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ALTAR CALL – A struggle to the Kingdom of God

marciadottin, [email protected]

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THE ONLY SOUND I heard yesterday as I approached The Church of St Lawrence was that of the ocean rushing to the shore line.Soon, however, the church bells would toll – an indication that service would soon start at this 170-year-old church, which has occupied the seashore of St Lawrence Gap since 1839.It was there that I enjoyed a thought-provoking sermon, preached by priest -in-charge, Reverend Sandra Hazell.The entire 7:30 a.m service was a blessing.With no loud music emanating from the nearby restaurants and nightclubs, but friendly greetings and well wishes from Hazell, Sexton June Büge, and other worshippers, it was soon time to pay reverence to Almighty God.It was the 13th Sunday of Pentecost. Following the First Reading from Isaiah Chapter 28: 14-22; the Second Reading from the Epistle of Hebrews Chapter 12; the first hymn – Lead Us Heavenly Father, Lead Us, the reading of the Gospel, (from which the sermon was based) – Luke 13: 22-30, Hazell preached her sermon from Luke 12: 24. It was entitled: Strive To Enter By The Narrow Door.A sweet spirit prevailed as she stressed the importance of walking the straight and narrow road, and the struggles often associated with doing so.She explained that cities in biblical times were surrounded by walls, and these walls had two gates; the great main gate through which trade and traffic moved, and a little, low and narrow gate. She said when the main gate closed at night, the only way into the city was through the little gate, through which a man could hardly pass upright.She preached: “He passed with a bit of a struggle, and Jesus is saying so too, entry to the Kingdom, is achieved with a struggle.“Our blessed Lord declared that entry into the Kingdom can never be automatic but is the result and the reward of a struggle,” she added.She said the struggle to enter in was so intense that it could be described as an agony of soul and spirit.“We can imagine Jesus thinking . . . I know it will be difficult but I have become like you to show you that it can be done. I will suffer and be put to death. I will be beaten, then I will have to carry my cross in the midday sun, after which I will be nailed to it, be crucified and have a sword plunged into my side. All this to give you access to the Kingdom of God. You will not have to suffer like I will suffer, but you will have to struggle to come into the Kingdom with me,” Hazell added.She observed that many strived to enter the Kingdom in a world faced with varying temptations; much untruth, corruption, dishonesty and materialism.“(Many are) striving to enter through the narrow door in a world where God plays second fiddle to many . . . where the love, reverence, and fear of God has gone. Our Epistle for today tells that we even have to strive  to offer worship, praise and thanksgiving (to God), with gratitude, reverence and awe.“We must strive not to abandon these for preferences, particularly in music and preaching, which satisfy certain appetites, but may fall short of what is acceptable to God.”Hazell reminded her congregation that God warned His followers that many of them would come to the door seeking admission into the Kingdom, only to be turned away.“They would plead with the owner that they had eaten with Him and heard Him preach, but He would send them away.“Might the defense not be the same today?” she asked.“Yes, we come to church, we give lukewarm worship; partake of the Blessed Sacrament, eat and drink in the presence of God, but what is done seems to have no relevance to the other aspects of life. The grace of God is being received in vain for there is no evidence of the fruit of the Spirit,” she said.She added: “Our Blessed Lord says there will be surprises in the Kingdom of God, for some will find the door closed.“All people can be saved through redemption that is in Christ Jesus; for grace is the free gift of God and is not the outcome of our serving. “Yet though the gift is free many who think they will enter will not, and others who are presumed to be excluded from God’s fellowship, will take their place,” she warned.She advised: “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction and those who enter by it are many. But the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few,” she quoted from Matthew 7: 13 -14. To have your church featured in Altar Call, please contact Cheryl Harewood at 430-5494 or Email:[email protected]