THE BEAUTIFUL GATE

APRIL 19, 1998
R.M. FEWKES
(PREACHED AT UNITARIAN CHURCH IN KADACS, ROMANIA)

When I first came to visit you in March of 1992 you presented me with a beautiful hand-carved miniature wooden gate inscribed with words from your native tongue which mean: "You Can Be At Home Anywhere, But You Only Have One Homeland." I had been told by others that the people of Transylvania, of Erdely, were noted for their beautiful hand-carved gates. I never dreamed that you would present one to me as a gift of love from the people of your village. I was deeply touched. Your beautiful gate sits on top of the bookcase in my church office as a reminder to me of my home away from home--Erdely, beautiful land of the forests, Kadacs, the gentle village by the river.

I am reminded of the story of Samson in the Book of Judges who is alleged to have carried the Gates of Gaza on his shoulders 38 miles into the wilderness to the hills of Hebron. Samson carried the gates of his enemies back home to the hills of his homeland. I did just the opposite. I carried the gates of my newly made friends from the Carpathian hills of Erdely 3,000 miles across the waters to my home in Norwell. I think Samson would have been proud of me. Not only did I exceed his feat by 2,962 miles, but I had to carry your gate through Romanian, Hungarian, English and American customs before I got it home to Norwell.

The Psalmist says, "the Lord loves the gates of Zion more than all the dwelling places of Jacob" (Ps.87:2). Well, I think the Lord loves the Gates of Kadacs more than all the dwelling places of Erdely, else why would He have his servant carry those gates 3,000 miles across the wide ocean to a Unitarian church in Norwell.

We have a saying in my country which says: "Home is where the heart is." I think it means more than just attaching your heart to a special place which you love more than all others. It also means that if you are at home inside your own heart, if you have made peace with your own soul, then you can indeed be at home anywhere. I can tell you this: I carry Erdely and Kadacs in my heart, and because I do I can say with the Psalmist, "this is the gate of the Lord", no less than the templon in Norwell, and America the Beautiful.

In thinking about my sermon this morning I was drawn to the text in the Book of Acts, the first ten verses from the third chapter. Peter and John were going up to the temple which is called Beautiful for prayer. There they encounter a man lame from birth waiting at the gate to ask for alms. Peter says to him, "I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have", and in the name of Jesus he takes him by the right hand and raises him up, and immediately the lame man begins walking and leaping and praising God. What I would suggest to you this morning is that though you may not yet know it or believe it there is healing power right here at the Beautiful Gate of your temple, right here in Kadacs, right here in Erdely, the beautiful land of the forests. "This is none other than the house of God, and the gate of heaven" (Gen.28:17).

What is this Beautiful Gate of heaven, and where is it to be found? It is not the miniature hand-carved gate which you sent home with me to Norwell back in 1992, though it is a beautiful symbol of it. It is not the gate that sits beside the road at the head of your village, though that too is an emblem of it. It is not any of the numerous beautiful gates which dot the countryside of Erdely in village after village, though they too are the children of the Beautiful Gate that brings healing.

The Beautiful Gate is the entrance to the deep heart of your faith, your inner temple, that has stood by you in good times and bad, that has given you strength to endure suffering and loss, that has kept hope alive in you from generation to generation, and especially in your children who continue to walk and leap and rejoice in the gift of life. That is where the Beautiful Gate of healing resides--in the deep heart of your faith. Home is where the heart is, and when you have found the heart of your faith, your source of courage and hope and love, then you can truly be at home anywhere on the globe. "This is none other than the house of God, and the gate of heaven."

When I first came to you in 1992 I came unaccompanied and alone. Though I was a stranger you welcomed me and made me feel at home. Two years ago my parishioner, Paul Coolidge, came with me accompanied by our friend and Hungarian/English translator, Bill Polcsa. This year I am pleased to be accompanied again by Bill Polcsa (Biro Jozsef and Anna call him "Uncle Bill") and also by my dear friend and associate minister, Judy Campbell, her husband Chris Stokes, and two of our women members, Helen Casoli and Estelle Mosher. We are all delighted to be here and to make Kadacs and Erdely our home while we are with you.

Unlike Peter and John in the Book of Acts we do bring you some silver and gold in the form of American dollars. We give you $400 to be used for the needs of the children of your village, $800 for the repair and restoration of the parsonage hot water tank toilet, and kitchen sink, and some money for your minister's family towards his retirement. But more than the money or candy or pens or other gifts we bring you our brotherly and sisterly love and the knowledge that you have Unitarian friends in America who pray for your health and well-being. Home is where the heart is, and our hearts are with you.

In closing, I would share with you these lines from a hymn in our American Unitarian hymnal called, "This Is My Song"--after which we will sing it for you:

This is my song, O God of all the nations,
a song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
here are my hopes, my dreams, my holy shrine;
but other hearts in other lands are beating
with hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country's skies are bluer than the ocean,
and sunlight beams on clover-leaf and pine;
but other lands have sunlight too, and clover,
and skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
O hear my song, thou God of all the nations,
a song of peace for their land and for mine.