Jack had been the president of a large corporation, but when he was diagnosed with cancer, the company unceremoniously dumped him. He went through his medical insurance, used up his 401k and life savings, and he had nothing left. The pastor of the local church and one of the deacons went to visit him in the hospital. At one point the deacon said, “Jack, you speak so openly about the brief life you have left. I wonder if you’ve prepared for your life after death?” Jack’s face got beet red with rage. He yelled, “You (blankety-blank) Christians! All you ever think about is what’s going to happen to me after I die! If your God is so great, why doesn’t he do something about the real problems of life?” He went on to tell them that he was going to be leaving behind his wife with a mountain of medical bills, and that his daughter had no money to go to college. And then he yelled, “I want you out of my room! Right now!”
And so the pastor and the deacon left. A few days later they came back. The deacon said, “Jack, we want to apologize for offending you. And we want you to know that we’ve been working on some things for you.” He said, “If you like, a realtor in the church has agreed to sell your house and give your wife the commission. The income from your house should pay for your daughter’s college education. Also, the owner of an apartment house from our church has offered your wife a nice 3 bedroom apartment, plus free utilities and a monthly salary, in return for her collecting the rent from the residents, and supervising all the plumbing and electrical repairs on site. Jack, we just want you to know that your family will be cared for after you’re gone.” And with that, Jack broke down and cried.
My friends, when Jesus said, “I am the gate,” those words were an invitation for us to come to him, experience his love, mercy, and grace, and to also demonstrate his faithfulness into the words we use, and in how we live our lives. There’s an old hymn that I remember singing in church growing up, and you really don’t find it around much anymore, although it is in our hymnbook. It’s called, “Wonderful Words of Life.”
“Sing them over again to me, Wonderful Words of Life.
Let me more of their beauty see, Wonderful Words of Life.
Words of Life and Beauty, Teach me Faith and Duty,
Beautiful Words, Wonderful Words, Wonderful Words of Life.”
This world is full of people who don’t know these words, but we know these words. We sing these words. We love these words, because they are an invitation to experience the life-giving love of Jesus Christ, who is the gate! And God calls us to share these words, and show off these words to all the world.
This Sunday, April 10, we celebrate Palm Sunday, and I will continue my sermon series on the “I Am” statements of Jesus, and how his claims, and who he is, shapes our lives. Please join us in the sanctuary at either 8:00 am or 10:30 am. For the 10:30 service, we will also be broadcasting on Zoom, Facebook Live, and YouTube.