In Luke 13, Jesus said that the door to heaven is narrow. At another place Jesus said, "I am the Gate" (John 10:9). The Greek word is the same. And the picture is the same, isn't it? The only way to heaven is through Jesus.
Now, as we are in this series discussing how love speaks, last week we learned from Jesus how important it is to speak precisely because the door is narrow and easy to miss. This week, we'll see how it stands wide open for all, so we have every reason to speak freely about that narrow door.
In Israel, in that "little town of Bethlehem," there stands a massive church - the Church of the Nativity. And on its exterior, you can see the arch from a grand entrance that once welcomed hundreds of worshipers through it. Then, somewhere during the Ottoman period, the wide arch entrance to the church was filled in with stone and now in its place, stands what is known as "The Door of Humility."
The Door of Humility is so narrow that every worshiper must enter alone since our relationship with God is individual. And the door is so short that every adult coming to worship there must bow before the thought of what is said to have taken place on that site. God became man - the life ring we talked about last week was thrown into the water of this earth. Jesus came to save us. How great is our God.
That's why we sing: "In Christ alone my hope is found...in Christ alone who took on flesh, fullness of God in helpless babe, this gift of love and righteousness scorned by the ones he came to save, till on that cross as Jesus died, the wrath of God was satisfied." (Christian Worship Supplement #752.) That thought makes our hearts bow in thanks to our God that he has pointed us to this narrow gate, the only way and truth and life - only Christ.
And he still today shows us the way; he invites us through the narrow door standing open in the Means of Grace, through the waters of Baptism and this precious book, through the bread and wine he has us look and see Christ, our Savior. He has saved us.
Last week, we talked about how so many don't understand that word - "saved." Now that we do understand it, look at the question the man in Luke 13, verse 23, asks Jesus, "Are only a few...going to be saved, Lord?"
In answer, notice that Jesus somewhat avoids the question of number. In verse 29 he said, "People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God." Regardless of number, they will come from all over, from every background, and every nation - so there is not a one that you can not show this narrow door to.
In fact, Jesus goes on and shows that we dare not try to judge by appearances to whom we speak precisely. Verse 30: "Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last." Some of those who appear to have it all together like the synagogue ruler Jesus put in his place in this chapter, who seem like they'd be first in, may just be found outside. But some of those who we'd expect to not have a chance like that crippled woman Jesus called a child of Abraham in this chapter - by the miracle of God's grace, will be first, because it is not about what we do or who we are, but what our God has done for us.
The stakes are high. The road is wide open for confusion about what church is all about or misunderstanding of what God expects. But there is the narrow door. Today, see that the narrow door is open, and every time you enter through those big mahogany doors at church, this is the door you're pointed to (Jesus). And as you enter our sanctuary, you can't help but see the doors of God's grace, the baptismal font - that doorway into God's family, where God puts his name on you and points you to the narrow door, through the door of the Bible that shows you the one who used the wood of the cross to make your door to heaven wide open, and to the doorway of communion, where with bread and wine, body and blood, you are refocused on the one and only way, the narrow door.
May God bless you as you fight all the distractions and enter through him. And then, every week when you go out the doors of church through the doors into the "real world," let your love speak precisely of the way and the truth and the life.
And come back next week as we see our love speak confidently because Christ's love is our calling.
Rev. Jonathan Scharf is pastor of Abiding Grace Lutheran Church in Covington. Worship every Sunday is at 10:30 a.m. Full sermons and more information can be found at abidinggrace.com.