(My friend, RevFun, had his installation today at his new church. Rather than a conventional service, he asked three of us to speak on topics that started with "O," since an O is a circle and represents community. My topic was Openness, and I took Matthew 7:7-12 as my text.)
Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.
In the middle of a chapter full of spiritual instructions expressed in practical metaphors, Jesus promises us an open door. Good Yankee Congregationalists, which is my enthusiastically adopted home team, believe in the individual’s right to knock on that door, or not knock on it, as the individual sees fit. We believe our churches are wide open to anyone who wants to come in. Surely if we just unlock the door on Sunday morning, everyone will know they are welcome, right?
The first year I was a pastor, I invited the Association clergy to Stevens Avenue Church for a time of worship followed by lunch. I unlocked the front door, and I waited. And I waited. Eventually someone came around to the side door, explaining he couldn’t get in, and I apologized. I was so sure it was unlocked!
Someone’s knocking at the door, but we may not hear it, because we think we’re unlocked and open and don’t need to pay such close attention.
This is something I learned from Stephen. He showed me many ways that we unintentionally leave the door closed or locked, ways we even hide the door completely. I knew some of it already. The way we dress on Sunday may make people wonder if they’ll be welcomed in jeans instead of a suit. The similarity of cars in the parking lot may make people feel they won’t fit in if they don’t drive the right vehicle. But I had not begun to think of the ways we close the door even after people come into church, by using words and forms so unfamiliar they might as well be in Latin.
To be truly open, we must do more. We need to be sure not only that the literal door is unlocked; we need to open the doors of our hearts, and make people welcome. We need to stand outside the door and beckon to them. We need to go out and meet them where they are, and make sure they know just where the door is.
People of High Street Church, you have a lot of doors! And you have a new pastor who will surely lead you to see that they open to everyone, whether or not they know to knock. Open the door, and let them in!
God’s blessings to you all in your new ministry together.