Friday, March 31, 2017

I Am the Door (John 10:1-10) by Rev. Dr. Alan W. Deuel

One poet wrote: “There are two doors, the first door leads to an amazing life, and the second door is the one keeping you from getting to the first door.”  The poet Carl Sandberg wrote: “An open door says, “Come in.”  A shut door says, “Who are you?

A door is a significant part of a house isn’t it?   I doubt if you would want to live in a place where there was no front door.  It is the portal or moving barrier which allows people to enter or leave.  There are a dizzying number of door designs today.  People spend a lot of money and time in selecting their front door.  Some of the types of doors include Arched doors, Barn doors, Dutch doors, Double doors, French Doors, and Panel doors.

Doors are important symbols in the Bible.  Psalm 84:10 says: “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than live in the tents of wickedness.”  James 5 says: “Beloved, do not grumble against one another, so that you may not be judged.  See, the judge is standing at the door.”  Revelations 4:1 says: “After this I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open and a voice said, come up here and at once, I was in the spirit and there in heaven stood a throne, with one seated on the throne.

Today we continue our journey through Lent, a 40 day period in which we prepare ourselves spiritually for the celebration of Easter.  Jesus referred to himself using fascinating metaphors or figures of speech.  I am the Bread of Life, I am the Light of the World, I am the Good Shepherd, I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, I am the True Vine, I am the Resurrection and the Life, I am the Door or Gate depending on the English translation of the Greek.   Each one of these metaphors gives us a glimpse into the true nature and mission of Jesus.  The door is an appropriate image for Jesus as we reflect upon our relationship to him during Lent.

In Jesus’ day, shepherds would take the sheep far from villages out to graze in the hills and meadows. They would stay away for months at a time.  At night the shepherds would search for a sheltered area in a hillside surrounded by natural walls that provided protection.

The only unprotected space was the entrance to the sheepfold.  There was no door to that entrance, and once the shepherd put his sheep in the fold for the night, he would literally lay down across the opening.  No wild animals could enter the sheepfold nor could any sheep leave without stepping over the shepherd.  He was both a protector and gatekeeper.  So the shepherd himself literally became the door or gate to the sheepfold.

Jesus says the gatekeeper calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  When he has brought the sheep out, he goes ahead of them and the sheep follow him because they know and trust his voice.  Jesus says, if anything enters the sheepfold by climbing in, rather than coming through the entrance, you could be sure they were thieves or animals.

Doors have two functions, to exit through or to enter.  Let’s take a look at those two functions. 

First, when you exit through a door and shut it, you leave something behind.  In this Lenten season we need to ask, what do I need to leave behind me?  It is critical that we acknowledge those things: failures, memories, disappointments, hurts, worries, things that are weighing you down, dragging you down, holding you back.  Our scripture is saying turn to the grace and mercy of Christ and shut the door on them.  Too many times we dwell upon such things, we fret over them, we obsess over them, and they become baggage.  We become hoarders and allow them to pile up.  What things do you need to leave behind you this Lenten season?  What is keeping you from being true to yourself, true to Christ, realizing your potential, being all that you can be?  Jack Parr said: “My life seems like one long obstacle course, with me as the chief obstacle.”  Jesus brings forgiveness.  Go to him and ask forgiveness for your past and you will experience a restoration of life.

But a door is also something you enter.  It is a way out of the drenching rain into a place where it is dry, a way out of the cold into the warmth of shelter, a way from harm’s way into a safe place.  “I am the door, whoever enters by me will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture.”  Jesus says: “I am the door into God’s kingdom, into God’s family, into salvation, into eternal life, into green pastures, into life.”

I recall going to a magnificent and massive church in downtown Los Angeles.  When I got there the door was shut and a little sign beside the door read, “Ring the bell and someone will help you.”  I rang the bell and nothing happened.  No one came.  I then walked around the building and tried a couple of doors, all of them were locked.  I began to feel frustrated.  What kind of a church is this?  What an unfriendly place.  Finally, I came back to the front door and was about to leave, when another person walked up and rang the bell.  Nothing happened and I felt a little smug.  But she did something I had not done, she reached down, turned the doorknob and it opened.  Was I surprised.  It was open all the time and I had not even tried to go in.  Doors don’t usually open by themselves.

Yes, there are doors before you and before me in this life.  Doors of opportunity, doors of possibility, doors of service, doors of grace.  God wants you to enter them, but sometimes we don’t try them, we don’t attempt to open them and they remain closed to us.  What door or doors is God putting before you?  It takes faith to open doors, it takes courage to open doors, it takes trust to open doors.  Jesus is saying I have put doors before you.  Jesus is the most important door. The choice is yours.  Will you open it?

What will you find?  You will find pasture.  You will find beauty.  You will find faith.  You will find a loving person, you will be fed and spiritually nurtured.  You will find spiritual and emotional freedom from those forces and powers which try to enslave you.  You will enjoy a peace which passes all understanding amidst the ambiguities of life.   You will find the joy of the Lord that is our strength.  You will find meaning and purpose for your life today and hope for tomorrow.  You will discover what it means to be loved unconditionally and forgiven and accepted.  You will hear a call to go beyond yourself to love others and to serve Christ, using your talents and abilities.

Jesus says, I am the door to salvation!    Jesus is the only way to salvation and everlasting life.   Jesus is the door to God.  Jesus is the door to life.  Jesus came to show us who God is, to tell us who God is and to forgive us through his death on the cross into order to bring us back to God.   It is through Jesus that we meet God and enter into a personal relationship with God.   Jesus says: “Whoever enters by me will be saved.”

Jesus is speaking to all who feel apart from God, who want to believe but find it hard, who feel excluded or isolated, who feel rejected, who are lonely, who are lost, who feel unworthy or worthless, to all who are searching for truth and meaning and hope.  Jesus says: “I am the door. I welcome you.  Come and enter through me.”

I close with this quote from the book of Revelation.  The Lord says: “Listen. I am standing at the door knocking, if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you and you with me.”

I invite those who feel so moved to pray with me: “Lord, I am a sinner in need of your power, your forgiveness and promise of eternal life. I believe you are the door to life.  You are standing at the door of my heart knocking.  Lord, I open the door of my heart, because I want you to come into my life as my lord and savior.  I will follow you with all my heart, soul, strength and life.”  Amen!

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