Immanuel Lutheran Church

Sermon

Pentecost 14

"Living a Balance Beam Life"

Luke 13:22-30

August 21, 2016

Have you noticed how our Lord uses the word narrow as He relates it to the Kingdom of God. He refers to the narrow door and the narrow way. Often we hear references to moral, law-biding people as living on the "straight and narrow." Actually, many of our images of narrow seem more negative than anything.

Yet, narrow is not necessarily totally confining. Have you been watching the Olympic games? As you watch women's gymnastics, look at the balance beam. It is narrow, just 4 inches wide. Yet, some of the routines done on that narrow beam were simply amazing. The Christian life may seem restrictive. Yet, like life on a balance beam, the Lord enables us to do some simply amazing things.

Read text: Luke 13:22ff. Someone said to him, "Lord, will those who are saved be few?" And he said to them, "Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the master of the house has risen and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, open to us,' then he will answer you, 'I do not know where you come from.' Then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets.' But he will say, 'I tell you, I do not know where you come from. Depart from me, all you workers of evil!' In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God but you yourselves cast out. And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.

Today's Gospel finds Jesus posed with a question of generalities. "Lord, are only a few people being saved?" Jesus takes the opportunity to redirect the question from the general to the specific. He responds to the fellow asking, "You make every effort to enter through the narrow door." At this point we might ask the Lutheran question: What does this mean? It's a typically human thing to point fingers at others while ignoring the same condition in ourselves. The fellow in the crowd seems worried about others but Jesus would have him examine his own heart first. Get your own house in order and then you can worry about others.

Maybe it's time to ask a variation on the Lutheran question. What does my salvation mean to me? What does it mean to say I'm saved? What does it mean to not only say I'm a Christian but live a Christian life? What does it mean to sacrifice of my time, talent and income for the work of the Gospel? Does being a Christian mean anything to me?

Jesus puts our spiritual quest in terms of entering through the narrow door. From the outside, the door may not look like much but it opens into wonderful place. How do we find the narrow door? The door is the Gospel that opens the Kingdom of Heaven to us. The door must be pointed out to us. Criers are posted near the door to invite those who pass by in. Although everyone is invited, we are told only the few actually enter.

This brings us to the nagging and unanswerable question "why?" Why do so many pass up the invitation? It's a question we can't answer. It's the question of the guy in the crowd. When we ask, Jesus redirects the question to us. Have you entered through the narrow door? Are you rejoicing that the Holy Spirit has directed you to the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ?

The most troublesome portion of today's Gospel is the great surprise to those who thought they knew the Lord but were sent away with the chilling words, "I don't know you." How can this be? Obviously, there are people among us who believe they are Christians but in the eyes of the Lord are not. It made me stop and ponder, how would those words possibly be directed to me? It's a question we all need to ask ourselves.

Who are those who think they know the Lord but are sent away? These are the ones who hear the Word but never allow it to penetrate their hearts. Faith is a simple thing that is also deeper than we realize. Faith has two components. The Christian is to both: KNOW and BELIEVE; BELIEVE and KNOW. You need both.

Sadly, there are too many people who call themselves Christians who don't know the Lord. Oh, yes, they may believe. They believe about Jesus but they don't place their faith in Him. They may know about Jesus but they really don't know Him. They don't know who He is or what He has done to be their Lord. Their Christianity is little more than an academic exercise. For all intentional purposes their Christianity is little more than their moral philosophy of life. The reality of Jesus Christ eludes them.

If your faith is nothing more than an emotion on one hand or a moral philosophy on the other, you are missing the depth and beauty of the gift God has given you. It's kind of like the balance beam. Life on the beam looks way too challenging. Yet, with the Lord all things are possible. He helps us live the narrow life. We may be creative and innovative but we have to stay on the beam. The narrow life may seem confining but it is also the most rewarding because when we are finished we receive the gold, the crown of life.

So it is with faith. Your faith is not just the intellectual knowledge of Bible and Catechism facts. These will not serve you well unless the heart wraps itself around them and they become real and part of the very fabric of your life. When the Holy Spirit is at work in individuals and congregations you see living faith gathered around the Word and the sacraments. When the Holy Spirit is at work in a congregation you see love and service not only within but beyond its walls. When the Holy Spirit is alive in individuals and in congregations, you see joy and enthusiasm for the work of the Gospel. When the Holy Spirit is alive among us, we shouldn't need to beg for money or volunteers. When our faith is alive, our love is evident.

The Great Commission sends the Gospel into all parts of the world. Now, if the door is narrow, how can people find it? The Gospel must be proclaimed. People need to hear the Good News that Jesus died on the cross for them to forgive their sins. God undertakes this wonderful work and He uses us to do it. He uses us as the doormen pointing to the narrow door and inviting those passing by to enter.

Once we have entered the narrow door, we behold the beauty of the Gospel and the joy of knowing Jesus as our Savior. Together, we share the Lord's love in His word and in His sacraments. We rejoice that people from every corner of the earth have an opportunity to enter through the narrow door. Whether we witness locally or through missionaries that go into the world for us, we share in the proclamation that Jesus Christ is Lord.

Although the door to the Kingdom and the way that leads to it is narrow, people from every nation, language group, tribe and ethnicity have entered. Even if we don't understand why it seems only a few are being saved, the Lord would have us rejoice that our names are written in the Book of Life. Thanks be to God! Amen.


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