Searching for the Narrow Gate in Lancaster County


Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to destruction is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”
(Matthew 7:13,14 in the New Jerusalem Bible translation)

This brief passage from the Sermon on the Mount is not self-explanatory. Without context and interpretation, it exhorts the follower of Jesus not to take the popular, easy way of discipleship, but it seems to me not enough to look for the unpopular, hard way simply because it is difficult and lonely. I am not dismissing Jesus’ warning but acknowledging my need to think about where the lines might fall in my own life with the choices I must make and in the lives of the churches in our North American context.

The Canadian theologian Douglas John Hall recalls Martin Luther’s distinction between Christianity’s prominent way of thinking and making choices with its wide gate and attractive, well marked road and Christianity’s other way less often taken. Luther labeled the dominant way as the “theology of glory” which today we call triumphalism, and the unpopular “thin tradition” as “the theology of the cross” which is the way of humility, compassion, and non-authoritarian service. Pope Francis is shaking up the Roman Catholic Church by tending toward the humble way of the theology of the cross. Francis of Assisi stands in the tradition as another example of this never-popular but more faithful path of Christian discipleship.

The model, to be sure, is Jesus of Nazareth himself who eschewed power, prestige, and bullying authority. His was and continues to be the way of the servant.

After we retired and moved into Pennsylvania, my wife and I needed to find a church

After we retired and moved into Pennsylvania, my wife and I needed to find a church, a community of faith, with which to worship, learn, grow, and serve. Our search took longer than we had expected. We were looking and listening for this “thin tradition” – this attitude, posture, thought, and manner of the theology of the cross.

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