St. James' Episcopal Church
Goshen, Indiana

Our 158th Year

Friday, August 24, 2007


Sermon For August 26th, 2007

Sermon for August 26, 2007
St. James, Goshen IN
Arthur Hadley

In the Gospel this morning we heard Jesus say “Strive to enter by the narrow door…many…will seek to enter and will not be able….you will weep and gnash you teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the Kingdom of Heaven, and you your self cast out. And men will come from east and west and from north and south, and sit at the table in the kingdom of heaven. The last will be first and the first shall be last.”

The operative phrase here is “strive to enter through the narrow gate”. In Jerusalem there was a narrow gate, just large enough for a single person to walk through. Not large enough for a camel, or horse or even a man in armor carrying a sword and shield. A few years ago we were in Portugal and entered into a mountain walled village; the road to the top of the mountain on the border of Portugal and Spain wound around with sharp switch back. And when we got to the walls of the village we had to go through a passage way with three 90 degree turns, each of which required pulling in the outside rear view mirrors, going forward, turning and backing up and then turning forward again. A very slow process. Some wise person had printed on the walls Strive to enter by the narrow door; many will seek to enter and will not be able. I wanted to laugh, but was afraid that I might be stuck in the gate forever.

Striving to enter through the narrow gate is very difficult. Keeping all of the laws all of the time, never sinning, is impossible. The sons of Adam and Eve, Cain and Able fought with each other, and Cain killed Able. Cain was marked forever with the death blood of his brother Able. Humanity descends from Cain. We get angry and kill each other. We wage wars or the wars are waged on our behalf, we go on crusades, jihads. We have the blood of Able marked on us. We made a covenant with death and destruction. We can not enter through the narrow gate no matter how much we strive.

But because we have the sacrifice of Jesus, God’s only son, through the shedding of the blood on the cross the mark of Able’s blood on Cain has been taken from us. We are no long bound by the covenant of death and destruction. We, all humanity, are welcomed from the East and the west, from the north and the south to the table set before us in the Kingdom of Heaven. We are the lost, least and last that have become the first into the kingdom of heaven. Not by our striving to enter through the narrow gate, but by the graciousness of God who has given us the gift of salvation, not by our striving, but as a gift given out of love toward us.

Thanks be to God.

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