Jesus says to his followers in today’s Gospel reading that he is the gate.
In fact, in this short reading from the Gospel of John we hear the word gate five times.
“Anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit.”
“The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep.”
“The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice.”
“Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep.”
And, “I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved.”
Five times we hear the word, gate.
In a Bible reading whenever we hear a word repeated, we need to pay extra attention to that word.
Why would the word gate be repeated five times here?
Let’s take a closer look at that word.
I can recall while in seminary my Greek professor talking about the significance of doors and gates in the Bible.
Again, and again we find that imagery in the Bible.
Doors and gates are places of transition.
In this particular Bible reading the transition that we are talking about here is the transition of entering into God’s gift of abundant life.
It is the transition from death to life, from lacking to overflowing, from need to plenty.
Jesus our Good Shepherd leads us to a life of abundance both now and into the future.
What is abundant life?
This morning we find our answer to this question in today’s Psalm that Bradley read to us this morning.
Abundant life is about God providing for all of our needs so that we will not be in want.
It is about God giving us peace by leading us by green pastures and still waters.
It is about God restoring our souls, refreshing our spirits, and then leading us on the right path.
It is about God giving us strength through the challenges and stresses of life while at the same time delivering us from all forms of evil.
It is about God inviting us to the table where there is plenty.
It is about God blessing us and providing for us.
It is about God forgiving us and showing us grace and mercy.
And finally, it is about God welcoming us into God’s house at the hour of our deaths.
When Jesus leads us by the way of the gate, we enter into abundant life both now and in God’s future kingdom.
Signs of this gift of abundant life is indeed present with and for us even now:
In finding meaning and purpose in life, in participating in the gracious activity of the church, in finding joy and happiness in life-giving relationships, and in having a true sense of security and comfort in our faith lives no matter what comes our way.
Let’s think about this as we think about our lives right now.
Our lives have changed so much since March 13th.
I pick that day because that was the day when everything seemed to turn.
Also, that day was memorable to me since it was the day, I turned 40.
Still young but old enough to recognize that the changes that have transpired since that day are not typical.
During times of transition when things change not for the better but for the worse it is easy to assume that the abundant life is no longer within reach.
It is at these times when we need to remember verse four from Psalm 23.
“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil. Why… because you are with me and your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
If you feel discouraged this morning or feel overwhelmed with life right now know that I am there with you.
Handling adversity is not easy for anyone.
But the promise that we have from the Bible this morning is that God is with us in our struggles.
And that Jesus will lead us to the gate where we can enter and find abundant life.
Jesus will help us to find meaning even in the face of challenges.
Jesus will lead us to new growth and new wisdom even through adversity.
Part of the abundant life here on earth is in finding meaning and peace through the valleys that we experience while living our lives.
At this time may the Lord lead us in such a way so as to think about our life situations through the lens of grace, to look at other people’s viewpoints with compassion, and to find hope in this challenging time.
Yes, we may be in the valley right now.
We are not able to gather together as the people of God in this place.
We are fasting from Holy Communion.
We are concerned about our health and the health of our loved ones.
But always remember that we are Easter people.
Through every valley we discover the empty tomb.
At the end of every Lent is Easter.
For followers of Jesus at the end of every road is a gate that leads to abundant life.
Maybe a good prayer for us to pray right at this time might be the Serenity Prayer.
It is a very simple prayer that millions of people have prayed and have found meaning in over the years.
It is a prayer that I often find myself praying.
At times that seem overwhelming.
When the path becomes unclear.
When I need to know the way to the gate that leads to abundant life
I pray this very prayer.
It is simply:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can change, and the wisdom to know the difference.
This coming week try praying this prayer and as you do so remember that the Lord is leading us.
The gate is open for us.
The Good Shepherd is ready guide us into life.
Jesus will always be our attentive shepherd he is here for us.
He will lead us and guide us as we look to him.
The Holy Spirit will give us the faith that we need at this time.
Hold tightly to the promises of God this coming week as we hear God’s truth proclaimed in Psalm 23.
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can change, and the wisdom to know the difference.