Open to me the gates of righteousness,
that I may enter through them
and give thanks to the Lord. (Psalm 118:19)
Psalm 118 is probably an “entrance liturgy” that was written for the return of a person God has delivered from danger and who is now coming to the temple to give thanks. Verse 19 was likely written as if the person pronounced it as he approached the city, and the answer came from the walls,
This is the gate of the Lord;
The righteous shall enter through it. (v. 20)
Later in the Psalm, the congregation takes up the cry,
Save us, we beseech you, O Lord!
O Lord, we beseech you, give us success! (v. 25)
It is this Psalm the people shout in the Palm Sunday story of Jesus entering Jerusalem. (“Hosanna,” a word used on Palm Sunday, is a transliteration of the Hebrew word that means “Save us,” from verse 25.)
Think about gates, both literal and metaphorical, that need to be opened. There are gates that need to be opened in people’s hearts and minds so that Jesus can enter them. There are gates that need to be opened in many church buildings so that people can come to give thanks to the Lord. There are gates in our communities, our cities, our nations, and all over the world that separate people from one another.
A closed gate can be daunting. A closed gate can prevent a person from encountering God. A closed gate can keep people from being in open and honest relationship with each other. A closed gate might just be a stumbling block to grace. Inviting someone to church may very well be opening a gate for them that has been shut tight for a long, long time.
So this Sunday, Palm Sunday, we are going to open wide the gates – to welcome Jesus in. And we are going to open wide the gates – to welcome all who want to come and worship God. Waving palm branches in worship this week, we’ll also celebrate some upcoming plans to open up the church building itself.
Come and worship this Sunday – 8:20, 9:30, or 10:50 – and then come back in the afternoon to journey the way of the cross. Holy Week will begin in worship and prayer, and it would be a perfect opportunity to invite someone to come to church with you.
Open the gates! Let us give thanks to the Lord!
I’ll see you in church,