(Isaiah 55:1, NLT)
Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28, NIV)
There is a scene in C.S. Lewis’ The Last Battle that has angered many readers of the Chronicles of Narnia. It is the tale of Emeth, a loyal follower of the god Tash. At the end of times, those who have been faithful to Aslan are gathered on the outskirts of their new land, heeding the call to go “further up and further in” when they come upon Emeth sitting under a tree. Emeth told them of his meeting Aslan, who did not condemn him, but welcomed him. Was it true then, asked Emeth, that Aslan and Tash were one in the same?
The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, “It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites, I take to me the services which those has done to him, for I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him.”
The reason this passage upsets so many is that it seems to be saying that one can get into Heaven without having to join the Christian club. What is the Christian club? It is the club many believe one has to belong to in order to get a seat at the banquet table in Heaven. We join by holding to certain beliefs, saying certain things, and doing certain activities. We are kept out of the club by failing to hold to the rules. The president of the club, God (or our version of God), keeps people out of the club for not following the rules. The rules were put in place in order to keep out the riff-raff. Riff-raff like Emeth, who worshiped the false god Tash. How could Lewis let him into Aslan’s land?
Could it be that God is more interested in finding ways to let us in to Heaven than in keeping us out?
Could it be that he really does look at our hearts more than our outward actions?
Could it be that joining the Christian club is not what gives us a ticket to the wedding feast?
Please do not misunderstand me. Jesus alone is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man or woman comes to the Father but by him. But have we made it more difficult to follow Jesus than it needs to be? Are we guilty of working to keep people out rather than finding ways to bring them in?
There is a common word in our scriptures this morning. A word that I believe summarizes the Gospel call.
Isaiah calls to those who are hungry and thirsty to come and dine. Don’t worry about money. You can’t buy this food or drink. All you can do is receive. Jesus calls those who worn out by life to come. He promises rest just for coming to him.
If Jesus doesn’t place any other requirement on us, why should we?
You’re a sinner? Great. Jesus came to call sinners. You’re a loser? Very good. Jesus is the Great Shepherd who goes in search of the sheep who is lost. You don’t go to church? You don’t read Christian novels or listen to “family safe” radio or vote the right way? None of those things are what give you entrance into the Great Feast. It is only your hunger and thirst that makes you worthy of eating the heavenly fare.
I have volunteered at a kitchen in downtown Tulsa that provides meals for those in need. As the doors are opened, the man in charge says, “You don’t have to be homeless to eat here, just hungry.”
The Good News is simply this: Come. Those who are hungry, Come. Those who are thirsty, Come. Those who are weary, Come. Those who have strayed, Come. Those who, like Emeth, think their allegiance elsewhere will keep you out, Come.
And if that makes you angry, Come.
Let us pray.