Saturday, October 2, 2021

The narrow gate. . .

When Jesus counseled the disciples to enter “through the narrow gate,” He also described the road that leads to destruction as a broad boulevard.  “Those who enter through it are many,” says the Lord, but the narrow road that leads to life is not well traveled and “those who find it are few” (Mt. 7:13-14).  It must surely have been as offensive to hear Jesus' words when He spoke them as it is to hear them now.  For the Jews it was not simply that the way was narrow, but it was another of the many narrow ways that had been declared and were still being proclaimed.  

Christians have, by and large, decided that Jesus was wrong.  The way of life is broad and allows for great diversity and difference.  Christians are loathe to say that anything is wrong so, absent such judgment, everything is right.  There are in the minds of many, perhaps even most Christians, many paths to life and many routes that could be traversed but none of them is exclusive or narrow as Jesus said.  Doctrine is mere suggestion and reason and will rule over what will be believed and what will not.  Truth itself has been taken captive by individual desire and preference.  The welcome to the communicant is no longer allowed to require much of anything in belief or practice to those who would come there.  No, there are not so many voices today suggesting that Jesus was correct in His statement.

The point of this all was, it was said, to welcome as many as possible to Christ and to prevent anything from precluding or preventing such welcome.  And how is that working?  Over the last half century Christians have become experts at re-framing truth so it does not offend and re-establishing the faith away from fact and history until the faith has become a rather vague idea of God, of love, and of redemption.  But far from being a magnet to those who said doctrine and truth and faithful practice were off-putting, those outside of Christendom have failed to give the Church much of a second look -- except to complain such wideness did not go far enough.  Indeed, widening the path has made it less attractive and less interesting to nearly everyone on the outside.  The liberal and progressive forces have presided over the emptying of the churches and the greatest decline in affiliation since records began to be kept.  Widening God's narrow way and making His narrow gate open wider has not succeeded in any of its aims -- only to make the Church appear weak and shallow.

The argument against close(d) communion is that it offends the visitor,  punishes those who might be interested in the faith, and turns the rail into a fence and the Eucharist into a weapon.  Whether you are a Roman Catholic politician supporting abortion or an ELCA family member visiting a Missouri parish, you are the ones who are causing the offense -- not the faithful pastor who warns against having it both ways.  Jesus does not stand on the side of the broad way or the big open gate.  His is, by His own words, the narrow way and the narrow gate.  The wide open path and gate are headed not to life but to destruction -- these, too, are Jesus' own words.  But, truth be told, we are our own worst enemies.  We have turned entrance into the Sacrament into a membership issue instead of faith confessed, consciences examined, and sinners absolved.  When we did this we substituted one error for another.  The altar rail is not some special place where membership has its privileges but the place where baptized sinners who have confessed the faith, examined their lives and consciences, and received Holy Absolution are given place at the Table and the blessings of the gifts He gives there.  Membership does not give you a pass from this.  The narrow path was and is the same -- baptized sinners confessing rightly, who have been examined and absolved, coming to receive what Jesus bestows without argument or complaint.


Dr.D said...

"The altar rail is not some special place where membership has its privileges ..." I have visited many LCMS parishes, an this was always the only question asked; membership has always been exactly the same as privilege.

This is always "justified" by saying, "If you believed rightly, you would be a LCMS member." I think many in the LCMS will be quite surprised to find in Heaven that that there are some who were Roman Catholics, Orthodox, Anglicans, and even a few ELCA folk.

Fr. D+
Continuing Anglican Priest

Timothy Carter said...

Excellent blog, Pastor. Doctrine is important. Very important.
You wrote. "Widening God's narrow way and making His narrow gate open wider has not succeeded in any of (the liberal and progressive) aims…. widening only makes the Church appear weak and shallow."
You wrote in an earlier blog that Confessional Lutherans are Medieval Catholicism with the errors removed. Very true and comforting. Liberal and progressive doctrine seems to want to throw out any parts of Scripture that do not fit it's narrative. Matthew reports that Jesus Himself said that the way is narrow and many will reject the truth and lose their way. A hard, inconvenient truth rejected by modern thinkers who do not submit to Scripture as truth.
Your graphic of the stained glass "Narrow Way" from a Catholic website is magnificent. The Catholics were always very good with graphics for the simple.
Timothy Carter, simple country Deacon. Kingsport, TN.