I would like to venture into dangerous territory this afternoon. Mixing biblical metaphors across readings is very scary territory, but I think we are capable of handling it. “Strive to enter through the narrow door,” Jesus said, “for many will try to enter but will not be able.” Maybe it is because Cassie and I have been making a lot of trips to the airport recently, but when I hear these words from Jesus the picture that immediately comes to mind is an airplane door. Getting squeezed like cattle onto an airplane hardly seems like entering the kingdom of Heaven, but if you’ll bear with me because it is the second part, the “many will try to enter but will not be able” that makes this image work. Anyone who has flown commercial knows the person I am picturing; the young executive, too busy to check his baggage, too important to follow the one carryon/one personal item rule. He proudly walks down the jetway with two rolling bags trailing behind him and a laptop man purse over his shoulder. Can you picture him?
The jetway is wide, and the going is good, until he hits the door to the plane. He struggles to maneuver his rolling bags in line behind him. As he turns to look back his man purse gets stuck on the door’s large handle. He wheels around trying to keep his balance, trying to enter the narrow door, holding tightly onto his excess carryons. He will enter this plane! Meanwhile, the flight attendants, realizing the commotion outside on the jetway begin to offer advice, “sir, would you like to check one of your bags?” “Sir, please leave one of you bags on the jetway.” “SIR! You’re going to have to check your bags!”
When Jesus calls us to strive to enter by the narrow door, he is making it clear that our baggage is not welcome. All the sin, all the shame, all the sadness, all the pain of life on earth must be left behind to enter the narrow door. We cannot enter the kingdom of God with our hands full; we just won’t fit. But, and here’s the kicker, like the young executive, we are unable to let go. We think we NEED each and every piece of baggage we bring with us. We will fit through that door, extra carryons and all.
Here is where Paul comes in with that great line, “our God is a consuming fire.” Like the flight attendants who become increasingly indignant with the young executive, God himself has given us plenty of chances to leave our baggage behind. The great thing about God’s plan, however, is that he’ll lose our luggage for sure, we’ll never have to deal with it again. But we can’t do that. So, he gives us another option. Piece by piece he begins to light that baggage on fire. Beginning with our fears he burns them away and offers comfort in their place. Our sinful desires he is happy to see go up in flames. We, however are not. So we try with all our might to douse the flames. It seems like our whole lives are spent putting out fires to save our emotional baggage. The stuff that keeps us from entering the narrow door is the stuff we’re fighting to save. See the irony. The call, then in this week’s passages, is to stop putting out the fires. Let that baggage be consumed, forget it ever existed, be freed to enter that narrow door, and be welcomed with open arms into the kingdom of God. Amen.