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Pentecost 19 2020, Proper 23
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
October 11, 2020
Isaiah 25:6-9, Philippians 4:4-13, Matthew 22:1-14

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            Matthew 22:14 (ESV) 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.” [1]  This is the Gospel of the Lord??  Gospel means Good News and yet this does not sound like good news.  This sounds like a dire warning, which it is.  Today’s Gospel reading is a warning to the Jewish religious leaders and the people of Jesus’ time and the warning is still there for us today.  Many are called, but few are chosen.  You are left to wonder, “What about me?  Am I one of the chosen?”

This is an issue about God’s election of people to salvation and it begs the question, “Why are some saved and others not?” This question is called the Crux Theologorum, which is Latin for the cross of the theologian.  It is an impossibly difficult question.

            These three things are true about salvation.  First, Jesus died for the sins of all people therefore there is universal grace. Second, You are saved by grace alone. Third, Hell is real and people will go there.  We know from the Bible that these things are all true and yet it seems they contradict each other.  It does not make sense and we like things to make sense, and so some folks, in order to try to solve the Crux Theologorum, will just pick two of the three.

            Calvinists reject universal grace.  They teach that we are saved by grace alone, but they teach that Jesus died only for the elect, not for all people.  They teach that those whom God does not elect will go to hell.

            Synergists hold that salvation involves some sort of cooperation between God’s grace and our human freedom.  This is what Martin Luther rebelled against in the Roman Catholic Church and it is also present in many churches today that teach decision theology.  Synergists believe in universal grace; that Jesus died for all people, but they reject that you are saved by God’s grace alone.  They believe that people are saved partly because they have made a decision for Jesus, or because they have done the right good works.

            Many liberal churches, including many liberal Lutherans, reject hell.  They believe that Jesus died for all and we are saved by grace, but that no one is condemned.  They are becoming universalists.

            In order to make God make sense, Calvinists reject universal grace, synergists reject grace alone, liberal theologians reject hell.  We so much want to make God make sense, but we cannot. We do not get to change God’s teachings to fit our rationalizations.  God’s ways are not our ways. 

All three of these teachings are true even though it does not make sense to us.  Jesus died for all people.  You are saved by grace alone.  Hell is real and some people are going there.  The Bible teaches all three are true and we do not get to change the Bible’s teachings. 

            Why are some saved and others are not?  Calvinists say it is God’s choice to save some and condemn others. Synergists say that it is man’s choice to be saved or not.  Universalists teach that all are saved.  The Bible teaches, and Bible-believing Lutherans teach, that God saves and man condemns.  God chooses to save you.  People choose to condemn themselves by rejecting God’s grace; by rejecting Jesus as the Savior from sin.  So the Lutheran answer to the question, “Why are some saved but others not?” is an unsatisfying, “We don’t know.  God does not tell us.”

            The Gospel reading today is difficult.  In the first part Jesus is teaching against the religious leaders who have been invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom, but they are not interested.  They reject the Father and the Son and because of that they are destroyed.

            Then the king invites everyone to His Son’s wedding feast, both the good and the bad, and the wedding hall is filled with guests.  But one guest is not wearing a wedding garment and is speechless when asked how he got in.  That man is tied up and thrown into the outer darkness.  For many are called, but few are chosen.

            What does it mean to be “not worthy”?  What does it mean to not have the wedding garment?  The parable teaches that to be “not worthy” is to dishonor and reject the king and the wedding feast for his son.  This parable is about Jesus.  To be “not worthy” is to oppose, hate and seek to destroy God’s Son.  To not have a wedding garment is to reject Jesus and His forgiveness. 

            This parable is disturbing because it shows that God is indeed Almighty God and you are not.  God is in charge and God will judge those that reject Jesus.  The king destroys those people and their cities are burned.  God is also judgmental towards the man not wearing the wedding garment.  But, what is this wedding garment?  What does it mean to not have the wedding garment?  This man is thrown into hell and you ask yourself, “Could this be me?”

            What does it mean to be “not worthy”?  What does it mean to not have the wedding garment?  The parable teaches that to be “not worthy” is to dishonor and reject the king and the wedding feast for his son.  This parable is about Jesus.  To be “not worthy” is to oppose, hate and seek to destroy God’s Son.  To not have a wedding garment is to reject Jesus and His forgiveness. 

            Today is confirmation day for two of our young ladies at the 9:30 AM service. Confirmation is an opportunity for the young people to declare for themselves what was said for them at their baptism; that they renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways. That they believe in God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

            They also will confess they believe the Bible to be faithful and true and they will promise to remain a faithful followers of Jesus for the rest of their lives. One question is: “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” 

            Over the years I have presided over the confirmation of many young people. They each answered this question, “I do, by the grace of God.”  Sadly, for some of those young people, it was the last time I ever saw them at church.

            Now, I cannot know their faith.  But I fear that long term, voluntary separation from God’s Word and His Sacrament of Holy Communion can lead you to reject Jesus.  We all need Jesus and yet so many people live as if Jesus’ forgiveness is not essential; as if Jesus is an occasional accessory of life, but not necessary.  This parable is a warning about the spiritual dangers lurking that can harden your heart and slowly draw you away from a life of honoring the Son.  The Bible is full of these warnings.  1 Peter 5:8 (ESV) 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.[2]  Matthew 13:22 (ESV) 22 As for [the seed that] was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.[3]

            Many are called, but few are chosen.  How do you know if you have been chosen?  You know you have been chosen because God has called you by name and you have been born again in water and the Spirit.  God has marked you as His own and made a promise to you in your baptism.  You have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross for your sins.  You hear the Good News of God’s mercy and grace in Jesus.  You receive Jesus’ Body and Blood for the forgiveness of your sins. 

            The confirmands today are wearing white robes, often at baptism babies are clothed in white, at a funeral the casket is covered in a white pall.  What do these symbolize?  They are a picture of the white robe of Jesus’ righteousness that covers over all your sin.  You need the robe of Jesus’ righteousness because there is no robe of your own righteousness.  You cannot make yourself right with God.  You cannot do it on your own.  You need Jesus and you have Jesus. 

            God has chosen you in your baptism to be His own child. He has given you a place at the wedding feast of the Lamb.  It is yours. You are in Christ.  You wear the robe of Jesus’ righteousness.  You know you need Jesus.  You know you need His forgiveness.  Resist the devil with his lies and accusations.  James 4:7 (ESV) 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.[4] 

Stay connected to Jesus and His Body the Church.  Remain in Christ.  Remember your baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Gather together in person or online, if necessary, to hear the Words of God’s forgiveness.  Receive the Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  Live life as a forgiven child of God.  You have faith in Jesus, the Messiah, God’s Son.

            You are the chosen one of God. Amen. 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

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