The Rev’d Roger Elks
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Hello. One of the funny memories I have of my first job as a vicar was in Carbis Bay. We decided to take some of the young people out carol singing around the parish. It had not been done before, so we thought it was quite a nice idea. So we went around the little cul-de-sac estate of bungalows just opposite the vicarage on one evening when it was not dark. We didn’t want to scare people and it was quiet and there were some young children with us as well. So there we were. We went round from door to door, singing away and ringing the bell. And nobody answered. Nobody came out and nobody heard us. And it was quite a surprise, really. We were expecting a little choir of children to be well received. But it wasn’t to be. I can only put it down to the fact that there was double glazing so people couldn’t hear us singing, that they were all sitting down watching television and couldn’t hear the doorbell. And they certainly weren’t expecting people to call. These days, people don’t call to your door as they used to, do they? But anyway, we enjoyed singing, but we didn’t raise any money for the church.
Our reading today is from Revelation Chapter three, and there’s a bit of door knocking going on here.
14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 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.
21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
So the early part of Revelation is these messages to seven different churches around the first century world; messages from Jesus. And I expect that all the messages to all the churches were read in all the churches. So actually, you could compare yourself to how you understood the Lord to be speaking to others as well. But here in Laodicea, they are criticized for just not being particularly enthusiastic. And those words are quite challenging for us as well when we think we’re doing well.
But the phrase that I want to think about is that phrase in verse 20. “Behold, I stand at the door and knock”. And of course, when I say those words, you are probably thinking of Holman Hunt’s famous painting, ‘The Light of the World’ in which Jesus stands outside a door, a door that does not have a handle on the outside, a door that is overgrown because it has not been open for some time. And he stands with a lamp and is just about to knock on the door. Holman Hunt was a great figurative painter and there are whole messages in the painting; of the Lord commanding us to open, inviting us and asking us to invite him in.
So the thought I want to just reflect on today is the idea of responding to God’s initiative. It is interesting that Holman Hunt saw this verse 20 as a command, not an invitation. And we remember, don’t we, that by God’s spirit, Jesus is always present with us. We ask for his presence. But actually we have to recognize that by his spirit, he is always with us and there is always a command, and an invitation to obey that command.
In the scriptures, we read of Jesus with his disciples giving them an invitation to rest, “Come aside and rest a while”, and maybe that’s God’s call to us at the moment if we are busy. There is also that invitation to go, “Go into all the world and make disciples”, so there is that sense of being part of God’s mission and maybe that’s something we need to hear today. There is that invitation to think. Many times when Jesus spoke to the Pharisees and the disciples he is getting them to think differently, “The kingdom of heaven is like ….”; challenging words. So maybe that’s what we’re being called to do, maybe at this moment with this reflection, to think.
There was a Bible devotion series called “Every day with Jesus”, I wonder if you ever use that? And that’s an interesting phrase, isn’t it, that we walk every day with Jesus; hopefully not keeping Him outside the door, but certainly inviting us to follow his commands and to follow His leadership through the working of His Spirit, speaking through our consciences, through our knowledge of Him.
It’s an exciting thought, isn’t it, that as we sit here and reflect, as we get up and do the next thing that’s before us, Jesus is calling us to do things in a certain way, to think in a certain way, to find the good works that he’s prepared in advance for us to walk in. So it’s an exciting thought to have Jesus with us. And it’s also a comforting thought, isn’t it, to know that whatever we face, that Jesus will walk with us and be alongside us in the challenges? ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock’ and maybe today we can fling wide the door with the courage that God gives us in his Spirit to let Jesus in to this day that the Lord has given us. Amen.
you long for the world’s salvation:
stir us from apathy,
restrain us from excess
and revive in us new hope
that all creation will one day be healed
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen