As we take our journey through the wilderness of Lent to Calvary and finally to Easter, we walk with Jesus to Jerusalem and along the way we hear his words to the crowds…
Strive to enter through the narrow door says Jesus.
To enter the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, you have to enter through the "Door of Humility." You have to stoop down to enter, it is a small narrow door, a tight fit, made small to protect the Church many centuries ago. As you humbly walk into the Church built over the spot where tradition says that Jesus was born, it reminds us of the humble birth of our Lord and our need for humility.
Jesus on that road also said, Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it. How often I have desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing.
At a Franciscan Church at the top of the Mount of Olives, on the other side of the valley from Jerusalem, a Church was built to commemorate when Jesus wept over Jerusalem. Behind the altar, is clear glass so you can take in all of Jerusalem, esp. the area of the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock.
If you look at the altar, there is a mosaic that is part of the altar, of a hen gathering her brood under her wings. As you look out at Jerusalem, over the altar & mosaic, we are reminded of the words of Jesus.
These Churches stand as reminders of the places Jesus lived and walked, of the things he said and did. Places where Jesus challenged the crowd to do more than just follow him, but to live as he does, to imitate his ways and have them take root in their hearts.
It is clear from the Gospel that as Jesus taught throughout the countryside, the people were hungry for spiritual nourishment.
They wanted to know about salvation. “Will only a few be saved?” someone asked him.
Strive to enter through the narrow gate, was his reply. It is not enough to eat and drink with me, and be around my teaching. No, Jesus says. I do not know you.
Jesus wants us to not only eat and drink with our mouths, but with our head and our hearts too. Not to just to have seen or heard his teaching but to live it! That is to enter the Kingdom through the narrow door.
“People will come from east and west, from north and south and will eat in the Kingdom of God. Indeed some are last who will be first and some are first who will be last.”
No matter who you are, or where you come from, the Kingdom of God is open to you. And as Jesus has said on a number of other occasions, there will be those who were last in this world, who will be first, and those who were first, will be last. And lots of us, right in the middle…
The real story is how we live it.
For Abram, he wondered if he would have children, heirs to what God has promised. He’s worried.
But the Lord says to him, do not fear, look at the stars, if you can count them all, so shall be your descendants…and Abram believed the Lord and he was reckoned righteous.
And God made a covenant with Abram, that his descendants would occupy the land.
To live it, is to trust the words of the Lord as Abram did, to trust in what God has given us.
For Paul, it is important we stand firm in the Lord, to imitate other Christians who are following Jesus example. He sheds tears for those who have fallen away or fail to live expecting our savior to come.
For them, “their god is their belly; and their glory is their shame; their minds are set on earthly things.”
Sadly, we know others like this and I suspect we all fall into that temptation as well.
“God is their belly.” In a nation, that can get its mouth fed very easily and cheaply, who have lost our connection to creation, I think we easily fall into this trap. It is not about supporting good food production or healthy practices, it is about the cheapest food at the cheapest prices. For our “minds are set on earthly things.” What is our bottom line?
It’s not our stock dividends, or our wealth or power, our home, our SUV or prestige, it is about who we are…or at least that’s what it should be.
Our bottom line is to expect Jesus to come back as our savior and to follow his ways, as best we can.
And in the midst of this, God longs for us, as Jesus said, “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings”
Jesus is looking at Jerusalem (& at us too). Longing for the people to find life, to find that complete joy that God through Christ can give, if we accept it, trust in it, and live it.
Jesus’ cry to Jerusalem, ends saying that they were not willing. It is the same cry to those who only wanted to eat and drink but not take in his teaching, not live it in their lives nor have it take root.
Every day of our lives, we have the opportunity to follow Christ or to reject his message. Sometimes we get it and our day is filled with the glory of God, some days we forget it and things are not what they could be and often we muddle through, sort of getting it, getting a taste of what that love, hope and joy could be in our lives.
This Lent, right here and now, we can decide how today is going to be. Are we willing? Will we strive to enter through the narrow gate? Will we be part of that brood under his wings? Will we live his message in our lives?
Strive to enter through the narrow door…even if you have to stop and stoop down… Amen.