August 24, 2004
Luke 13:22 -30
Well this is a difficult passage. What does it mean when the Gospel tells us that we will come and knock upon the door of eternal life and find that it is locked? What does it mean that we will come seeking to enter in and be told that we are rejected? I thought that God was always willing to welcome us in. I thought that there would always be an open door when we came and knocked. Even a few chapters earlier in Luke’s Gospel Jesus says this very thing. “Ask and you shall receive. Knock and it shall be opened to you.” So what does this passage mean that tells us that when we try to enter, we will be refused. When we seek come in, the door will be locked.
To answer that question let us start with what we know is true. God’s will is to save us, to save every person in this church, to save every person in the world. God is always willing and open to invite us in to eternal life. But salvation is a two way street. It requires our participation. God’s intention is not the only factor. God will never change in God’s desire to save us. But two things can change: our circumstances and our very selves. When these things change we can find that the door in fact is locked.
How can we explain this? There are many stories that have resulted from the tragic events of 9/11. But one of the most poignant for me was a story that I experienced on 9/12. As you know during that time many people came to church and spent time in prayer. I encountered a woman leaving church. I said to her, “I am glad you came today to pray. We all need prayers.” “Some more than others,” she said. “Do you want to know who I was praying for today?” “Of course,” I said. “I was praying for all the spouses of the people that died in those twin towers who left for work yesterday morning angry at their husband or wife. They always thought that there would be time to make peace. They always thought that there would be another opportunity to be reconciled. Yet there was not. They will have to live with that for the rest of their lives.” Circumstances in our life change. What is possible today is not always possible tomorrow. The people with whom we need to be reconciled will not always be with us. The people we want to thank or tell them that we love them could be taken in an instant. When that happens the door is locked and we can no longer get in.
But it is not just the circumstances in our life that can change. We ourselves change depending upon our decisions. Every time we say no to an opportunity for life or growth it is easier to say no again. Every time we make a decision not to act we begin to build a habit that lessons our freedom. This can happen in a marriage or any deep relationship. The decision not to be honest moves us closer to living a lie. The decision not to be generous and forgiving begins to create a pattern of selfishness and inflexibility. Soon we can be living in a lifeless marriage, in a dead relationship. A similar thing can happen in dealing with addictions. Every time we pass up an opportunity to stop drinking, to stop using drugs, we feed the habit of the abuse that reduces our ability to live. Every time we say no to a good opportunity we reduce the chances of recognizing the next opportunity that comes along. God will never cease to provide opportunities. The grace of God will never dry up. But we can dry up. We can create a thick crust of insensitivity and habit that refuses to let the grace of God sink in. When that happens the door is locked and we are unable to enter.
This then is the warning of today’s Gospel. God will never change in God’s desire to save us. But our circumstances can change and we can change. God will never lock the door to shut us out. But the circumstances of our life can shut us out, and we can lose the desire to enter by the choices we refuse to make. The message of the Gospel, then, iscarpe diem. It is a Latin phrase which means “seize the day.” The day is now. If there is an open door in your life, walk through it. If you need to forgive someone, do it. If you need to thank someone or tell someone that you love them, don’t wait until tomorrow. If there is an opportunity for change or growth, take it. God will never change, but our lives can change. So carpe diem. Seize the day. Today is the day of salvation.