"Passing Through the Door"
11 May 2014
the Rev. Todd R. Goddard, pastor
East Rochester and Zion West Walworth United Methodist Churches
I want you to think about doors for a moment;
the first door you might see on a house, church, business, or office building.
A door tells you a great deal
about the character of the establishment,
what goes on inside.
(with thanks for the imagery to Dr. William Willimon, Pulpit Resources, April 17, 2005)
I recall the doors to our classrooms in elementary school.
Institutional, with a single pane of wire mesh glass fitted in each one.
Heavy duty hardware, with the swing down stopper at the base
to prop them open between periods.
When the bell rang to start a class,
the teacher lifted the stopper with their toe
and all the doors in the hallway were closed.
These doors meant business.
If you were going through those doors,
they told you to be prepared to work.
Banks used to have fortress styled doors,
sending the unspoken message
that anyone who invests their money in this bank can be assured
that it will be safely locked away.
Modern banks are designed differently,
with inviting, see-through, heavy-duty glass doors.
Inside the customer can see flowers and plants
to give it a more comfy, familiar, homey feel to it.
At one previous church I served,
the Main Street sidewalks ended at our front doors.
The front doors were about twelve feet tall,
each weighing about 500 pounds,
at the top of unleveled cut stone stairs,
lined with rusty handrails,
making them unusable in today's world.
A small laminated sign on one door read, “Please use back entrance.”
Talk about an unspoken message.
A door tells you a great deal about the character of a place,
and what goes on inside.
When I go calling in the hospital,
there is no greater obstacle than a closed room door.
I make the time, the effort,
park in the garage, check with information, come to the room,
only to be greeted with a closed door.
It makes me wonder what's going on behind it?
Some terrible or agonizing procedure?
Is my loved one receiving privacy, respect, and dignity?
Or are they just sleeping?
I usually read everything in public purview taped or attached to the door,
searching for some type of clue as to what might be going on.
If there is no one to assist me,
I generally meekly tap on the door while opening slowly,
focusing my eyes elsewhere
less I would cause embarrassment.
What is the purpose of a door?
A door allows the free passage
for someone entering or exiting a dwelling.
People come in or go out through doors.
If a person enters by any other way,
well, we're likely to call 911.
Unless they locked themselves out of their house,
there aren't too many reasons for a homeowner
to crawl in through an open window.
If they are leaving through a means other than a door,
it appears to be a secret get-away;
like an enchanted lover climbing down the trellis,
to avoid overbearing parents.
In either case, entering or exiting by means other than the door
is sure to raise suspicion.
In today's gospel, Jesus says that he is the door.
Yes, I know that in some translations it reads “gate.”
Simply as a matter of preference, I choose to read “door,”
like it is recorded in the Revised Standard and King James versions.
It may be read either way.
“I am a door,” Jesus proclaims.
What an interesting figure of speech.
He doesn't say “I am the only door,”
nor does he say he is “the only way, truth, or life.”
After all, the premise of the Gospel of John is that God loves the world.
Of course, Jesus doesn't look like a door,
so it certainly must be a metaphor.
In fact, Jesus uses the prepositional phrase “I am” many, many times
in the Gospels, to describe
His relationship with His disciples,
And by extension,
His relationship with us.
Indeed, the Gospel of John is a garden of highly figurative,
used to portray the life, ministry, and actions of Jesus.
The door guides the going out and the coming in.
“Jesus is the door that leads to God.
The door is not the house, not the dwelling place, not the goal;
a door is a passageway into the house,
a means of getting to a destination,” William Willimon correctly observes.
(Dr. William Willimon, Pulpit Resources, April 17, 2005)
“Thus, when Jesus says, 'I am the door,'
it is similar to Jesus calling himself 'the way.'
He is the way to God,
the way to abundant life,
the path to true freedom.
Jesus is the means whereby we get to God.”
In our tradition,
in our experience,
the pathway to God is through the doorway we know as Jesus Christ.
It is as simple as that.
The missional role of the Church is to lead people to the door,
and to give them the encouragement to pass through.
This is all well and good,
and it appeals to our Western American,
purpose driven form of Christianity.
But the door swings two ways.
Jesus is also the means
by which God comes out of the Divine Realm,
and breaks into our world.
Jesus is the conduit through which
God transcends the divide between heaven and earth.
the Holy Spirit of God blows into our lives,
filling us with guidance and direction,
enlarging our capacity for love and grace,
enabling us to grow deep and wide in our faith.
Through the door we know as Jesus Christ,
God reaches into our world,
and through revelation,
God opens our eyes to see,
our ears to hear,
and our minds to experience anew
the presence and the gifts of the Spirit.
By means of God's revelations
we have the Scriptures opened to us
and the Sacraments sustain new life.
When we think of Jesus as the door which leads us to God,
and God, in turn, is led to us,
we are simply confessing that
“we cannot imagine any means of being with God,
the true and living God,
except by the way of Jesus.
We are only able to imagine being in the presence of God
that is consistent with the loving, compassionate, suffering, self-sacrificial
characteristic that we’ve come to know as Jesus.
“There were saviors who attempted to save
by raising an army,
by starting a revolution,
by overthrowing the government,
by the worldly wisdom of coercion, or violence, and military might.
Jesus does what he does through words,
through preaching and teaching,
through self-sacrificial love,
This is the way,
the only door (in our experience) that leads to God.”
(Dr. William Willimon, Pulpit Resources, April 17, 2005)
Since we seek God,
we are trying to move through the door,
known as Jesus.
It is only right to use Christ as a model for our actions,
a role for our behavior,
the example for our living.
Instead of facing a challenge in life
and rearing back our head in agony
asking the unanswerable questions
“Why me?” or “What should I do?”
or with shallow promises to return to God “if everything works out”
perhaps we should face those difficult times,
those places of crisis and danger
already knowing Jesus,
already in a relationship with Christ,
already one of His disciples.
What did Jesus do when faced with an imperfect world?
He gave sight to a man born blind.
He healed a hemorrhaging woman.
He restored the thrown away woman at the well.
What did he do when he faced the injustice of his day?
He disrupted cash flow in the Temple by overturning a few tables.
He taught his disciples to love and serve God and neighbor.
He practiced non-violent civil disobedience.
He freely allowed himself to die,
Confident in the love of God, our Father.
Just as Christ lived and died and was risen again,
So should we live and die,
confident that we, too, will rise again.
how did you get here this morning?
How did you come to be gathered in this sanctuary?
You had to come through the door.
You grabbed the handle,
you opened it, oh so boldly,
and you came right in through the door of Jesus Christ.
You will pass through many doors this week.
As you walk through each door,
may it serve as a reminder to you
that Jesus is the door.
Jesus is our door;
through which we are invited to come
into the fullness of God and His kingdom.
Jesus is our door through which God steps,
in His effort to come into our lives
and break into our heart.
Pay attention to the doors you come to this week.
Say a prayer when you enter or exit,
knowing what has been revealed to you
this day in the Gospel of John:
Jesus is our door,
the passageway to life abundant.
Thanks be to God.