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Choosing a narrow gate

by davesandel on December 2nd, 2021

Thursday, December 2, 2021                         (today’s lectionary)

Choosing a narrow gate

Open up the gates to let in a nation that is just, one that keeps the faith.

The Austin interstates roar with morning traffic. The sun’s almost up. No one asks anyone else to open up the gates, the assumption is that they are open and ready for me.

Open to me the gates of justice; I will enter them and give thanks to the Lord. This gate is the Lord’s.

Knock, knock, who’s there? Davey’s here, can I please come in? I hear a rustling behind the gate, and a burly bearded guard opens a small window. I know my life rests in his hands.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.

Or gatekeepers. But, doesn’t seem like I have a choice. So I smile wide, and open my eyes to him, and stretch out my hands, empty, open.

“I am looking for the eternal rock,” I whisper, then clear my throat and say it again. “I am looking for the eternal rock!”

The gatekeeper looks at me wearily. “So is everybody,” he says. But Jesus has left strict orders.

He humbles those in high places. He tumbles their made-up city to the ground and levels it with the dust. It is trampled underfoot by the needy and the footsteps of the poor.

And then I do hear it. Faraway, a grumble in the ground, a roaring cataract of dust pushing toward us, faraway but coming soon. The gatekeeper hears it too, and shuts the window. “Hey!” I felt a little panic rising in my throat. “Let me in!” But he was gone. He wasn’t listening.

The words of the psalm seemed to be written for another person at another time. I felt afraid, not blessed. I felt misunderstood, not accepted. I was outside the gates.

I will give thanks to you, for you have answered me and been my savior. O Lord, grant salvation! O Lord, grant prosperity.

I knew I sought prosperity in my own eyes, grabbing at it with my own hands unblessed and unguided. Offered a tiny slice of the cattle on a thousand hills, I closed my fists on it and said THAT’S MINE! I was needy but I would not admit it. I was poor, but I wallowed in my pretend, the riches of man, the insurances that I set up like Hebrew stones upon the plain, unbid by God, thinking I could create my own altars and be safe.

And yet all I need is to close my eyes, be still on the rumbling plain, and … and … and … what is that I see, made obvious only by its shadow?

The Lord is God, and he has given us light. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Hear Jesus, his words shining in the light? I just need to listen.

Not everyone who says to me, Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of heaven. But when you listen to my words, and act on them, you will be like a wise man who built his house upon a rock. Rains fall, floods come, winds blow and buffet the house, but it will not collapse. It has been set solidly on the rock.

I wonder what happens next. I move away from this west gate and walk around the city to the south gate. The crowds pour down out of the desert and climb on each other, desperate for the west gate to open. But it does not. I wonder why I am alone. I am learning more about obedience than I have ever known, in this dawning light.

Trust and obey.

(Isaiah 26, Psalm 118, Isaiah 55, Matthew 7)

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