During the now distant and often forgotten summers of my youth in the 60’s- I found great joy and pleasure in the simple things of life. I did not fit in well with the in-crowd. Oh I liked listening to the Beatles and all the other groups popping up on my new techno gadget, the transistor radio. And yes, I liked girls. But I couldn’t dance the box waltz, couldn’t keep down an illegally acquired can of beer, and the girls never seemed to want to stay in a relationship with me.
What I treasured most was my time and relationship with people much older than me. I loved acting. I played roles where the characters were parents or grandparents. I used my parents and grandparents to model the behavior for my characters. I spent the summer months alternately with my Aunt and Uncle on the farm they worked in Lincoln, Il., and with my grandmother and grandfather in a small town called Beardstown. My grandmother, Louella Nortrup Brockhouse was a 5’1” 100lb titan who ruled over her much taller and pot-bellied husband and grandfather, Elmer. Grandma was strict. I remember vividly her roar every time I ran out the back porch door to greet grandpa as he came home from work at the flour mill looking like the Pillsbury Dough Boy!
“Mach Die Tür Zu!” Grandma would yell in full-throated German. And on those occasions when I did not to pay attention to her, Grandma would add a few more colorful words to her demand! I learned later from Grandpa what Grandma was yelling: “Mach Die Tür Zu” You damn fool!” In total though, Grandma and Grandpa, Mom and Dad, Aunt and Uncle, are the ones whose simple, humble, loving lives, lived in Christ, help to shape and form my younger years.
I believe that each of these role models are among those who, at the end of their life journey, passed through the narrow door that is at the center of our Gospel lesson from St. Luke on this Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost.
Those who have been attending worship here this summer have been on a journey of sorts through the Gospel of St. Luke as he records Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem and His death on the cross. As we have seen on the road to Jerusalem, Jesus’ teachings have become more pointed, more cautionary, more focused on the period after His death and even on that time when He will come again in Judgment – that time when HE will announce “Mach Die Tür Zu.”
Addressing a largely Jewish audience, Jesus got a question from someone in the crowd who asked, "Lord, will those who are saved be few?" (v23b) It was a good question considering that during the time Jesus lived, most Jews thought that, as God’s chosen people, they were going to heaven.
The truth though, made clear in the way Jesus responds to the question, is that few adult Jews of that generation were likely to enter the kingdom of heaven. In response, Jesus changes the trajectory of the conversation: "Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able." (v24) It is not "will those saved be few"? Rather, it is "How is one to be saved?" Or more specifically, “Will I be among the few to be saved? That is what is at the center of this text.
Jesus' entire public ministry was one of striving for all God's human creation to turn them from the wide path of death and destruction and to the straight and narrow road, to the door of salvation. On the cross that loomed on the horizon, Jesus would endure the humiliation of arrest, conviction, betrayal, denial, flogging, crucifixion, and death, to open that door.
Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me."(Jn 14:6) In the parable of the Narrow Door, as with the Narrow road, Jesus says that He is that Door. Without Jesus we could not find, let alone walk, the narrow road that leads to the still open door.
Some in the crowd certainly would have heard Jesus teach about the way to salvation and the kingdom of God: “Stay dressed for action. Keep your lamps burning. ”(Lk.12:35) “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”(Lk.13:3) “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”(Lk.12:40) To understand and faithfully follow Jesus on the narrow road it will take open minds and hearts, not narrow minds and closed hearts.
Still, the narrow road is not easy to follow. It is at times a struggle. The words "strive" and “narrow" imply a difficult ordeal, not a walk in the park. The truth is, it is impossible in our human condition to accomplish at all. Rife with sin, self-righteousness, false pride, big egos, myriad worldly devices and short-term Christian memory, we are over the load limit to be on that road in the first place. We deserve the wide road of destruction and death.
Which is why our Lord provides ways for us to lighten our load: Absolution: For contrition is a constant companion on the narrow road; Holy Communion: The blessed fuel that strengthens and nourishes us for the journey ahead; God’s precious Word: Hearing and abiding in the Word is the Rand-McNally for Christian road warriors on the narrow road.
