Truth is truth, it does not change. Understanding of truth, well, that’s a different story.
Matthew 7:13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many.”
I don’t remember hearing a lot about Hell, but I certainly remember the narrow gate. Because the road to hell was wide and easy, I reasoned that the road to Heaven must be narrow and difficult. I felt as though I was living on a tight rope, high in the air. Each step a struggle to stay balanced, the rope swaying under my trembling feet. One wrong step and I would plunge down into the dark cold, wide expanse of sin. I could only imagine how difficult it would be to find the ladder, whose wide rungs I could barely reach, palms sweating as I struggled to climb high enough to find the tight rope and start again.
Then one day, I had a new thought. What if that tight rope wasn’t high in the air. What if it was simply a path on the ground. I suddenly imagined an immense field, so large it would take a lifetime to cross. I could see the path, straight and smooth and shining in the distance, what must be the gate. But then I began to look around. Among other things, I could see: stands of tall majestic oak trees, valleys filled with yellow daffodils to red roses, to Black Eyed Susan’s, rivers whose waters gurgled and bounced over jagged rocks before opening up into a wide quiet expanse too broad to cross. We, the travelers through life, don’t take the narrow path. We slog around in the marsh or stumble through thorny brambles. We struggle over rocky outcroppings or just sit amongst the wild flowers, smelling their sweetness while we wonder if we’re getting closer to the gate. We go forwards and backwards. We circle and zig zag. Most of the time we have no idea where we are going. Luckily for us, I believe God has a sense of humor. He looks at us, struggling to free ourselves from a thorny mess, smiles and says, “I can work with that.” Then He casts an extra little glow, from the gate, so we can see it.
Now, I try to imagine what it would be like to be in a place, beyond time. God is; and can see it all. He sees the fall of Adam and Eve and His promise to send a savior. He understands the suffering of mankind. He knows our faithfulness too. From His position outside of time, He determines the exact, best moment to place Jesus among us. Through the power of God, all other moments unite, becoming the whole of time and space in that moment. The Annunciation, birth of Christ, three years of public ministry, the Last Supper, Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection occur simultaneously. Each prayer, each church service and each celebration of the Eucharist happen in this same moment. As we move methodically through time, we can choose to be in this presence with Christ, or in time with the world.
This presence is Love. Love so powerful that it left the image of the crucified Christ on His burial cloth, the Shroud of Turin. This power is demonstrated in a recent article which suggests that the image of the crucified man was created by “a short and intense burst of UV directional radiation.” We, with our technology, can only make a faint image similar to the one on the shroud.
In the moment of Jesus’ resurrection, God’s power filled His body, bringing Him back to the physical world. He offers that same power to us most completely, through His true presence in the Eucharist. And, just as He is hidden under the appearance of bread and wine, His power is usually hidden in us. Those moments we can sense Him, we can know we are standing with Jesus, the gate of Heaven, united with the present, which is all of space and time.
I am in awe of God’s power and His desire to share it with us. I am dismayed at how much time I still spend in the weeds, stumbling over roots and ragged rocks, only to walk straight into sticky spider webs. I can only imagine what it must be like to trust God enough to let go of the world and enter eternity. I look forward to that reality.