I. Standing at the Door
Last week we looked at the letter from Jesus to the church in Philadelphia. In this letter Jesus talked a bit about doors. He talked about the fact that he was holding a door open for us, his people, and when he held it open no one could close it on our face. In today’s scripture he again uses the door imagery but twists it around in a wonderful and powerful way.
Take a moment, if you will, to look at the windows around the church. You will notice that the full window pictures all have scenes from Jesus’ life on them. We have his birth, him welcoming the children and him praying in the garden of Gethsemane. And then we have a picture of him standing at a door, knocking. This isn’t actually a representation of an actual event that we find in the gospels. Oh, I’m sure he knocked on doors at some point in his life. But we know that this is symbolic, that it represents Jesus standing that the door to our hearts. It represents the scripture that we read this morning. Jesus is standing at our door knocking, wanting to enter into relationship with us, wanting to feast with us.
It’s a powerful image. It is one that truly makes sense to us. Jesus doesn’t force himself into our lives. He instead stands at our door and knocks, and he waits for us to come out and invite him in. Jesus could open the door himself and keep it open so no-one could ever close it. But he chooses, as he does so many times, the humble path of waiting for us.
Sometimes I wish God were a bit more forceful in his pursuit of his people. I wish he would do a bit more than knock. Some people, myself included, sometimes need to be woken up, to be shook around a bit to get our attention. Knocking at the door doesn’t always seem like it is enough. And yet it is what Jesus does. He gives us the choice. “Do you want to follow me? If so, let me in.” It’s an important choice, it’s a life changing choice. But what is it he offers if we do let him in? He offers to feast with us, to share food and fellowship with us, to nourish us with living water and the bread of life.
But when we talk about this powerful image of Jesus knocking at the door, we usually talk about the door being the door to our hearts. We individualize this passage and see it as something that we as individuals all have the opportunity to do. And this is a fair reading of this. But when we look at it closer we see that Jesus isn’t talking to individuals, he is talking to a group, to a church. And he is knocking on the door to their church, waiting for them to open up and let him in.
Jesus also confronts the church in today’s letter. He accuses them of being lukewarm, neither hot nor cold. Now for us today this takes on a certain imagery. We think of someone who is lukewarm as someone who is wishy-washy. We think someone who is lukewarm in their faith is not terribly set on what it is they believe. I had a friend who accused the Covenant Church of being lukewarm because, in her understanding, the Covenant Church allows you to believe whatever you want, we don’t make people make decisions on things that aren’t clear in the Bible.
But this is not what Jesus is talking about in this scripture. Oh, certain truths are important to God, they are so important to God that he asks all of his followers, all of his children to accept them and believe them. We know what these truths are. They are the truth that we are all sinful people. We cannot earn our way to heaven on our own. We need help. They are the truth that God sent his Son to be that help for us, to take away our sins and offer us eternal life. They are the truth that if we believe in Christ, God is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. That we need a personal relationship with God, that we are called to accept Jesus as both our Savior and Lord. To be a Christian, you must believe in some real things. You must believe in the resurrection. If Jesus wasn’t raised from the dead, then everything we do really has not much meaning. These truths that all Christians agree on, that we all accept can best be found in the apostle’s creed, certain things that we believe about God, about Jesus, about the Holy Spirit and about what it means to be a part of God’s church.
But there are other things that are not as clear in the Bible. These things are not as obvious, and sometimes the Bible even seems to contradict itself in these areas. The Bible isn’t clear about baptism. On one hand, it tells people to repent from their sins and be baptized if they want to follow Christ. On the other hand, it talks about people not just being baptized themselves but having their whole household baptized, children, servants, everybody. And the Bible was written by and initially to first generation Christians. It did not talk about what to do with the next generation of Christian. So we as a denomination say that there is a legitimate argument that can be made on either side of this issue and we’re going to let individuals and churches baptize how they want to. Is this being lukewarm? Is this failing to stay true to the gospel? I don’t believe so.
Let me explain: Growing up, we had a neighbor who had a pool in their backyard. And the pool had a hot tub right next to it. We would swim around in the pool for a while, then we would hop into the hot tub. I remember we’d dare each other to hop from the hot tub into the pool. It was a shocking thing when you first did it, but it reinvigorated you like nothing else.
You see, Laodicea was in a place where there were hot-springs. People came from all around to Laodicea to experience the healing and comfort of the hot-springs. There were pools that were heated from underground volcanoes so they were hot to the touch. But Laodicea had a shortage of cold water, running water, drinking water.
But a spring that is neither hot nor cold, this is pointless and worthless and unusable to the people of Laodicea. It doesn’t offer healing to the people as hot water offers, and it doesn’t offer nourishment to people like cold drinking water does. So, when Jesus confronts the people in the church from Laodicea for being lukewarm, he isn’t necessarily complaining about them being wishy-washy theologically, rather he is talking about how they interact with the world around them.
Jesus finds them lukewarm and therefore will spit them out of his mouth. If they were hot they would be offering healing to the world around them, if they were cold they would offer nourishment. Hot water and cold water are useful to God and to the world around them. Lukewarm water is not useful. And God wants his church to be useful. Jesus tells us “those whom I love I rebuke and discipline.” He is pushing the church to be useful because he cares for them, because he loves them, because he truly desires for them to be about what it is that he is about.
III. Many Letters, One Message
We have spent five weeks looking at five of the seven letters to the early churches in the book of Revelation. I hope you have seen some common themes, have found something to take away from these letters. We discover that the individual churches were all dealing with different things and had different things that God was saying to them, but there were certain things that were important to them all. God truly wants his people to be active. He wants us to be making a difference in the world around us. Whether it is him confronting a church with being lukewarm, neither offering healing nor nourishment to the people around it; or telling a sleeping church that they need to wake up so that they can complete the deeds he has planned for them; or encouraging a church that has been a faithful witness; we see that God wants faith from his people but he also wants faithfulness. He wants our actions to match our words. He wants us to be doers of the word and not just hearers.
At different points we see ourselves in these seven early churches. And we see that we have many of the same strengths and weaknesses they have. And we are called to the same life of witness that they are called to. Jesus tells them that it’s not going to be easy. There are rough times ahead. But he also promises that there is a great reward ahead. For those of us who are faithful, who are true, God has great and wonderful things planned. We will sit at his throne. We will spend eternity in his presence. We will feast with him. We will be given new names. We will be given the morning star. Jesus will acknowledge our names before the Father. It’s all somewhat mystical and confusing, but when we look at it together, we realize that if we do allow Christ in, if we do open that door that he is knocking on, he offers us something wonderful, something powerful, something eternal. I know that I am thankful I opened the door for him and invited him into my life. And I believe that he continually knocks. I believe that he may be knocking on your door today. Are you going to answer it? Amen.