Psalms 75, 76 * 23, 27; Leviticus 23:23-44; 2Thessalonians 3:1-18; Matthew 7:3-21
I went to a Washington Nationals game last night at their new stadium, which is about four blocks from where I live. They were playing the Chicago Cubs. It was a good game, with it being tied going into the bottom of the 9th. The Nats won in that inning with a home run, with two players on base. If a team is going to win or lose a game, that is an exciting way to do it.
I went with two good friends from seminary, one of them a die-hard Cubs fan. There were various questionable calls made by the umpires during the game, and at least to my Cubs-fan friend, they seemed to be skewed in favor of the home team Nats. Whether it was charging a Cubs player with an error for a similar screw up as a Nats player had just graced the game with the inning before, for which the Nats player had not been hit with an error, or the questionable call earlier in the game where the umpire called a ground-rule double because a Cubs hitter had hit a ball that bounced off a flower planter and bounced back into the field (the Cubs lost at least one run due to that call), all the decisions were based on established rules and interpretations of those rules by the officials charged with making those decisions. These players, the umpires and even the fans (on both sides of last nights competition) where following rules and regulations of the game: they were entering through the narrow gate so to speak.
And I don't mean the narrow gate the 40,000 people present at that game passed through to get into this grand and beautiful stadium, although that could be another metaphor for today's Gospel reading from Matthew. In fact, all sports (football, soccer, tennis, golf. basketball, rugby) have set rules and guidelines, a narrow gate that must be passed through, in order to participate.
Why is it then that people complain about "rules" in church-life? Is it because they are more onerous? Or is it because they are calling on us to live into these "rules" not for a limited time that is a baseball game, but each and every minute of our life. It is a way of life: The Way the first Christians called the lives and communities they were establishing.
The joy I saw at those witnessing the baseball game last night, as well as the intensity of the players, is something analogous to what we are called to in today's Gospel passage. A narrow gate which we must slip through in order to find heaven, where the intensity and joy felt will be unsurpassed.
Copyright 2008, John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.