there it is.
Oh, and one more thing. In this house, you have to wear this white bathrobe. I know itâ€™s silly. Trust me on this. You have to wear this white robe, but hereâ€™s the deal. Iâ€™m going to give you the robe, too.
Now if you got an offer like this, you would have to be nuts to take it, wouldnâ€™t you? I mean really. Nobody offers you a deal like that. Nobody. Everyone has an angle. Everyone has some way that they are going to get their piece of the pie. We are all skeptics when it comes to something that is free.
But not God. God comes down here with this hare-brained notion that you, yes you, that you should have a mansion in the heavenly places. He comes down here and gives and gives and gives and gives until you can hardly even believe itâ€™s true.
What kind of a God is that? Arenâ€™t gods supposed to be stern and somewhat condescending? Isnâ€™t God supposed to be mean? Thatâ€™s what the world would have you believe. God is judgmental, and basically doesnâ€™t want you to have any fun. Thatâ€™s what church is to many people. Church is the place where they tell you what to do so that your life can be tired and wearisome.
But it is not so. Our heavenly Father has great plans for you. Plans for your good, and not for evil. He has plans for you that go far beyond anything you can even imagine. These gifts which He comes to give to you are just that, gifts. Thereâ€™s no â€œor elseâ€ behind these gifts. Everything that He expects of you, He gives to you.
I know your inclination. I know your fear. You look at this house, this mansion in the heavenly places which God has prepared for you. You look at this and think itâ€™s too good to be true. Free? Really? Yet there it is. Right before your eyes. Believe it.
Now there is another temptation that you and I face before Godâ€™s crazy generosity. Maybe we accept the free gift of the heavenly mansion. But there we start to cast our eyes around. So if Heâ€™s giving me this great place, whatâ€™s He giving everyone else? What if God is holding out on me? What if this free mansion, which looks so great, what if it is really an old shack compared to everyone elseâ€™s homes?
And so we start to look. And to measure. And to scheme and plot and plan and wonder and get incredibly bent out of shape over what? Maybe God isnâ€™t just generous to me. Maybe God is generous to others, too. Maybe God really loves them more than he does me. And they donâ€™t actually deserve to be in that mansion which God has given to them. And in our house-measuring, and judging of one another, we forget one really important point. Itâ€™s all a gift. Every bit of it, from start to finish. Itâ€™s a gift for you, and for your neighbor, your friends and your enemies. There are houses enough for all, and room to spare. We canâ€™t measure Godâ€™s love and mercy and generosity. All we can do is receive it, and rejoice that this crazy topsy turvy world is in Godâ€™s hands, not ours.
So hereâ€™s the bottom line, plain and simple. God loves you. Every one of you. He longs for you to come and join and have a place in His heavenly home. Itâ€™s all free. You donâ€™t deserve it and neither do it. But God is rich in mercy. He has it all setup for you. Everything is ready at this banquet feast. Itâ€™s all yours. Itâ€™s all free. Come, join the party.
In Jesusâ€™ holy name. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen
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