Just east of the Pioneer Square transit tunnel there is a park. Anyone who has spent any time in this neighborhood is probably aware that this park is a popular hangout place for people with nowhere else to go during the day.
Walking by this park yesterday, I observed a woman across the street from the park.
With a megaphone.
Facing the park.
Out of the megaphone, I hear:
“I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.”
“No one comes to the Father except through me.”
This is not a unique encounter. I’ve had similar encounters outside CenturyLink Field on the way to sporting events, while shopping at Westlake Center, and walking to class in college. I’m sure many of you have had similar experiences.
What do you hear in this encounter?
I hear “You god-less people. If only you knew Jesus, you wouldn’t be homeless.” And “You are going to burn in hell if you don’t come to Jesus.” Or “I’m saved and you’re not, but you could be.”
Is this Gospel?
Our reading from the Gospel of John today sure sounds a lot like this doesn’t it? Especially that bit in verse 9 “I am the Gate, whoever enters by me will be saved.”
Is Jesus really saying that only Christians get into heaven?
If we are to believe the megaphone on the street, then that is exactly what this text is saying. It is saying that our Hindu sisters and brothers will burn in eternal damnation. It is saying that our Jewish brothers and sisters don’t get to meet St. Peter. It is saying that our blood sacrifice has been paid, but only ours, not my grandfather’s because he was never baptized. It is saying that the murderer who makes a deathbed conversion and confession is saved but that the atheist who dies while serving in the PeaceCorps isn’t.
Did God come into the world and die at the hand of the world for just some of Creation?
Is that really the promise of the resurrection?
Is God’s grace really that limited?
By No Means!
The good news is that God’s grace is not that limited. The promise of the resurrection is that God has overcome the power of death and fear by coming into the world, dying at the hands of the very creation God came to save, and conquering death so that we do not have to fear death.
The promise of the resurrection is a promise made to all creation, not just to those with ears to hear and eyes to see.
In our text this morning, the follow up to that verse about Jesus being the gate is the statement that Jesus came so that “we may have life, and have it abundantly.”
In his commentary on the text for this week, John Fairless notes that the Greek for that final word “abundantly,” can also mean extraordinary, or my favorite “uncommon.”
What if entering through the gate means being opened up to an uncommon life?
That uncommon life is a life of love, peace, and justice. It is the uncommon life that is modeled in the early church in our reading from Acts this morning. It is the uncommon life of suffering for the sake of goodness and mercy that St. Peter writes about in our Epistle this morning.
It is the uncommon life of living into the promise of the resurrection.
By being allowed into the sheep hold, we are not given the golden ticket to heaven, we are invited to live the uncommon life.
Listen again to the second half of our Gospel reading for today:
"Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly."
And go out. The gift of the gate opening to us invites us in and sends us out to live the uncommon life.
And that’s the rub of this story. The uncommon life is not one closed off in the sheep hold.
The uncommon life is not a life of seclusion, of exclusion, of avoidance.
The uncommon life is a life of evangelism.
The uncommon life is a life of inclusion.
The uncommon life is a life of service.
This may involve standing on street corners with megaphones, but instead of pointing the megaphone at those people marginalized by our society, point the megaphone at those that marginalize.
This does not mean that we ignore the people in the park, but that we join them in the park with love and kindness. It means that we fight to overcome the systems that make it so that they are in the park.
It also means that we invite people into the uncommon life. It means that we talk about the love of God who’s name is Jesus Christ, through whom we enter through the gate and go back out.
It means that we take a stand for the Gospel.
How do you take a stand for the Gospel?
How do you live into the uncommon life?
How do you invite others into the uncommon life?