Sunday, March 04, 2007

Surfacing for Air

Here is my sermon from this morning. I, as usual, intended to be on the computer all week and write lots of interesting things about my class etc. But getting Matt ready to go to Portland and then coping in his absence AND getting ready for Sunday took it out of me. I didn't have anything left over by the time I got to my computer in the evenings. Matt is coming home tomorrow so maybe we'll be able to achieve some small amount of order. As it stands now the house is a complete wreck, I have bills and papers piled high and I'm sitting flaked out with my three kiddos, watching the Pond's Big Mouth Bass for the third time today. If any of you have extra prayers left over, you could spend them on me getting through the next week.

The Narrow Door
As you know Matt is out of town for a few days. This has been one of those difficult weeks where we passed like ships in the night. I arrived home Monday after spending the night in Chicago because of bad weather, and then Matt left Thursday at 4 in the morning. We spent Tuesday and Wednesday passing jobs off to each other. After he had got on the plane I read these haunting words from today’s gospel. ‘Lord, will only a few be saved?’ ‘Yes’ says Jesus, or rather, ‘Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many will seek to enter and will not be able.’ ‘I don’t want to go through the narrow door’ I said later when Matt called. ‘I’m tired, I don’t have the energy to shove my fat soul through a small door’. ‘You don’t have a fat soul,’ he said. ‘Well, maybe not fat,’ I said, ‘but not particularly lean.’ So that’s what we’ve got to go through this morning—a Narrow Door. So lets see what kind of door it is and how best we may go through.

First of all, where are we? Right, on the way to Jerusalem. Jesus is taking his time wending his way there. Although he made many trips to Jerusalem in his life, at this point in the Gospel he is on his way to his passion—his trial, death and resurrection. But he is taking his time. As he goes he stops to preach, teach, heal and answer questions. Including the question we get this morning, ‘Lord, will only a few be saved?’ The question, doubtless, is brought forth by the kind of teaching and preaching that Jesus has been dishing out to date. If you flip back through the few chapters before 13 you will notice that Jesus has been giving some clear ideas about what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. As the days go by the picture gets starker. Most likely, those who are hanging around listening to him have begun to examine themselves and wonder whence they are headed. And they have reason to be worried. When the question is asked Jesus paints the bleak picture we just heard, 25When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, open to us,' then he will answer you, 'I do not know where you come from.'

So what is this door? How do we go through?

Well, first and foremost, the Narrow Door is the door to eternal life. The door is Jesus himself. In his own body, his own flesh, Jesus is the road, the door, and the destination. He is the Way the Truth and the Life. This is true historically. Jesus is God the Son incarnate, that means, down on earth here with us in a body so that we can know who he is. And in this body he suffered death on our behalf. Before Jesus, the door to eternal life was slammed shut by our sin and rebellion. In his death, and ultimately in his resurrection the door was opened again. It is true spiritually. When you ‘seek God’s face’ as the psalmist says, and he, through the Holy Spirit, dwells in you. And you accept his sacrifice as the forgiveness of your sins. So he is the door, but he is also the destination. As you get to know Jesus, especially through Scripture and in Prayer, you become like him—his perfection is written in your heart. You are able to love like Jesus does, live like Jesus lives, pray like Jesus prays. So the door is Jesus himself, and life forever with him. And you have to go through him. There is no other way. Jesus says it clearly in the gospel. If you don’t know him and he doesn’t know you, you can stand and knock and knock but the door won’t open. Its not enough to be good, to come to church, to hope for the best, to go on various spiritual journey’s of self discovery. The Narrow Door is first and foremost Jesus. If you want to be with God and live forever, you have to go through Jesus.

Second, the Narrow Door is a disciplined Christian Life. Most of you here already know Jesus. You have the Holy Spirit in you. You are citizens of heaven. You seek God daily. You have gone through the door into eternal life. For you, and for me, the Narrow Door is the opportunity, the chance, to live an ordered disciplined life. It is narrow because discipline, surprise, is always the harder choice. It is a lot easier not to work hard, not to pray and study, not to do the things set out by God to do, or as we pray, ‘to walk in the good works prepared by God for us’. I’ve been struggling with the discipline of the Narrow Door lately. I haven’t managed to keep up with all the daily things I said I was going to do. I was going to read the bible, pray, spend some serious time on my cat box, and keep my kitchen clean, as a bare minimum. Well, if you came over to my house you would see that I’m not anywhere near my goals. Nevertheless, every morning, I have the chance to start over. Why discipline? Why order? Because in ordering and discipline, the Holy Spirit has an excellent opportunity to work in you to make you more like Christ. It’s essentially a matter of priorities. When you have things in order, God first, then your family, then your work, Not your work, then yourself, then your family, then God, when you have things in order God can really work in you to accomplish his purpose and his kingdom. So the Narrow Door is the door of discipline in daily life. Go ahead, go through it.

Third, the Narrow Door is a Door of Sacrifice. Obviously, discipline and sacrifice go together. It takes some self sacrifice to become disciplined, to maintain order. It cannot be achieved by sitting in a comfy chair eating bon bons or spending the day playing golf or video games. It requires work and giving of yourself. But very frequently, in the Christian life, we are given an extra opportunity, an extra chance to undergo and make Sacrifices, sometimes big ones. This Sacrifice is a Narrow Door. It might best be likened to being born. I don’t remember being born. Do you? That’s part of the mercy of birth, right, not remembering. I say mercy, because I’ve given birth to three babies and let me just say that its not piece of cake. Certainly I, as the one giving birth, suffered a great deal. But so did my babies. It is no easy matter being born. Its painful, it takes a long time. Mother, child, doctor, husband and God all work together to bring the child into a place he and she doesn’t want to be. And yet, obviously, being born is required for rich full life. You can’t just not be born. And in the Christian life, you won’t be able to escape Sacrifice. God, to make you fuller and richer and stronger will either take things away from you that you think you can’t live without, or he will ask you to do a job that you don’t think you can do, or to give of yourself in some way that you never imagined. The ultimate sacrifice, of course, is Jesus on the cross. The pain and suffering there were necessary in bringing about the beauty of eternal life. We get to make smaller ones. And when we do, we grow, on the other side of the door there is no Narrowness, no Leanness. On the other side of the door is wide complete unending joy.

Where ever you are, whatever is being asked of you, go through the door this morning. Let Jesus himself carry you through. Do not be afraid. Abundant life is on the other side. Amen.


Christie said...

I have been praying this prayer for a number of people, lately.

Circle Anne, Lord.
Keep comfort near and discouragement afar.
Keep peace within and turmoil out. Amen

Circle Anne, Lord.
Keep protection near and danger afar.

Circle Anne, Lord.
Keep hope within and keep despair without.

Circle Anne, Lord.
Keep light near and darkness afar.

Circle Anne, Lord.
Keep peace within and anxiety without.

The eternal Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Shield Anne on every side. Amen

(I got this prayer from Cathie Young at St. James Anglican Church. She said it was a Celtic prayer.)

Anne Kennedy said...

Thank you so much. That's exactly the sort of prayer I've needed I this week.
I'm so grateful to have Matt back. I can't imagine what it must be like for single parents.

Anne Kennedy said...

Christie--I just responded to your comment way down below (only two weeks later! how slow am I). Can't even remember the name of the post, if you want to scroll down and find it.

Christie said...

I replied to you at View from the Hall.

Deborah said...

Thanks for posting your sermon, Anne. It's wonderful---exactly what I needed to read this week.