14th Sunday after Pentecost 2016 | The Narrow Door
“Lord, will those who are saved be few?”
Jesus said to them, “Strive to ender through the narrow door.”
What follows may be one of the most troubling parables Jesus tells.
It’s not that it ‘s complicated. Really, the parable is simple.
And it’s not that it is unclear. Jesus is fairly straightforward.
What makes this parable so frustrating is that something seems to be missing.
Like any good parable, the story has a robust cast of characters.
There’s Abraham and Isaac,
and Jacob – all three.
Plus the prophets,
and folks from across the earth’s seas,
and you and me, and Adam & Eve…
And a Master.
Like any good story, there is a conflict:
Everyone wants in on the big, eternal, wedding reception.
But the door is closed.
So they knock and shout
and try to remind the Master that they once had dinner together,
That He used to teach in their town.
But the Master does not know them.
He does not know where they come from.
Like any good story, there is and end.
“Depart from Me, all you workers of evil.”
From there it is weeping and gnashing of teeth.
And as if to add insult to injury, folks from north and south and east and west,
People who were last, that is, behind others in the line,
Now, suddenly are first – entering the feast as the unknown are cast out.
I said there was something missing.
What does not seem to be present in this parable is a solution to the conflict.
And that is as troubling as it gets.
Jesus says, “Strive (struggle, agonize) to enter the narrow door.”
But He does not say how – only that many try and many can’t.
They can’t get in because He does not know where they come from.
So the question the Master asks, the question Jesus asks is this:
Where are you from?
You might say Boston or Hong Kong or Iowa or Haiti. It doesn’t really matter.
What matters is that the Master knows you.
So, like the folks in the story, you might try this:
“I ate and drank in Your presence.”
But not just in Your presence. I brought all of my favorite sins with me.
There are some I just would not let You take away.There’s a reason they’re my favorite.
You understand. It’s mostly important that I was there, right?
On second thought, maybe don’t try to remind Jesus about bringing sins to His table that He earnestly begged you to leave at the foot of His cross.
Well… “You used to teach in our streets!”
You used to preach Your Word there at Lutheran Church of The Way.
I stayed home a lot, but You were definitely there.
You even had an hour-long study of that Word.
I saw the announcement.
I even thought about going once.
We’re good, though. I called you “Lord,” remember?
And then the voice rings back:
“Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord’ and not do what I tell you?”
“You, whoever you are.”
Depart from me, you workers of evil.
The door is shut.
And you can watch Abraham and Isaac and Jacob,
And the prophets, and these folks from the ends of the earth –
You can watch them enter feast while you are cast out.
The tears pouring down your face will not quench your thirst.
And the broken teeth in your mouth will not satisfy your hunger.
And that is the end of the parable – the end of the story;
Unless, of course, there is something else.
Maybe Jesus’ story isn’t missing a solution after all.
Jesus said, “Strive to enter through the narrow door.”
You have tried.
Some more than others.
Either way, you were not able.
You were not able to enter.
Not by your church attendance.
Not by your good deeds.
Not by your mastery of Bible trivia.
Jesus didn’t tell you how to strive to enter the narrow door because you cannot!!
But answer me this.
Answer Jesus this:
Where do you come from?
You, dear Christians, at the narrow door of God’s Kingdom may answer this:
“I am from here. This is my home. This party is for me.”
Not sheepishly, not fearfully,
But with the confidence of one whose seat at the table literally has your name on it,
Because the Master has put His name on you.
Where are you from?
You were born in the font,
That glorious river of life that runs through the new Eden.
By Water and Word, in Holy Baptism the Master was made Your Brother.
And everything He has is Yours.
And I mean everything.
The text says He is on His way to Jerusalem.
There, He who is the Alpha is made the Omega.
There, Jesus, who is first is made last
So that you who are last may be first.
So His Kingdom is your Kingdom.
His Father is your Father.
His Striving is your striving.
His Righteousness is Your Righteousness.
His party is your party.
Where are you from?
You are of His own household.
You are of His own death and resurrection.
You are part of His own Body
So He knows You,
And you are in.
There is still the matter of the narrow door.
Because, frankly, big or small would make no difference if you the Master did not know you.
But Jesus says it is narrow.
It is about the width of His cross.
The breadth of His own embrace.
That door, you could say, is Jesus-sized.
So how do many enter through a Door that narrow?
How does Jesus bring you and me
and those folks from North, East, South, and West through the door?
He who has passed through death into life lines all of us up behind him.
It’s just one more great reason to process in and recess out of church behind Jesus.
There is, after all, only one cross,
And one Divine Image
And every Christian is eventually pressed into it.
And so here you are again.
All lined up behind Jesus, your Big Brother and Master,
Here you are again, known and beloved.
Here you are again, to eat in His presence.
And yet, it’s more than that.
You are here to eat and drink Jesus Himself.
His Body and His Blood poured out for you.
For His Flesh is real Food and His Blood is real Drink.
And don’t be afraid to smile.
The Wedding Feast is a reverent place, but it is still a party.