A spiritual discipline with which you may or may not be acquainted is Lectio Divina (Latin for “Divine Reading”). In a nutshell, Lectio Divina is the traditional monastic practice of reading a piece of scripture (formally called a pericope) over and over, and meditating on the text while in an attitude of prayer. It can then lead to contemplation and action. Scripture is not viewed as texts to be studied, but as living words through which God communicates. This is a very simplified explanation, of course, but hits the high points.
I was taught in seminary that when one is reading and re-reading scripture in the practice of Lectio Divina it is important to be alert for words or phrases that snag your attention. The example was given of a nail sticking out from weathered wood in a barn that catches your shirt sleeve as you pass by.
And so I found it thought-provoking that when I was reading this Sunday’s gospel lesson, Luke 16:19-31, the parable of The Rich Man and Lazarus, the word “gate” snagged my attention. You see, the parable begins with a poor man named Lazarus lying at a rich man’s gate. Lazarus was covered with sores and so hungry he longed to satisfy his hunger with what fell from the rich man’s table. If you go on to read the whole text, you’ll find out that the rich man doesn’t give Lazarus even a scrap of food, though he himself “feasted sumptuously every day.” There were consequences for the rich man who deliberately failed to respond to Lazarus’ needs, of course, and we’ll reflect more on them in Sunday’s sermon.
A gate is defined as, “A port of entry to a space which is enclosed by walls. A gate may prevent or control the entry or exit of individuals.” A gate can keep someone in or keep someone out. But it is not a wall. A gate exists so there is the possibility for it to be opened, to include rather than to exclude.
In John 10:9 Jesus says, “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.” I lift up the thought to you, my friends, that we followers of Christ and as Christ’s church are called to be gates ourselves, spaces in all the walls that exclude those in need. In this world where walls are built to keep others deemed undesirable out, we are the gates. It’s not an image that we might traditionally associate with being a Christian, but I like it. And after all, the word gate snagged my attention!
In Christ’s love, Pastor Candy Thomas
Christ Congregational United Church of Christ