Sermons

Summary: It isn't size, or status, or wealth, or popularity that measures the worth of the church: it is faithfulness.

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We began the week with the story of the Chicago nightclub fire in which 21 people were killed as they rushed to the exit. The club had already been cited for overcrowding and other safety violations - like not enough doors and windows. What happened was that a bouncer used

pepper spray to break up a fight, and people panicked, thinking it was a chemical weapons attack, and fled down a narrow stairway. And then as if that weren’t enough, we’re still reeling from last Thursday‘s fire in a Rhode Island nightclub which saw over 96 people killed and more than 50 others injured as they desperately tried to escape a fire started when the band set off

pyrotechnics as part of their act. News reports say that in addition to burn injuries many people

were badly cut from smashing out windows in a frantic attempt to get out of the building. Another

witness said that people trampled on each other as they tried to squeeze through the club's front

door. One minute everybody was dancing and drinking and having a good time, the next minute

they were screaming in terror in a mindless attempt to escape. But even if someone had warned

them, no one would have believed that such a thing would happen. There was a news crew there

that night filming the club as an example of a safe venue, one in which a tragedy like the Chicago

stampede could never have taken place. No one ever really believes that such a disaster might

happen to them - until it does. We’re like that, we humans, aren’t we? taking our lives for granted

until something turns our world upside down. Our eyes skip right over the danger signs; we don’t

even hear the sirens. It can’t be for us... The bell is tolling for someone else.

“...so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as the days of Noah were, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage ... they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.” [Mt 24:37-39]

Just as in the days of Noah, of course, God has generously provided an exit strategy for the present as well. Jesus told his followers all about it. But he was realistic about how many

people would take the time to familiarize themselves with the emergency procedures. And in any

case, just knowing about the emergency exits doesn’t mean you’ll have the time to get there

before the disaster strikes. Most people, though, either don’t believe that anything bad could

possibly happen, and those who do are sure they can figure out on their own how to get to safety.

Never mind the advice of the experts, the instructions from the authorities, or the architect’s

blueprints.

The reason for that is, of course, that staying close to the door Jesus opens doesn’t give you quite as good a view of the entertainment, or quite as comfortable a seat, or quite the same level of service. I mean, when you’re in Jesus’ corner you have to bus your own dishes! So a lot of people will opt to risk their futures in order to maximize the present. Luke tells us that in his

gospel. “Someone asked [Jesus], "Lord, will only a few be saved?" He said to them, "Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able.” Luke 13:23-24 Matthew tells us why. "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the

road is easy that leads to destruction, and there are many who take it. For the gate is narrow and the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few who find it.” Mt 7:13-14

People are not trampling over one another in order to get to Jesus. Half of the ones ignoring him think they can get to safety via an alternate route, while the other half don’t believe in God’s judgment at all. The book of Revelation makes it clear, though, that this world is not only not all there is, it’s not even the most important part of our lives. John’s Revelation tells us over and over again that all of these catastrophic events that shake up our lives - earthquakes, famines, wars, and fires - are intended in God’s mercy to point us in the direction of eternity. And this letter underlines the point that there is only one door into sanctuary, and that Jesus is it. Mind you, the door is well marked. It’s lit. And it is open. But too many people are ignoring it, because it’s out of the way, a little hard to get to, and besides - it’s not fashionable. It’s not the cool thing to do. Instead, even in the absence of an emergency, people push one another aside, shoving at doors that lead nowhere, smashing windows and getting cut to find themselves in just another dead end. And one of the saddest things of all is that they aren’t don’t even have the excuse of panic; they’re just fleeing from the inescapable knowledge that the drinks and entertainment that they’ve spent so much on are leaving them hungrier than before.

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