Luke 13:22-30

The Narrow Door

22 Jesus went through one town and village after another, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few be saved?” He said to them, 24 “Strive to enter through the narrow door, for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. 25 Once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, ‘Lord, open to us,’ then in reply he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from.’ 26 Then you will begin to say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 But he will say to you, ‘I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!’ 28 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. 29 Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and take their places at the banquet in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.”

In our passage this morning, we find the journey motif again with Jesus.  He’s on his way to Jerusalem and there are several discourses, conversations, teachings along the way.  These teachings actually pretty countercultural, against the stream.  Jesus is asking folks to open up to who they are, who they really are…to let go of whatever is holding them back from becoming their truest selves.  

Which is so hard to let emerge.  Our true selves.  Why because we have so many layers of ideologies, belief systems, and other things that prevent us from seeing ourselves.  

Friends of ours, the Kenny’s, many of you know their daughter, Georgia, who lived with us for about a year, bought an old castle last year.  I believe I’ve mentioned that before.  But, their castle, or more accurately, a tower, had, over the years, some new additions as well as lots of decay.  They have been busy restoring it to it’s original glory, but it’s taking so much time effort to peal back the layers.

Christianity is the same.  Jesus never intended to even start something called Christianity.  He was calling us, all of us, back to our true essence, which is being made in the image of God.  Which is good, beautiful, and full of love, presence, and wholeness.  

Yet, over the past 2,000 years, we have had so many layers put on our understanding of what it means to live in Christ, to live the abundant lives that Jesus came to call us in to being.  

Even being made in the image of God was diminished when St. Augustine ponied up with Roman imperial authority with the concept of “original sin”, that we were born sinners.  Later, the concept of “substitutionary atonement”, that we are originally sinners in the hands of an angry god that had to appeased by a blood offering.  Which is a concept found in other religions in antiquity, human sacrifice to satisfy the gods…which was also a way for the powers that be to control the population through a certain ideology.

Friends, you were born to be human, human as Jesus is human.  And, you are divine.  You are not God, but you are divine.  You have God’s DNA and are made of God from the very beginning, and even now…yet, there are so many layers in our lives that we need to shed to know our true selves.  

In this passage today, someone asks Jesus if only a few will be saved.  Jesus, as he does, does not answer the question directly, but is trying to get the questioner to get to what the questioner really wants.  Strive to enter through the narrow door.  In other words, be open, allow yourself to let go of certain ideologies or ways that you’ve been brought up.

This narrow door concept is not new in Jesus teachings.  It’s similar to the “eye of the needle” story, where Jesus says it’s easier for a camel to get through the eye of the needle than a rich man (or woman) into heaven.  Jesus isn’t saying it’s bad to be rich, he’s saying let go of whatever you are clinging to in this world that you think will bring you wholeness or whatever.  The eye of the needle is a narrow door on a city gate that would be closed at night.   Traders with camels or donkeys could not get into the city unless they went through the narrow door.  That meant taking off all of their possessions from their animals in order to get the animals through.  That meant being vulnerable also, because you would have to leave stuff outside until you could go back and get it.  

I used to go cave exploring or spelunking.  Similar concept, if you wanted to get into the vastness of an underground cave, sometimes you’d have to go through a narrow opening.  That meant only taking with you things you would need (like a flashlight!).  

Jesus is preparing this wild and beautiful feast for us.  He is the host of the banquet, and he wants all of us to fully live into this banquet!  So often we think that church membership, or showing up on Sunday, or doing this or that is what it means to live in Christ.  Actually, it’s so much more!  Jesus is saying to folks that it’s not just showing up in attendance or hearing nice things…it’s leaning into who we are, it’s being connected, truly connected to all things.  It’s being alive and real, and vulnerable…like Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and so many others who came before us.  

It’s not some narrow reading of scripture or living into some belief that was placed upon us for control by the authorities and rulers of this age.  For instance, when I was growing up, my tradition took on this one conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus where Jesus says you must be born again, actually, Jesus said you must be born from above.  We took one conversation between two people and turned into a universal truth, but we didn’t take another conversation between Jesus and the rich young ruler when he said to sell all that you have to enter the Kingdom of God.  I wonder why?  

Throughout history, there has been a cozy relationship between religion and the powerful, if you can get the masses to think that somehow they are not good enough in simply being themselves rather than to have love, peace, or to see themselves as divine, then you can put out the terms of what it takes to get to God or wholeness.  Religion becomes like a business, a transaction.

When, in essence, Jesus is saying that YOU already have everything you need, and want…in abundance even!  

It’s simply not about your status or lack of status in what the world says.  You are enough.   And God wants you to be YOU and that’s a cause for celebration.  

This world tells us that winning at all costs is what is important.  But, Jesus says, nope…as a matter of faith, the first will be last and the last will be first.  

People will come from all over…this narrow door is actually an ever expanding door…it’s big enough for all of us, all of humanity and creation.  And, it’s right in front of us.  Jesus says that he’s knocking on the doors of our lives, lives filled with layer upon layer of religion, beliefs, and expectations…meanwhile, the God of the Universe, inside of us and outside of us, all around us, is calling us towards something so much more.  That knocking is loving and open and graceful…look into your hearts, look into the hearts of others.  Look around in this room and in everyone and everything you encounter…and see God in all things and all people.  As you continue on this journey and allow your eyes to see God in you and around you…know that you are walking through the narrow door and into a great banquet prepared for you!  

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