The journey inspires a lot of questions. One of them is simply who else is on this road? And that is a forked question. The first fork is what we typically hear today, which is a complaint against God. Just what kind of God are you that you might damn this person close to me. The second fork though is the buried concern for myself. Can I be one of the few?
Jesus I think answers the question rather straight-forward. First, you strive to enter. The other person’s salvation is not you concern, but your own is. You strive. And that striving is not earning it, it is simply living the life of Faith. The journey to Jerusalem is always up hill. It is always contrary to natural desire. Walk it. Second, just as we take Jesus at his word to strive, we should take him at his word that many will be outside the kingdom. The way is narrow. When the day of grace is done, there will be lots of people who knock on the door, but at that time it is just. Today, though, seek, strive, the door is open. Third, there is some solace in the midst of striving. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets. All the great cloud from East and West, from North and South. All will sit at the table in the Reign of God. All Israel will be saved. Can you be one of the few? Are you baptized?
We had a baptism in service today which always serves as a great visual object lesson. The strongest visual element of the text is the narrow door. As the sermon would proclaim that font is the narrow door. The gracious call of Christ to come into the household of His Father is the narrow door. And that door narrow door is entered one heart at a time.
What this sermon examines is our natural and sinful inclination to want to smash our group through the door, or more appropriately to claim that our clan, whatever its size, is the household. We want Jesus to bless our streets. We don’t want to leave our streets to enter through the narrow door into God’s streets. But that is the pattern of Abraham and the prophets. God’s gracious call followed by a life of faith seeking to fulfill that call. Rarely is that call fulfilled in this world, but we see it from afar. Baptism is our gracious call to be a royal priesthood and holy nation. Baptism is the grace of call calling us to the life of faith. Just like the patriarchs and prophets. Baptism changes one heart at a time, from east to west and north to south.
Worship Note: There were several good hymns today. I left in the recording Lutheran Service Book #644, The Church’s One Foundation. It carries in the first verse the theme of “water and the Word” is the creation of a new house. It carries that over to the universality of the church that springs from its oneness – one Lord, one faith, one birth. The collective multitude of the Holy Bride brought together one by one. And it is honest about that call that in this world is is not a call to immediate peace, but to perseverance, to the life of faith. It is a great hymns encompassing the themes of the worship of the day.
I received more comments about this sermon than almost any in 5 years. The pessimist in me is saying “and you are going to pay for each one of those comments.”
In the worship service as a whole there was an interweaving of hymns and songs including one of my favorites, I Walk in Danger all the Way, Some of the VBS kids shared with us a couple of the songs from the week including “Stand Strong” and the one I reference in the Sermon Marching to Zion. But you don’t need that thicker worship setting to get the sermon.
The gospel point, the core of the text, is that it is Jesus alone who is walking to Jerusalem. And that walk ends outside the city walls. At the place of the skull. We can’t march into the city of God. We only enter through the narrow door, at the foot of the cross, through repentance. There is no “we” marching to Zion. The question is are you walking there? Is your walk with Jesus all the way?
The audio will be added later. Our guy who volunteers to convert the files (and has the stuff to actually do it) took a much deserved break. His son did the recording (thank you!), but the digital conversion is coming.