Sermons That Work

Opening the Door to Jesus, Proper 7 (A) – 2005

June 19, 2005

…nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.

In a conversation with us, his disciples, Jesus encourages us to stand up for kingdom living even if it means being in conflict with the mainstream of society. You will be maligned, says Jesus, for witnessing to this mission and ministry of mine.

And in the Bible such witnessing always means taking some kind of action on behalf of those who are otherwise disenfranchised, no matter how much doing so might fly in the face of tradition or is simply inconvenient.

We are to be fearless in our witness to the new kingdom life Jesus comes to proclaim and live. We can be fearless because there is much about God and kingdom life that is yet to be revealed. That which is covered or hidden will be revealed. Revelation continues. It does not end with tradition or Scripture. God’s revelation is not limited to a handful of Biblical writers and editors who gave us our Scriptures. God, says Jesus, is not limited at all except by the limits of our own perceptions of God and God’s intended kingdom.

There are those who live among us, fortunately, who every day seek to help us see that which is covered and hidden about God. In our tradition we call these people mystics because they are able to recognize some of the mysteries of God’s hidden-ness in the midst of our everyday surroundings and encounters with one another.

One such person we remembered this past week in our Calendar of Saints: Evelyn Underhill who died on June 15, 1941. Underhill, an English woman, was a layperson, and someone with little formal religious training. Yet, her abilities to recognize the hidden dimensions of God’s presence in our life and to write about these mysteries of God makes her one of the most significant witnesses to Christ in our century. That few Christians have ever heard of Evelyn Underhill speaks to the hidden nature of God’s ongoing revelation itself.

Just listen to this prayer of Evelyn Underhill’s:

Lord! Give me courage and love to open the door and constrain You to enter, whatever the disguise You come in, even before I fully recognize my guest.
Come in! Enter my small life!
Lay Your sacred hands on all the common things and small interests of that life and bless and change them. Transfigure my small resources, make them sacred. And in them give me your very self. Amen

Consider this verse from Revelation 3: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock …” This is depicted in western art throughout the ages as Jesus standing at the door, lantern in hand, knocking on the door.

This is the inner truth about God in Christ: he is in fact always standing at the door and knocking, waiting for us to open our door. What is a not so hidden truth about us, even those of us who are disciples of the One we call Lord: we tend to keep our doors closed. And we tend not to hear the knocking. Why? Because we are too busy doing so many, many important things that we just do not hear Jesus knocking on our door. If we are not busy with work or family, we are so busy with church busy-ness that we cannot hear Jesus knocking at the door. That is Jesus’ constant complaint about organized religion and tradition: it keeps us too busy to hear or participate in God’s ongoing revelation. And so whatever new thing God is presently calling into being may well remain hidden to us.

Then when we do hear the knocking, we tend to look out the peephole to see who it is. Oh, no! We say. It’s Jesus! I know what he’s all about, and he’s going to want me to do something for someone. So we run and get our “Palm Pilots” and PDAs, run back to the door, and without opening it shout through the keyhole and say, “Look, Jesus, I am awfully busy today! I am a week late with the Newsletter, I have a stack of phone messages to respond to, but look, I have an opening a week from Thursday at 2:00 PM. Could you come back then?”

Lord! we pray, Give us the courage and love to constrain Jesus to enter. To constrain means to force, to urge, to compel. What Evelyn Underhill knows is that in all depictions of Revelation 3:20 in Western art, there is never a door knob or handle on Jesus’ side of the door. We need to open our doors our selves to let God in. Or else God remains hidden from us and we remain hidden from God. God who, says Jesus, urgently wants to count the hairs of our head. That’s a way of expressing just how close God wants to be with us, and will be with us, if we would only open our doors more often.

This God we are to constrain to enter our lives comes, evidently, in many disguises. That is, we will not always immediately recognize God in Christ when he does enter. Which is not so odd. Our Lord now lives in his resurrected glory. The disciples did not recognize the risen Lord by his appearance, but rather in what he did. And what he did was break bread, eat fish, and show them his wounds. Yet, they do not recognize him when he is hungry, thirsty, in prison, a stranger, or naked. We do not apt to recognize Jesus when he is homeless, or lost, or standing on the street with an outstretched hand.

It is a scary thing to open the door. It is a scarier thing to walk out the door and into the world to walk with Christ in his many disguises.

Yet, Revelation 3 goes on to say that whenever we open that door, we are going to eat and drink and have a truly wonderful time because God will be in our midst. Emmanuel, God with us.

Underhill puts it this way: Come in! Enter my small life! Lay Your sacred hands on all the common things and small interests of that life and bless and change them. Transfigure my small resources, make them sacred. And in them give me your very self.

This is a wonderful promise, whether in the words of John the Revelator or Evelyn Underhill. Everything about us can be made new, blessed, and sacred.

Most of all, Christ can be present in all that we have and all that we are, all of the time!

Pray with Evelyn Underhill every day. Listen for that knocking on the door. With courage and love, open that door and welcome the Risen Lord even before we recognize our guest. The Kingdom of God is at hand for those who have eyes to see it and the time to let it into our midst.

There is nothing that is hidden that cannot be made known if only we will open our doors and let Jesus come in!


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Christopher Sikkema


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