Sermon St E Evensong 12 September 2021 Year B T15 The wicket gate
Psalm 119v73-80 Exodus 18v13-26 Matthew 7v1-14
Let us pray:
Are you doing too much?
Joy tells me that I am, and as I approach my 78th birthday she is probably correct. Certainly Moses father in law, Jethro-the priest of Midian, thought that Moses was doing too much in trying to judge all the people on his own. Yet Moses, at the ripe old age of 80, had only just begun his forty year ministry to lead the Hebrew people out from their bondage in Egypt, across the wilderness, and into the land promised by God to Abraham that was to become their everlasting inheritance.
So it seems it is never too late to be called into the service of God, but we are not to take on too much, or as Jethro said to Moses, “You will surely wear yourself out”.
As we serve the Lord, in all our work we need to pray like the psalmist (119v76-77), “Lord, let your faithful love be my comfort. Let your tender mercies come to me, that I may live, for your law is my delight”.
Moses had been called by God not only to lead the people out of Egypt, and into that promised land, but also to judge the people, to arbitrate between their disputes, and there were certainly many of those. No wonder Jethro advised Moses to appoint helpers to share out that burden, and it was also to encourage the people to take some degree of responsibility for themselves. That was reminiscent of what Saint Paul said much later to the Philippian believers, and is true for us also (2v12), ‘work out your own salvation with fear and trembling’, and that salvation is to be ‘worked out’ in the light of what God has revealed to us in the scriptures.
But what form should that judgement to be exercised by Moses helpers take? It was to be a ‘right judgement’, a judgement showing no partiality. A form of judgement that was revealed to Moses when God gave to him the commandments at Sinai. And in our reading from the sermon on the mount Jesus speaks to us also concerning judgement.
I do not take Jesus words, “Judge not that ye be not judged” to mean that we are never to judge, if that were to be the case then our society would soon degenerate into a form of anarchy. What the Lord does tell us is that we need to take care over how we judge, we are first to look into our own lives before we offer advice to others.
This of course is implicit in the golden rule, the royal law, described by Jesus during this discourse like this, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you, for this is the law and the prophets”.
We are perhaps more used to this being phrased in the words we had last week from our reading from the letter of James, the Lord’s brother and leader of the Jerusalem Church. James clearly sets out as pre-eminent in his epistle ‘the royal law’, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (2v8), words we regularly use at our communion service.
This ‘royal law’ was fundamental to our Lord’s own teaching (Mk12v31), but it was not a new teaching, it had earlier been set out in the Old Testament in the book of Leviticus (19v18).
This ‘royal law’, together with our foremost duty to love God, is a complete summary of all that was given by God in the law to Moses and also to the prophets, which together with the Apostles teachings, are the foundation of our Christian faith.
Jesus then introduced some most significant words, some may say most disturbing words, but words that we all need to consider deeply. Words that show the path to our eternal inheritance with God. “Enter through the narrow gate”. Does that phrase bring anything else to your mind?
Those of you familiar with Bunyan’s ‘Pilgrims Progress’ will have made the link. When our pilgrim comes to ‘the wicket gate’ Christian asks Evangelist “Whither must I fly?” Then Evangelist directs Christian to the Wicket Gate and to the steep and narrow way beyond, just as Jesus described it would be. So what does that wicket gate represent?
It represents our Lord Jesus Christ who told us that he alone is the way, the truth and the life, and that is what our Lord was also saying in this discourse. The path that Christian had to follow up to the ‘eternal city’, and that same path that we as believers are called to follow, is hard, but it is the path that leads to life. But, as our Lord said, the sad and distressing thing is that there are few who find it.
How we need to pray that the media will once again open up to the gospel, that we shall see an awakening as in previous generations, and that our churches will once again be filled and our nation transformed for the good of all; and for the praise and glory of the one true and living God.
Let us Pray:
A prayer set for the end of our reading from psalm 119 in daily prayer:- God our comforter, send your Holy Spirit
to reveal your hidden mercy even in our failures and troubles;
we ask this for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Amen