Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sermon for Sunday May, 23



7 "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write,
'These things says He who is holy, He who is true,
"He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, andshuts and no one opens":[ c]
8 "I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it;[ d] for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name. 9 Indeed I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews and are not, but lie—indeed I will make them come and worship before your feet, and to know that I have loved you. 10 Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. 11 Behold,[e] I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown. 12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God. And I will write on him My new name.
13 "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches."'

There are some things in life that you know are important. Things like food and shelter. Blessings like friends and family.

Then there are those things that you have and use every day that you take for granted that are also important. One of those things that are important that we often dismiss is a door.

Each of you has a picture of a threshold. By a threshold I mean a gate or a doorway or something like that. I want to look at the pictures. Some of you will look at your picture and it will just make you shrug. Others of you will see a beautiful picture that touches you and you don't know why. A lot of times doors speak to us for a number of different reasons. If your picture of a door speaks to you for any reason, I encourage you to keep you picture, look at it during the sermon, take it with you to remind you about what we learned today. If you don't care, just set the picture on the back table when you leave.

In ancient thought, thresholds like doors and gates had great spiritual significance. When you look at the design of the temple and the tabernacle in ancient Israel, it is designed with a series of thresholds as you go further into the structure. Each one only allowed certain people in it at certain times. By the time you get to the holy of holies, one priest was able to enter the room once a year.

When you walked through a door or a gate, you in many ways walked from one reality to another. There was a reason that the Lord commanded ancient Jews to post Scriptures on their doorposts as they went in and went out of their homes. They wanted them to take the Word of God and the presence of God with them as they moved through every passageway—into each new world and each new place that they entered.

Think about it. When a couple leaves their parent's homes or their individual homes and moves into their own homes, the husband often traditionally carries his spouse across the threshold. That is because the life they had before has changed forever once they walk through that door together.

You stand in a doorway from the outside, and you really never know what is going on from the other side of the door. A door, a gate, a passageway is a boundary that can keep secrets, hold power, provide safety, and insight fear in people.

Sometimes we talk about things we should do "behind closed doors" because what we talk about in those moments is not for everyone to hear. We talk about encountering a closed door that we cannot get through. We talk about opportunities that we missed or are unavailable to us as closed doors.

Jesus talked a lot about doors, gates, and thresholds. He commands his followers to ask, seek and KNOCK, as in knocking on a door. He tells stories of widows knocking at the door of a judge until the judge give the woman the justice that she deserves. Jesus encourages us to pursue what we want in prayer with the same kind of urgency.

At one point Jesus refers to Himself as a gate. He says that if people want to find salvation and get to the Heavenly Father, they need to go through him.

Similarly, when we get to the church in Philadelphia, Jesus says that he is the one that has the keys to the kingdom. What he locks, nobody can open. What he opens, nobody can shut. Then he says something rather amazing to the people at that church. He says that he has set before the church in Philadelphia an open door. And that open door nobody could shut.

Whereas the church we discussed last week had no good thing, no encouraging word said to it, the church in Philadelphia had no word of condemnation delivered to it.

The church in Philadelphia has been faithful. They have endured. They have kept God's Word. They have not denied his name. Even in the face of persecution. Even when they have been beaten down to the point where they only have a little strength left, they have remained true to their faith. Jesus promises to remain true to this church.

Philadelphia is a small town compared to the others. It is most likely a small church. A struggling church. Yet, at this time and in this moment, Jesus promises an open door that nobody can shut is set before them.

What does it mean to have an open door set before you? How does that speak to you to have an open door in front of you?

Have you ever known someone who had an open door policy, or whose home was always an open door? When we hear about someone having an open door we think about someone who is friendly, honest, and transparent. We think about someone who is honest and true. With someone who is hospitable. Who is willing to talk and willing to listen. Certainly this is true of Jesus. The beginning of the letter talks about Jesus being true, doesn't it? So when we hear Jesus offering us an open door, we should think about the accessibility we have to him. But when he says, "I set before you an open door" Jesus is saying much, much more than that.

