Many types of gates dot the towns and hillsides, cities and industries all around us. These gates can give us a lot of information, if we pay attention to them and really take notice. Some gates are to keep people (or animals) out, and others are to keep them in. And some are so old they aren't doing much good any more. Some gates are welcoming, others formidable. But so much of all this depends on our perspective, doesn't it?
If we live in a gated community, we welcome the protection that it affords us; but if we are incarcerated, the gate keeps us from freedom. If we are small in stature, or young in age, even a traditional, welcoming, white painted picket fence may seem like a terrible threat to us. But, if we are spry and in good shape, or have good long legs, leaping over a 3 ft chain link gate doesn't really give us much of a challenge. Sometimes gates are a necessary and useful structure, other times simply a decoration. Now the word gate is described in the dictionary as, "a moveable structure that controls the entrance and exit" -- but it doesn't say to what or where.
Today, the writer of John offers us the name of the Gate to the Divine Kingdom. Jesus is the name of that gate. One Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus the Christ, God incarnate. And it depends on our perspective whether or not we see this gate as formidable or welcoming. The writers of the Gospels saw this gate as the only entrance to the Kingdom. And the writer of John is no exception; he particularly wants us to see, not only that Jesus is the gate, but also that Jesus is the one who will lead us, go before us into the Divine Kingdom-the "Good Shepherd."
Now a shepherd is such a pastoral image. (A play on words here, isn't there? Pastor, congregation-shepherd, sheep.) For those early Christians, pastures were relevant everyday sights, the means of many for keeping their families fed. For many, shepherding was a family tradition. This allegory was more easily understood then, than it is for us today, unless we are farm families. But gates are still abundant, no matter what the type of society it is in which we live.
What gates do you enter and exit in your life, both real ones and allegorical ones? And who are the gatekeepers? Do you see them as compassionate and Christ-like; or as robbers and thieves? What do those gatekeepers offer you? Is it worth the price to enter? A lot depends on how much we want to enter, doesn't it? It is amazing, the price many of us are willing to pay to get our strokes, our affection, our earthly rewards, our fulfillment for here and now. It's the NOW GENERATION isn't it? "I want to feel good NOW -- and I'll pay the price to enter through that gate, no matter the cost."
It may surprise you to learn that the Divine Kingdom is also NOW -- a joy filled life in Christ can also be NOW, your strokes and need for affection can happen NOW-not in some far off distant future-but TODAY, HERE AND NOW. THIS IS A REALITY! Not that it's a bed of roses, that it's utopia, that it's nirvana. No, but it is, in fact, the Divine Kingdom which is real and filled with true Divine Love and it's yours to enter, as you will. The only stipulation is to use the gate. That means to put all your trust in Jesus the Christ, the good gatekeeper. That means to choose to believe in Jesus, to suspend all your disbelief in the impossible, and to go to the gate in faith.
It's easy -- and it's hard. Oh yes, for some of us this is a very, very hard step to take. But when you are willing to pay the price, to pray for the strength to suspend your disbelief, to pray for the courage to turn you trust into the hands of the Christ, to trust him with you life, you will be rewarded with a love that passes all understanding. This love is so divine that all your earthly treasures will shrink in comparison. This love is so complete that all your woes and trials will be walked through with strength and courage, and you will know the divine support all around you.
Come join the flock, those who know the voice of their gatekeeper; come, enter by the front door, for his arms are stretched wide open for you. Amen.