At our first read of Matthew's Gospel today, Jesus seems to be painting a rather exclusionary view of the Kingdom. He talks about bad fruits and bad trees and false prophets, and few people being allowed in the narrow gate, that is at the end of a narrow and hard road. He says that not everyone who calls out his name will be allowed into this Kingdom. Cherry stuff this morning.
We don't have to look far in our lives to find examples of people who are false prophets, or who seem to be fruitful people, but the consequences of their lives and actions are nothing but ugliness. Not ugliness as in wart-on-the-nose ugly, but a lack of love and care for those living all around them. A selfishness, a self-centered focus, an uncaring nature in regard to the detritus left in their wake. And it is easy to fall into the trap that those societal norms surround us with on a daily basis (the "wide gate and the easy road" in Jesus' parlance).
Based on those societal norms (that existed in Jesus' time and still do today), the way Jesus is directing us to is "hard" with a "narrow gate". But it is not impossible, nor is it uncrowded: there are many of us who walk this path and lean on each other to make Jesus' Kingdom a reality. And it is not an exclusionary one: for although we do not hear Jesus say it today, this Kingdom is open to everyone. Open even to those whose fruit, at one time, may have been sour, or even "bad". With the right fertilizer, the right care, the right love, those "bad trees" can, very often, be made fruitful.
Hope should never be abandoned: although it is up to each of us to make that choice to walk the "hard" road and go through the narrow gate. With the right perspective though, that journey is not impossible, nor is it fruitless, but is joyous in a way that is nearly impossible to articulate, but can be seen and felt when we find those moments.
Copyright 2011, The Rev. John F. Dwyer. All Rights Reserved.