World Communion Sunday, Oct. 2: Scripture reading and questions

Luke 13:24-34
“[Jesus said,] ‘Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able. When once the owner of the house has got up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and to knock at the door, saying, “Lord, open to us”, then in reply he will say to you, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will begin to say, “We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.” But he will say, “I do not know where you come from; go away from me, all you evildoers!” There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrown out. Then people will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God. Indeed, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.’

The Lament over Jerusalem
“At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, ‘Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.’ He said to them, ‘Go and tell that fox for me, “Listen, I am casting out demons and performing cures today and tomorrow, and on the third day I finish my work. Yet today, tomorrow, and the next day I must be on my way, because it is impossible for a prophet to be killed away from Jerusalem.” Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!’”
Sunday, October 2 is World Communion Sunday. This observance began in 1936 under the auspices of the Presbyterian Church but has, for some time, been celebrated across the Christian family and around the globe. In the passage we will read this week from Luke, Jesus describes those who will be excluded from the great banquet in God’s kingdom, but then he goes on to talk about those who will be included by saying, “People will come from east and west, from north and south, and will eat in the kingdom of God.” This is somewhat problematic for those of us who identify as Universalists, because in our view, God’s realm includes everyone . . . no exceptions.

What do you make of this seeming contradiction of exclusion and inclusion? How does it fit with your own vision of what the Realm of God is like?

Can you tell a story or anecdote about “the last being first and the first, last” from your own experience?

In your view is Christianity a force for world unity and peace or is it, as a sectarian religion, more of a detriment to those ideals?

Jim Gertmenian

James Gertmenian
Senior Minister



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3 Responses to World Communion Sunday, Oct. 2: Scripture reading and questions

  1. Paul Price says:

    I appreciate the comments of Lew and Karen. Like Karen, I have felt my own internal doors narrow when my “demons” have been flourishing. In that state, I have felt as if this were my particular fate, and that everyone else was just “fine.” When I was deeply involved in 12-step programming, I recall reading an essayist who wrote, to paraphrase, about the ‘crime of the appearance of normality.” My involvement with 12-step programs put me in contact with those who often struggled with feeling the same way-freakish-but talking with them, hearing their stories, the “demons” became manageable and friendship and trust grew-though perhaps never curing in an absolute sense, perhaps resulting in a need to be “born-again” daily, hourly . . .

    I find Luke problematic. There is an evident exclusionary quality that could be too easily interpreted in a destructive or even genocidal way. I wonder about historical/political/theological glosses that might have been put on some root text that have may have contributed to their s harshness. Some “demons” have a cultural and political genesis and result in internalized homophobia, racism and sexism and other forms of self-hatred. Psychological research is pretty clear about the internal “demons,” if you will, created in the targeted groups for these internalizations. The targeted groups may find themselves performing a self-destructive/self-fulfilling dance in front of their victimizers-inculcators. The dynamic is pretty “demonic” in its own right. I remember a social-psychologist(??) many years ago (so please forgive any faultiness to my recall) during a graduate seminar saying that laws and their enforcement work, in part, because people modeling their superficial behavior on a law’s requirements often find internal contrary thoughts and feelings changing in compliance with the external compulsion-surely an exhibition of Janus potential.

    At the same time, I think of Buddhism and Mara, the strongly tempting delusions and insidious “demons” of the world along the path towards “enlightenment.”

    I feel, that like anything, Christianity, at large, Buddhism included (and all of the rest), are tools that inherently have a Janus face, that slips and slides in our human minds and hands, as does everything in this infinite universe. (After a bad bout of poison ivy, I once googled poison ivy (surely a demonic creation) for its positive attributes, and something actually came up. Poison ivy produces white berries that birds eat (are nourished by) in the winter, but of course then spread the seeds. . . a similar search for wood ticks produced no results, but I am certain (with a more refined search) there is probably some critter (microbial or larger) that likes them.) If I say that “God” created this universe, why?

  2. Karen Barstad says:

    When I was confirmed in the Lutheran church 40 years ago, the text for our confirmation service included “enter through the narrow gate (door?).” I can’t recall if our pastor preached on Matthew 7:13 (my memory isn’t THAT good) or on this text. I do remember hearing that we were supposed to live a certain way and believe a certain dogma to achieve eternal life with God and that membership in God’s Realm was rather selective. Whichever text was used, it certainly wasn’t interpreted in an inclusive way; it was truly a narrow perspective. When my inner demons took hold of my soul in my 20s and 30s, the gate/door felt narrower. It wasn’t until I encountered people who shared my experience and loved me through it that the gate/door widened. My vision of the Realm of God is of a place where doors are wide open, gates are flung aside, minds aren’t pinched, and there’s room for everyone.

  3. Lew Zeidner says:

    For me understanding the passage from Luke hinges on the phrase “will try to enter …” If my motive in doing good or loving is aimed at trying to be favored by God, it will result in frustration and a different outcome. Access is granted through deserving rather than manipulation. We recently spoke about the destructiveness of score keeping in life; perhaps this is a corrolary, that happiness or access to heaven does not correlate with the highest score or with whom we had dinner. My sense is that Christianity, or any faith path, brings value to the world when it is lived in the intended spirit. When it is used to condemn others or define those who “should be” less loved by God it is devisive and a false Christianity. Christianity, defined as living in the spirit of Jesus or good, is inherently a force for unity in the world. The news is full of stories about those with the authority of political office or clergy who are self-declared “Christians” while hating and condemning others … rarely do their stories result in their being welcomed into the Realm of God on earth as their own behaviors are revealed in scandal.

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