Robert Capon on House Parties

“Listen! I am standing at the door and knocking! If anyone hears my voice and opens the door I will come into his home and have supper (deípnon) with him, and he with me.”

I choose this passage not because I intend to make a full commentary on the letters that Jesus, in a vision, told John the Divine to write to the seven churches in Asia but because it enables me to ring some changes on the image I just introduced of the house set in illusory darkness. In those early sections of Revelation, Jesus speaks to John in a vision of light: he is holding seven stars in his right hand and he is walking in the midst of seven golden lampstands. So much for the outer darkness: even as he stands out there on the world’s front step and knocks—even there, outside the door of the swept and ordered house (Lk, 11:25) he has provided for us in his death and resurrection, there is light; even those of us who perversely choose to love the darkness are standing in the Light. And so much for the threat of the seven devils worse than our first uncleanness (Lk 11:26) whom we might possibly invite in to make that house dark again: the judge of the world is on the doorstep and there isn’t room for a single one of them.

For the judge who stands there is not alone. There is a crowd with him, and it isn’t the cops. It is a party. It is all the guest at the Supper (deípnon) of the Lamb—plus the chefs and the caterer’s crew and the musicians and the stars of the evening—all making an eternal racket, all pleading to bring the party into the house. And they have found our address not because they looked it up in the “books that were opened” at the last judgment before the great white throne (Rev. 20:12)—not because they examined our records and found us socially acceptable—but only because he showed them our names in the “other book that was opened” (Rev. 20:12, again): the Lamb’s book of life.

Do you see? If he had looked us up in those books, we would all have been judged according to our works (Rev. 20:12, still), and the eternal party would never even have come down our street. But because he only looked us up in the book—because he came to save and not to judge, because in the Lamb’s book we are all okay, all clothed with his righteousness, all drawn infallibly to himself by his being lifted up in death and resurrection—because of that only because of that, he finds the door of every last one of us and lands the party on our porch. All we have to do is say yes to him and open the door. We do not have to earn the party; we already have the party. We do not have to understand the party, or conjure up good feelings about the party; we have only to enjoy the party. Everything else: the earning, the deserving, the knowing, the feeling—our records, our sins, even our sacred guilt—is irrelevant. “No man,” Luther said, “can know or feel he is saved; he can only believe it.” And he can only believe it because there is nothing left for him to do but believe it. It is already here. There is therefore now no condemnation. The Light has come into the world.

Even at the judgment, therefore, the gracious Light—the Phōs hilarón—is still the only game in town. When the Lamb stands at the door and knocks, only an inveterate nonsport would say, “Darkness, anyone?”

The Parables of Judgment, Robert Farrar Capon

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