[#pictureLent] February 26: OPEN

By Henry Gibson
Pastor, Eulaton United Methodist Church
Anniston, AL

First, read Isaiah 26:1-4

One day, in a small town, a man came to the seat of the elders in the community and asked for permission to build a fence to deter anyone outside the community from entering the town. The elders debated the man's request and decided to allow him to begin construction. The man outlined his plan and began construction. The man wove the fence to embrace the community with the comfort of security.

Yet, once the fence was completed and the man began work on the gate, a woman from outside the community came to the man and asked what he was doing. 

The man responded, "I have built this fence to keep outsiders from ruining the beloved community the fence surrounds." 

The woman asked, "If you want to keep people out, why are you building a gate?" 

The man paused before responding, "Well, there may be times when those within want to go out of the town to run errands or visit family and friends outside the town." 

"So, why don't you build more businesses and homes," the woman responded, "and invite the family and friends of those within to help provide all that is needed?"

The man saw the value of her question, took the proposal to the elders, got permission, and invited the woman to help him with the project. As more people came to the community, more homes were built and businesses were started to fulfill the needs of each member. With each new resident, the community grew to accommodate everyone's needs. Before long, the town grew into a city that stretched beyond the fence. The city soon grew into a nation, and the gate remained open so anyone might be able to come to the heart of the community that grew into a righteous nation where everyone's needs were met and no one was considered an outsider.

The words from Isaiah invoke the notion of Zion for the reader, calling us toward the dream of a utopian city on the hill. This city represents the kingdom of God with its gates open to the righteous. As you reflect on the life and message of Christ this Lent, take time to reflect on how Christ opened the gates of God's kingdom to all nations, and ask yourself what makes one righteous enough to be a part of that kingdom. The gate has been opened. Let us come to the heart of God's kingdom laid open for us in the example of Christ.

Prayer: Humbling God, you set an example for us in Christ. Allow me to be sustained by your spirit as I endeavor to seek Christ working in the world through myself and others. Give me courage to stand at open gates, welcoming others into your kingdom, and going out to find those who do not come. Let me continue to grow wiser in my knowing of your will for my role in the building of your kingdom that we might know the majesty of your grace throughout the world through the loving example of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Discussion/Reflection Questions:

1.    Who do you consider an insider in the righteous nation? And who is an outsider?
2.    How can we be partners to Christ in opening our earthly gates to others in the same way Christ opens the heavenly gates to all nations?
3.    What are the signs of Christ's kingdom on earth? How do you know the gates have been opened to you and you have entered the Kingdom of God?