This was the homily from this week’s worship service, delivered by Hugh Hollowell. The text was from Matthew 16:13-20.
Having grown up on a farm, surrounded by farmers and spending countless nights rounding up the cows that got out because the fence was loose, I know a little bit about fences and, more specifically, gates.
Gates are funny things – they either keep things out or they keep things in. And if they do that, if they keep things out or keep things in, then they are doing their job.
In this passage, Jesus says, “…I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it.”
How does a gate prevail?
The definition of prevail is “to be victorious”. In other words, to win. How do gates win?
Gates win when they are doing their job – when they keep things out or in.
And Jesus says the gates of hell will not win when they are confronted by the church.
You get that? The gates of hell won’t keep the church out.
Jesus built his church, and the gates of hell won’t stand up to the church.
Jesus wants us to go to hell.
To invade hell, actually.
Nowadays, it is fashionable for pastors to say they don’t believe in Hell. But not me. I am convinced – Hell is real.
I once met with a homeless woman whose infant son had been raped. That family was in the middle of hell. Or the man whose addiction cost him his family, his job and his home. He is in hell.
Because hell is where we find the broken-hearted. Hell is where the addict is. Hell is where the hopeless are. Hell is where people go when they have nowhere else to go. Hell is filled with crushed dreams and loneliness and fear. Because hell is real.
The Jesus I know calls us to go to hell itself, to bust through the gates and to rescue the people trapped there. To spread the word that there is a new way to live and a new hope for humanity and that the way the world is isn’t the way the world has to be.
When we bust down the gates of hell, we will be bringing food for the hungry, clothing for the naked and good news for the ones who mourn.
Jesus has built his church – now it is up to us to storm the gates of hell. They need us there.