Another thing Jesus makes clear in this text is that the time for action is now. The time to be on the road and headed in the direction God has laid for us in now. For The door will not remain open forever. "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.”(v25-26)
Then it will be too late. “Mach Die Tür Zu.” Just because you know Him or heard Him teach in the streets, or ate and drank with Him at a given time, does not qualify you for the kingdom of heaven. Tragically, the people who will gather at the closed door will wail and weep and mourn because they will have missed their opportunity. Outside looking in - for eternity.
Consider for a moment what it must have been like when Noah closed the door to the ark as the water rose and lifted the vessel off dry land, sweeping those left behind to certain death. How much more terror will there be for those who, by their actions or inactions, by their superficial faith or complete lack of faith, will pound on the narrow door and beg for admission only to hear the words, “I do not know where you come from.”(v26)
Even more tragic? All of us have been forewarned - as we are again today by Jesus Himself.
But how much better are we prepared for Jesus than were the Jews of Jesus’ time?
Is the Christian church any better now than the Jews then? We see evidence of spiritual superficiality all around us: Young people get confirmed and hardly ever go back to church; People hear the Word of God proclaimed accurately but resist it, reject it, try to shape it to fit their personal preferences; People eat and drink the true body and blood of Jesus but think it is only a quaint tradition or symbolic gesture; People attend church only once in a blue moon or twice a year and say they are believers.
We live in a post-Christian time. Christianity, it is said, is dying. Jesus and the Bible should not be taught or believed. Neither Jesus nor the Bible are historical truths; just fictional accounts. Christians need to get off their pew and out of that church and get on the Autobahn! Ride the wide road, full speed ahead like the rest of the world. And there are plenty of wide roads to travel. Besides, if there was only one narrow road, you wouldn’t want to be in grid-lock, would you? One single lane? That would be a living nightmare! We get plenty of one-lane driving experience right here – it’s called CONSTRUCTION.
What are your travel plans? I can tell you one thing for certain: The narrow road is not under construction. Jesus paved that road with His flesh and blood, His life and death and resurrection to new life. The only construction at work on the narrow road is the one behind the wheel of life: you. You are the one being tempted. You are the one who has the choice of roads to take. Jesus says, "Strive to enter through the narrow door." Jesus gives you driving aids, rest stops, directional signs. He even issues a long-term warranty for those who stay on the road, those who stay in Him, those who put their full faith and trust in Him.
Jesus shows you the way, maps out the plan, even rides with you on your life journey. When you make a wrong turn, and you will make many, Jesus is there to pardon you when you seek His counsel, confess your sins. He will be with you till the end. He will carry you across the threshold of that narrow door and into the kingdom of heaven- the destination of all believers.
Before you travel any further, do a vehicle inspection. Are you tuned up in Christ? Do you have the air of the Holy Spirit filling you up? Is your vehicle regularly cleaned and cleansed from the damning effects of the pollution of sin? Is your door open to let Jesus in?
What I left out in my experience with Grandma’s colorful language and Grandpa’s Flour-filled clothing is why Grandma was so insistent in the door being closed that she would resort to using a 4-letter word to get my attention: Grandma would not let Grandpa in the back door that led to the kitchen because he would leave in his tracks all the flour that seemed to have found a place on every inch of his sizeable body! No. She would be go out another door and turn on the faucet, pick up the garden hose and spray poor Grandpa until the flour was off! Grandpa, it seems, had to be cleansed before he could enter through the door.
The Door is open now, but the day is coming when, just as Christ rose to open the door, He will come again to “Mach Die Tür Zu.” Which side of the door will we be on? Thanks be to Christ who for our sins and for our salvation took on the cross of death, opened the door by which we might enter the kingdom, and showed us the way to eternal life. Amen.
– Rev. David Brockhouse
“Mach Die Tür Zu” / Luke 13:22-30 / Mt. Olive Lutheran Church (LCMS) / August 25, 2019 – Proper 16