Both Sides of the Door

Scriptures: 1 John 1:1-5; John 20:19-31

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer.  Amen.

What are the two doors of the church?  Some might say the front door and the back door; I would like to suggest, however, they are both doors for in-coming and doors for out-going.  What do I mean by this?  For many decades in the history of the church in North America, we experienced the need to have doors that open inward, such as the ones we have at the entrance to this sanctuary of God.  People used to flock to church to hear of the great deeds of God, to learn about the saving grace brought to us in Jesus Christ, God’s Son.  Yet I tell you, the architects of this and many other sanctuaries across the northern parts of our country made a horrible, if well-meaning, weatherization mistake.  For the true message of Easter – indeed the true message of Christ – is a tale of going out, not coming in.

Christ calls to us, yes, and we open the doors of our hearts to let him in, but Christ calls us to much more than an open heart.  Christ calls us to be apostles sent beyond the closed doors of any church –  whether they are locked doors in the city and suburbs, unlocked doors in the country, or the doors of hearts along the byways and highways of our lives.  We are called to go out into the community and be witnesses of what Christ has done, of what Christ means to us.  We are called to be witnesses to God’s amazing work in us, and the raising of God’s Son Jesus from the dead that all might be raised with him from the depths of our own dying moments.

  1. Cameron Murchison writes,

“John’s final words about the blessedness of believing that the risen Jesus has breathed a new missionary calling into the church are worth pondering.”[1]

Another question to ask is whether or not there is still a realized calling embedded in the church – or in our hearts – today.  Of course, I would answer there is.  I would also say this calling is quite complex.  Simply stated, we could resort to scripture and claim our calling is to, as Jesus himself tells us via Matthew’s gospel, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20a)[2]  But it is not that simple.

We have a wide spectrum of ages of people living in our communities, and each demographic seems to be drawn or repelled by specific aspects of what church looks like and acts like when engaging the world of today.  Depending on each demographic’s stage of life, more or less engagement – even sense of or feelings of engagement – with Church differ widely.  How can the Church be the authentic body of Christ it is meant to be for all the diverse spectrum of people – all of whom are God’s people I might add – if it at the same time repels some of those very same people of God?

Like most churches, we are very good at becoming inwardly focused.  This is our “in-group;” we are comfortable here.  We want to be here for one another, support one another, lift up one another’s burdens, and celebrate together when things are going well; overall we do this pretty well.  The doors of our church swing inward, just like the doors of our hearts when we let Jesus in.

Here, we seem to have a corner on the market for one specific group, don’t we?  But what would it mean to us and what would it look like if we were able to reach other groups within this community?  Or, viewed through the lens of the Church’s original mission, how might our lives be changed and enriched if our intentionality about being Christ’s body and Christ’s witnesses drove us with some urgency out into the community to share the good news of the gospel? Murchison goes on to write:

“Fully aware that the audience for which he was writing (including the audience of today) would come to belief not by the visible signs those first disciples/apostles experienced, but rather through “hearing” of those signs in what he writes, John reassures his audience that nonetheless they also participate in the joy and blessedness of the risen Christ’s presence. Ever so gently, then, he coaxes disciples of today into that liminal space where they might become apostles on both sides of the door.”[3]

So I must ask, how are you doing with the other side of the door?  Including myself, I ask, once Jesus has come in and filled us, do we find that the doors of our hearts swing shut in an attempt to hold and lock him in, never letting him go?  Or rather, do we find that in holding him, our hearts swell so much we cannot keep him in and the doors must burst open with overflowing?  Truly I tell you, there is no heart big or small enough that Jesus cannot fill it up to overflowing and still pour out in abundance the love of God toward others.

Swinging the doors of our hearts back outward and moving into the community, how are we doing in reaching others that need to be reached, in loving others in need of love, in giving voice to the voiceless, feeding the hungry, visiting those sick or locked up in the various prisons of their lives, nurturing across the ages those who need to be nurtured, and offering the richness of God’s beloved community to all?  How do we tell the story?  More importantly, perhaps, what more can we do?

I wonder, is this church challenged by the successful establishment of an in-group that represents a specific demographic?  I say challenged because one of the gifts of this congregation is a legacy of the past twenty years of your experience as leaders in your respective fields.  Then God drew you to this place, and your gifts came with you.  Gifts that you have been laying to rest oh so gently as you move into a time of life focused more on rest and relaxation, pursuit of personal interests that by necessity were left for a time on the shelf as you pursued your careers – both in the home and out of it.  It is natural to enjoy and seek the just deserts of a life well lived, after all.

I also wonder, though, what about the next twenty years or so?  Who are those who are stepping into the leadership roles you only recently left?  What are their hopes and dreams?  What wisdom do they require as they step up into a life largely built around what others built before them and carefully tended?  Their perspective is different.  Their perceptions are different.  Their tools are different.  Their ways of interacting are different.  Their life is different.  Their position is precarious as both men and women rising into the most productive years of their leadership face a culture and society that has changed from the times you might look back on with a familiar ache of nostalgia.

Different times necessitate different models of leadership, different balances of work-life engagement, even different ways of relating to God and one another.  The gift most of you bear is the gift of knowing and understanding all that went before, all that current emerging leaders view as history.  The gift of emergent leaders is an understanding of a world that has vastly changed.  The church stands in the middle.  What was once thought a pillar and immovable rock of civilization now finds itself trembling, and thus those within it are experiencing the aftershocks of change.

My question for you is this: has the church kept up with the times?  If not, how might a cross-pollination occur to enrich both those of us who are present here today and those who, for one reason or another, have not been integrated into this expression of God’s beloved community?  More importantly, does Jesus have a message and a task for us?  What would that look like?  What does the Lord require of us?  What is God’s calling for us and can we regain a sense of urgency to make the doors of the church – and the doors of our hearts – swing both inward and outward again?

May all glory be unto the one who lived, died, and rose again for us, even Him who is the Christ.  Amen?  May it be so.

[1] D. Cameron Murchison,, “Pastoral Perspective, John 20:19-31” in Feasting on the Word – Year B, ed.

David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

[2] New Revised Standard Version of the Bible

[3] D. Cameron Murchison,, “Pastoral Perspective, John 20:19-31” in Feasting on the Word – Year B, ed.

David L. Bartlett and Barbara Brown Taylor (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2008). Accordance edition hyper-texted and formatted by OakTree Software, Inc. Version 2.0

Questions for Reflection

It all happened on Sunday. It was on “the first day of the week” (John 20:19)—the same day Jesus rose from the dead (John 20:1)—when the risen Lord appeared to a group of disciples in a locked house and offered them the gift of the Holy Spirit. Then, one week later (John 20:26), Jesus came again to the disciples (still shut inside the house), this time allowing Thomas to see and touch his hands and side. Think about the place where you gather for worship on Sunday. Is it open to the surprising presence of Christ and the liberating gifts of the Spirit? (If not, does the Spirit still move? Does Jesus show up anyway?) Are there times when your questions and doubts grow deeper? Are there times when your faith is strengthened and renewed?

Household Prayer: Morning

God of light, I praise you for the gift of this new day.  By the power of your Spirit enable me to live in your light and seek the holy fellowship of Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen.

Household Prayer: Evening

Be with me, Lord Jesus, at the evening of this day.  Enter into my heart and fill it with your peace so that I may rejoice and rest in your presence. Amen.

About Scottrick

Parent ~ Pastor ~ Poet ~ Author
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