Three times in his epistles the apostle Paul uses the phrase of a "door being opened". Each time is speaks of an opportunity that Paul has that Paul either wants to take advantage of or is in the process of taking advantage of. We know this about open doors, don't we?

Have you ever been in a situation where you are seeking God's will, and you ask God to open doors of opportunity to show you what to do or where to go next? I have. When I seek to discern whether God calls me to go somewhere I ask God to open doors that I know that I must walk through.

Have you ever had a moment that you had an opportunity that you did not expect, and you knew that the opportunity was a God thing, a divine appointment? Maybe it was a moment when you received a special blessing. Maybe it was when you accepted Christ. Or perhaps it was when you walked through the doors of this church. And you knew…you just knew…God had put a chance in front of you that you could not resist. An open door.

Specifically, when the apostle Paul talks about having an open door before him he is talking about having an opportunity to do some sort of ministry, especially the kind of ministry that reaches people for Christ. I don't know about you, but when I pray for the opportunity to make a difference in someone's life for Christ and in his kingdom I pray for open doors in their heart. I pray for opportunities to reach them and share with them.

Jesus says that the church in Philadelphia has an open door that it set before them. A big part of what he is saying is that this church has an opportunity or opportunities were set before them as a church. The church in Philadelphia may have been a small church that was struggling to keep going in their small community, but they still had an open door before them. They still had opportunities for ministry. They had opportunities to reach their community where the church was planted. They may not feel like they have a lot of strength left, but they stood on the verge of something new. Jesus was giving them an opportunity to walk through another door. And once they claimed that opportunity, their reality would be different and unexpected blessings would follow.

Many of you have an open door set before you in your life. You have not chosen to accept Christ. You have heard about Him, but you have ignored him and pushed him away. Today you have an open door before you. Will you walk through it?

Others of you have an open door before you to be baptized and join our church. You have thought…maybe tomorrow. Maybe next month. Maybe next year. Today you have an open door set before you.

As a church we have opportunities set before us as well. We have an open door to be THE open door that points others to Jesus. There are folks that are scared to ever set foot in a church like ours, scared that it might fall in on itself if they set foot inside our building.

We have chosen in our last church business meeting to find ways to open our doors wider to those who need to experience the love and the power of Jesus in their lives. We have chosen to focus on finding ways make our church feel more homey to those who are members, as well as those we have yet to get to know. We have chosen to focus on extending our welcome by focusing more on hospitality to strangers, community service, family ministries in the next couple of years. We see the open door to new life that Jesus offers. We want to point others to the hope that we have found.

Certainly this is a big part of what Jesus means when he says, "I set before you an open door." But it is not all. Jesus is saying all this plus something even more exciting.

When Jesus says he sets an open door before us he is inviting us into his home and his presence. When we get to the end of the book of Revelation we see that there is a gate to God's heavenly kingdom that nobody can shut. He sets an open door before us. He invites us into his land and into his home. Into his eternal kingdom. Even more though, we are invited into his eternal presence.

When Jesus invites us to walk through the open door, he is inviting us to come home. To come home to God. To come in and sit on his couch, be in his presence. To share our lives with him. Our hopes and our fears. Our worries and concerns. To walk through that open door and know that whatever may happen, that we can always come through that open door. He will keep us safe. He will bind up our wounds. He give us nourishment, joy and laughter. And whatever we have done, we can come home to him and know we are treasured and loved. He sets an open door before us.

Jesus sets an open door before us. An open door of access to Him. An open door of opportunity for blessing. An open door of opportunity for mission and growth. An open door to offer the world around us. But most of all, we have an open door to walk through that is the open door to our rightful home with our friend and savior Jesus, and our Heavenly Father. Will we walk through that open door set before us. I hope we will. I hope you will. I hope I will. God bless us in our steps across the threshold of grace and love. Amen.

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