In my childhood home, there was a gate that connected to the backyard of our neighbor’s, on the other side of our block. Just to the right was the small-town library which I visited often. That gate connected me to a world of books, and many pleasant days. It was a quiet place to gather, and upon occasion to help out the librarian.
Sometimes we just need to get together with others… for enjoyment, to fill needs, complete work, or share information. Have you thought about how often you are part of gatherings? Work projects, family reunions, classes, sports, church, friendships, and our internet culture all involve gathering as we come together for a common purpose or goal. I think of some common familiar phrases that reflect this:
o “Want to get together tomorrow?”
o “We need to make plans.”
o “What time is the game?”
o “Here you go, enjoy your meal!”
o “Where can we meet?” …
Thinking about some of my favorite spaces and places for coming together with others, I was reminded of a special meeting place described in the Bible, at the gates of cities or towns. I always thought of gates as, you know, just doors in some kind of fence or at an entrance but the biblical gates to the cities and towns were much more than doors set in the city walls.
Of course, these gates served as points of protection for walled cities. Gatekeepers and watchmen guarded entrance into the cities and warned of any impending trouble from enemies. We’re told that King David sat between the inner and outer gates and the watchman went up to the roof (2 Samuel 18:24). They were also important places for people to gather. Kings were known to address their subjects from the city gates and the elders of the city sat “within” the gates to hear petitions. The elders also acted as witnesses, along with others present, when needed. It was here that the might and authority of the ruler and government was seen and felt! No wonder rebuilding the gates was such a big issue when the Hebrews returned from captivity.
Feeling safe and part of a supportive community… That’s something we can all appreciate, isn’t it? I imagine the kinds of people who came through those gates in addition to the nobler class. Here too were drawn the unsavory, the poor, and the beggars. See too the nearby waste dump, where garbage and even bodies of dead animals and lower-class people or criminals were thrown and burned. Imagine the stench and the noise! Here too, Jesus was taken to be crucified.
My prayer for us is that we will be as gateways. As we live and work in our communities, may we accept the challenge to make spaces where others can be heard and cared for. While we respect authority, let us also hold others accountable and encourage each other to live with integrity. In so doing, we discover faith and welcome the greatest of gifts Jesus gave outside those city gates for us all .
Charlotte-Anne Allen 5/1/2023