Sunday August 25th 2019 21st Sunday Ordinary Time (Cycle C)
The tie in between today’s readings: The Many, the Some, and the Few
Psalm 117:1-2, Isaiah 66:18-21, Hebrews 12:5-7; 11-13, Luke 13:22-30
The richest man in the world and his son shared a love for people and it pained them to see humanity’s suffering nature and inevitable disastrous end. They decided to take action. “Just bringing them to live with us here at Mansion House won’t work,” said the son. “You’re right. A change in environment isn’t the answer,” the father agreed, “The heart of man is deceitful and desperately wicked. Let us come up with a way to change their hearts then we can bring them here to live.” They agreed upon a plan.
The house system is a very unique approach in curing the human condition. Agents go all over the world telling people of a coming destruction and a possible escape if they come into the house as indicated in today’s reading in Isaiah 66:18-21. Houses are built all over the world with a variety of designs and sizes, but the one thing they all have in common is that the entrance is through water. Whether it’s a moat, a river, a waterfall, pool, or shower, no one gets in unless they get wet! Many people think their message is nonsense and ridicule the entire house concept, but there are some who do come.
They are called believers. All believers are told that they can stay until the day a helicopter comes to take them to Mansion House to live forever. No one lives in the houses. They are communal halls for the believers. Once a week, everyone gathers. They read from the rich man’s bestselling book and share a common meal of bread and wine to connect them to the love of the rich man who gave everything he had so that they could go to Mansion House one day. Believers will also meet in the great room to celebrate the rich man’s son’s birthday, get married, or remember someone who took the Mansion House helicopter. Off to the side of every hall, there is a narrow door with a sign above it that reads: ADOPTIONS. It opens to a small room with an agent inside who will guide you in becoming a true child of the rich man. Even though it is the main thrust and sole purpose of the house system, it is hardly noticed or talked about among the believers. The few who do go through the adoption process are known as the twice born.
Life in the house changes when you become the rich man’s kid. You are no longer a guest in the house as the believers are. You are in his family now. The rich man disciplines you so that you will mature into the character of his only begotten son (Hebrews 12:5-13). It’s not a pleasant process. You take on the servant duties of the house. You could become an agent and endure the challenges of inviting others to become believers and hopefully adopted. You tell the other believers you do it because you love the rich man. Most don’t understand why you would want to take on these responsibilities when you could just gather weekly and wait for the helicopter. You tell them that they will not go to Mansion House unless they’re adopted. That will usually get you in an argument. The believers think that getting wet, sharing the meal and just loving is enough. “The rich man, more or less, will take everyone to Mansion House one day,” they say.
Then the long predicted worldwide Last Day occurs. Everything closes down. The agents are recalled. It’s over! Helicopters arrive at houses all over the world to ferry everyone to Mansion House, the only place left intact. The rich man issued a passenger manifest and you notice that the twice born are separated from the others. When asked why, the pilots only answer, “Orders.” There is some uneasiness as families and friends part from each with the promises to meet up when they get there. You all take off and join a growing fleet all heading to one common destination. After some time it appears over the horizon: Mansion House. It is fantastically large and beautiful, grander than anything imaginable. You lose your breath as you look down and see only a fraction of the jeweled estate guarded by a great wall that stretches away to infinity in either direction. Inside you see the rich man’s son along with other famous twice-borns waiting at a large banquet table. The sky roars with the sound of hovering copters waiting for permission to land. Curiously, the large pearl gates start closing even as the first of the helicopters touches down OUTSIDE the wall.
The people below attack the gates in futile attempts to climb them. As the ranks swell, masses of humanity pile on top of each other in panicked waves as they try to scale the wall. Reluctant passengers are ejected. People swamping the copters are thrown back in flashes and sparks as the pilots electrify the hulls. Frantic shouts of “Let us in!” rises above the din of the engines. You clamp the seat in front of you and with white knuckles, feverishly praying that your ship stays in the air. The crew restrains other passengers from dropping rescue ladders to their love ones on the ground. Everything is fear and panic and chaos, then large close circuit screens slowly rise up along the wall for as far as the eye can see. The rich man appears. A mixed cacophony of angry self justifying demands and fearful pleas for mercy erupts. “Silence!” the Lord of the Mansion House booms and all is instantly quiet, except for the drones of the copter engines.
He begins. “Dear people, I told you that this day would come. I warned you every week as you sat in my houses and read my book. Now, you stand there, frightened, confused, and wondering why you are on the outside. The reason is that you never wanted a relationship with me. When I told you about the wages of sin, you scoffed. When I asked you to allow me to help you give up your self-destructive nature, you said no. You never trusted me. You believed facts about me, but you never believed me. You always had to live your life your way. You feared losing control of your unseen future and never accepted that my love would cast out all your fears.”
“You say you love me,” he continues, “You love me like you love ice cream: superficial. When you sacrificed for me you only focused on what you gave up and wore it as a token of your own goodness, instead of seeing it as a chance to let more of me into your life. Your weekly gatherings were more like club meetings than opportunities to get to know me better. You were always so close, yet so far. You always left unchanged. You ignored the deeper things of becoming my child. You never sought adoption. From the beginning, you were never in love with me. I would have gathered you like a hen gathers her chicks, but you would not come. Even now, as you desperately clamor to enter my house, it’s not because you want to be with me…you just don’t want to be out there. My twice born in the air know me. They love me. They are my children. That is why I now welcome them all to enter into my joy, where I will wipe away all of their tears. To the rest of you ‘believers’, I say, you now need to be leaving.”
The screens went black and retracted back into the wall. The helicopters flew over and landed safely on Mansion House grounds. A glorious melody of a new song, like Psalm 117:1-2, rose up from the banqueters and overtook the hopeless wailings of those on the outside as they wandered away into the darkness.
Dear friends, I beg your pardon for the strained metaphors and not so strict doctrinal adherences to my narrative. I wanted to present a story that underscores the question in our reading in Luke 13:22-30, that few will be saved. Many of those left on the outside are church goers who have gone through the processes of whatever their membership requires. God is all about your relationship with Him: in prayer, communion, living life…everything. One of my Insights, “A Sacramental Illustration of Saving Faith,” may help explain what I mean. Just going through the motions won’t cut it. The Bible encourages us to examine ourselves to see if we are really in the faith, if we really love Him and to make our calling an election sure, as stated in 2 Peter 1:10. In closing, the underlying message is that relationships need to be developed and valued. Now is the time to seek the Lord with all your heart. Don’t neglect His great salvation (Hebrews 2:3). Don’t be on the outside looking in.