“Reaching the Pearly Gates”

Sermon – 11-06-22 – All Saints Sunday – Cycle C
Scripture: Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18; Psalm 149; Ephesians 1:11-23; Luke 6:20-31
Sermon Title: “Reaching the Pearly Gates”

Did the gospel lesson find you squirming a bit? I always squirm when I read this and similar passages in the Bible. Just in case you were thinking of something else when the gospel was read, it goes like this: But woe to you who are rich, woe to you who are full now, woe to you who are laughing now, woe to you when all speak well of you.

I am definitely not rich-rich but I am rich compared to people who simply don’t know what their next meal will be if indeed there will be a meal for the next mealtime. I am rich when wonderful water flows from my spigot at the touch of my fingers. I am rich when I have electricity on a consistent basis. Hot water even! A warm bed. A bed. A bed with a roof over it. Usually I laugh easily without thinking if my laugh is making someone’s hurt worse.

What does all this have to do with pearly gates if in fact there are pearly gates? From Wikipedia: “Pearly gates is an informal name for the gateway to Heaven according to some Christian denominations.” From the Bible (CEV): Revelation 21:21 “Each of the twelve gates was solid pearl.” I found lovely pictures of various pearly gates. The book of Revelation tells of a vision given by God to a human on the island of Patmos. There is controversy whether this human was John the Disciple or someone else. I am a firm believer that John the Disciple is one and the same with the John who wrote the 3 letters of John and the John of the book of Revelation. I favor simplicity even though there is a chance I am wrong. It is something like stubbornness.

Another disciple – Peter – gets to stand at the pearly gates if indeed there are pearly gates. You may remember that Jesus gave Peter the keys to the kingdom. So that is why we see cartoons with Peter outside the gate as the gatekeeper to heaven. So there is a crowd outside the gates waiting to be admitted. As people wait, they notice the other people who are waiting. “Wait,” one person says as she spies someone who had pulled her pigtails long ago, “What are you doing here?” Then she notices the bully who had lived near her for years. “What are you doing here?”she whispers as she creeps boldly behind him. Surely, he will not dare do or say anything awful to her in front of St. Peter. But then, a friendly looking woman moves close to her and says, “Do you remember when you took my lipstick from my purse when you thought no one was looking?” “Oh my,” says the one who was accusing others. “Well, I forgave you long ago,” says the lipstick owner, “I know you belong here. We can be friends now.” God says to us, “I forgave you long ago. Two thousand plus years ago. We can be friends now.”

It is this great mercy that flows from all-powerful God and embraces us when we ourselves don’t give ourselves that much mercy. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.” Not only do God and Jesus have power; they are the authority over all authorities. But it is their mercy that saves us and everyone else who makes that choice even a minute before death.

However, don’t we really honor the persons who choose early in life to live as God wants us to live. We call them saints while they are living. We call them saints when they pass through the pearly gates into that delightful kingdom of love and joy. These people are and were our models. The love of Christ shines through them to the people around them. It behooves us to find such a person and stay as close as possible, learning to share with and care for the poor, the hungry, the sick, the sad so that our soul-saving riches will be lifted ahead of us and our earthly wealth will have done God’s work on earth. Amen