It is tempting to clutch pericopes like Luke 13:22-23 and John 14:6 for dear life, insisting that our Christian faith is the one, absolute, exclusive means to salvation.  Those who have derided (ad nauseum) Anne Rice, for her recent claim to have “Quit Christianity” would do well to read the gospel lesson, closely, this week.

In my pondering of this text, I have come across a few faithful voices that seem to caution us about making entrance through the ‘narrow door’ achievable by some secret handshake or theological maxim.

It appears to me that there is a deed that the Holy Trinity shall do on the last day, and when that deed shall be done and how it shall be done is unknown to all creatures under Christ, and shall be until it has been done. — This is the great deed ordained by our Lord God from eternity, treasured up and hidden in his blessed breast, only known to himself, and by this deed he shall make all things well; for just as the Holy Trinity made all things from nothing, so the Holy Trinity shall make all well that is not well. –Julian of Norwich (13th Century Christian Mystic)

I do not preach universal salvation, what I say is that I cannot exclude the possibility that God would save all men at the Judgment. ~ Karl Barth

The Holy Spirit establishes the righteousness of heaven in the midst of the unrighteousness of earth, and will not stop or stay until all that is dead has been brought back to life and a new world has come into being.–Karl Barth

“The restoration of the whole human race to purity and happiness.” This benevolent doctrine—which not only goes far as to solve the great problem of moral and physical evil, but which would, if received more generally, tend to soften the spirit of uncharitableness, so fatally prevalent among Christian sects—was maintained by that great light of the early church, Origen, and has not wanted supporters among more modern theologians. –Thomas Moore 1779-1852

The spiritual basis of Orthodoxy engenders a desire for universal salvation. Salvation is understood not only as an individual one but a collective one, along with the whole world. Such words of Thomas Aquinas could not have emanated from Orthodoxy’s bosom, who said that the righteous person in paradise will delight himself with the suffering of sinners in hell. Nor could Orthodoxy proclaim the teaching about predestination, not only in the extreme Calvinist form but in the form imagined by the Blessed Augustine. The greater part of the teachers of the Eastern Church, from Clement of Alexandria to Maximus the Confessor, were supporters of Apokatastasis, of universal salvation and resurrection.  And this is characteristic of (contemporary) Russian religious thought.  Orthodox thought has never been suppressed by the idea of Divine justice and it never forgot the idea of Divine love. Chiefly – it did not define man from the point of view of Divine justice but from the idea of transfiguration and Deification of man and cosmos… Orthodox eschatology means a lesser attachment to the world and earthly life and a greater turning towards heaven and eternity, i.e. to the Kingdom of God. –Nicholas A. Berdyaev, “The Truth of Orthodoxy”

I do believe that Luke’s uses this collection of teachings to remind readers that to participate in this kingdom of God is not difficult, but it requires more than a passing interest.  Adherence to the assurance of inclusion also provides the punch line to many jokes about those ‘many rooms’ which are being ready; we will be surprised at who is there and who is not.

I am remembering that for some time Jesus has been haranguing the religious authorities whose practice has been giving attention to every iota and keraia, but whose hearts have forgotten about the love of God long ago.  If I were to use Luke’s own works, scripture to interpret scripture, I might to well to remember that the key to the banquet is but an RSVP to the master.  It appears as though (in this gospel at least) anyone off the street can come.

“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full.  I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’ ” (Luke 14:23-24)  If Anne Rice is an ‘outsider’, she might just be where we wish we were.

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