Our Church host a Code Purple cold weather shelter for the homeless men in our community. We provide a warm place to stay, cots, blankets, and respite from the cold at night. I received an email earlier today that when the volunteers came to the church, the doors were still locked. While they opened a little while later, our doors were closed. This was/is easily resolved as we have electronic doors that are set on a schedule. However small the mistake, the takeaway image is a group of people in need of the ministry of the church, locked out of the church. Ouch.
The image is appropriate to what I read this morning as part of my personal study time. I am reading Fleming Rutledge’s Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Jesus again during this Advent season. It is a collection of Rutledge’s Advent sermons from over 40 years of preaching. It is excellent. Rutledge writes:
“The world is knocking more insistently on those church doors than it has in a long, long time; and those who knock are not always “our kind.” Some are thieves and murderers. Many are desperately poor and starving. Many are members of other races. Some are handicapped, some are jobless, some are refugees. Some are prisoners. Some are Communist. Some are political terrorists, and some are their victims. Who knocks? Shall we open? Some knock on the door for help. Some knock hoping for an answer, a response, a piece of bread, a place to sleep, a kind word, a shred of hope. Others knock in anger. Some come to negotiate; others come to demand; others come to seize and destroy. Still, others knock on the door for the purpose of sending it crashing to the ground…What is the response of the church to those who knock? Shall we pretend we do not hear? Shall we lock the doors? Shall we install a security system? Shall we give pass keys- and who will we give them to? To members only? To the ones who are baptized? To the ones who come every Sunday? To the ones who pledge money? Shall we keep our lights on, or will it attract the attention of marauders? Who are we, within these doors, and what do we do here? What sort of life are we called to live? What is the church?”
John the Revelator writes about a vision in the final book of the Bible. He records a vision of Jesus where Jesus says:
Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. (Revelation 3:20)
The question we can ask this Advent is how are we responding to the knocking? Are we watching and listening for the knocking of Jesus? Will we open the door for Jesus? Of our heart? Of our church? Of our home? Of our checkbook/bank account? How do we respond to the knocking of the poor, the lonely, the downcast, the forgotten, the abused, the young, the old, the criminal, the ignored?
In Matthew 25, Jesus reminds us that how we respond and treat others is how we treat Jesus. There is a reckoning for the church when we fail to hear the knocking of those in need around us:
“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
45 “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’
As we move closer to the second Sunday of Advent, let us listen for the knocking around us. Let us stay vigilant and keep watch so that we are ready to respond to Jesus. We do not want to be found fast asleep when someone (Jesus) comes knocking at our door.
(We are correcting our lock schedule on our door first thing this morning!)