Monday, August 23, 2010

The Narrow Wide-Open Door

13th Sunday after Pentecost – August 22nd, A+D+ 2010

Text: Luke 13:22-30

"Grace Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ + Amen.

When it comes down to it there are only 2 kinds of people in the world: those who would seek to enter the narrow door by their prayers and wrestlings, by their piety and self-justification, by their works and sacrifices– you know, there's no such thing as a free lunch even in heaven. And those who know they are not able to enter the narrow door by their works, and sit at the banquet table by invitation, and not by merit.

"Lord will those who are saved be few?" Good question, but it's not ours to answer. The better question is which kind of person are you? Are you the self-righteous or the declared righteous? Truth be told, you are both: justifier of self and justified by Christ; sinner and saint; both knocking on heaven's door by your own merits and despairing of your sin trusting in Christ.

Yes, there are only two kinds of people in the world because there are only 2 religions in the world: Free and Not Free. Don't let the religious experts fool you. "All doors lead to heaven; we all worship the same god just in different ways." The gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction.

There are not many ways to heaven but one: I am the Way the Truth and the Life no one comes to the Father except through the perfect life and death of the Narrow Door. How insensitive of Jesus, how politically incorrect, how intolerant. "Strive to enter by the Narrow Door. For many I tell you, will seek to enter and not be able."

Many have tried to throw a ladder over the door and climb the stairway to heaven. Many have painstakingly crawled for a way across the threshold with their calloused hands and knees. Many have groped the walls and framing through the darkness of their feelings and emotions. The tower of Babel was tall, it was not tall enough. The Pharisees had the Law but used it as a ladder instead of a sword. They hosanna-ed His miracles but hated His Word. They rejected His Way for their own. There is no other way, no other Name, no other Door, no other Savior. Don't try it. Don't flirt with it. It's pointless and only leads to pride or despair. There is a way which seemeth right unto man, but it leads to death.

This is the way of our old Adam - a proud, card-carrying Pharisee. "I know I'm in, but look at all these losers. I'm surrounded by sinners. Thank God I'm not as bad as them. Thank God I'm not like those people who don't show up on Sunday. At least I'm here. I've done my part. I've given my tithes. Attended Bible study. I know the catechism perfectly. I know the Gospel, don't tell me I'm a sinner. I've strived and wrestled. Repent. Busy hands are also the devil's playground. God is not pleased with your works of self-righteous, un-justification.

When Jesus speaks about his return at the end of time He did not say, When the Son of Man returns will He find a growing and successful, striving-to-enter-the-narrow-door-by-their-own efforts church? But, when the Son of Man returns will He find faith on the earth? Behold, days are coming declares the Lord when the door will be closed as it was in the days of Noah.

And when once the Master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door saying, "Lord, open to us," he will answer you, "I do not know you and where you are from." Then you will begin to say, "We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets." But he will say, "I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me you workers of unrighteousness."

Who are the ones standing outside knocking at the door that will never be opened? Those who would seek to enter the Narrow Door by their own works; those who would be justified according to thought, word and deed. And if that's how you're going to try and get through the narrow door, then it's already closed. Repent, for we who desire to be first really are last.

O, Lord, who then can be saved? Who can enter the narrow door? Can a few? No, not a few, but One. Jesus: King of kings, Lord of lords and Door of doors. The shape of this Narrow Door is the corpus of Christ the Crucified. Jesus is, the perfect, sinless, holy, righteous Narrow Door. He opens the door and drags you in kicking and screaming all filthy and covered in the stench of sin and He cleanses you, and sits you down to recline at His heavenly banquet table where He feeds you. In this way He saves you. For you cannot, by definition, save yourself. If you could, you wouldn't need to be saved.

He does for you what you cannot and will not do on your own. He strives. He enters. As the Father loves Him from all eternity, so He loves you with all of His heart and all of His soul and all His mind in thought, word and deed.

This is why His face is set towards the Holy City for unholy sinners. He takes your unrighteousness upon Himself so that He might cover you with His righteousness. He enters the gates of Jerusalem for all who live outside the gates of Eden.

This is why Christianity is not just one of 31 religious flavors of the week. It's the one religion where you don't do anything to earn, buy, work or pay your way in. The death of Jesus is good enough. Blood shed enough for you. Pierced for you. Crucified for you. It is finished for you. Jesus the Narrow Door now open for you.

Through the Baptismal stream of ever-flowing blood and water you are drowned into the Kingdom of God. Through His Word of absolution the mustard seed is sown and the Kingdom of God takes root in you. Through His Supper you dine with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the company of heaven in the Kingdom of God.

Will only a few be saved? No, not a few, but many. For the Narrow Door is wide enough to embrace a world hell-bent on striving and seeking its own way into heaven. A sinful world squeezed through the doorway of one perfect life, death and resurrection. Just as one man, Adam dragged all of humanity into eternal death and condemnation, so one man, Jesus, pulls all humanity into His own forgiveness, life and salvation by His cross and tomb. From the heights of heaven to the lowliness of the cross the first was made last. The Father shut the door on His cursed Son, left for dead all to open heaven's joy for you.

The tomb was sealed and your sin, all your self-righteous works of un-justification were buried with Him. He closes the lid, piles the dirt and buries Himself in your death, sins and all. Crucified. Dead. Buried. But Death's door could not hold Him. He is risen. He has swallowed your sin. Digested your damnation. Devoured your death. Slammed the door of death and hell shut with a resounding Alleluia.

And He ascended to the highest heaven to bring you, the greatest sinner, through the narrow door of His death and life. "Fear not, I am the First and the Last, the Living One. I died and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys to Death and Hades."

Will only a few be saved? No, not a few, but many, a great multitude that no one can number from every nation, tribe, people and language from East, West, North and South.

This narrow but open door is wide enough for the worst of sinners, chief of sinners, yes even you.

For you who were last have become first because He who was first became last.

In the Name of Jesus + Amen.

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