For Good

John 10:1-10

[Watch sermon here.]

Jesus declares, “I am the gate.”

A literal translation reads:
“I am the door.”

Jesus as a door is one of my favorite images in the Bible.

Doors intrigue me.
I am always wondering, What lies on the other side?

Doors open to surprising spaces.
They transition us to a hidden and holy world.

Jesus is our door.

What lies on the other side of the door?
What door opens before us today?

Jesus says,
“I came that you might have life and have it in full.”

Oh! Yes.

What opens us to LIFE LIFE LIFE LIFE?

This moment is a hinge moment for all of us.

We are going through a door.

Next week, your new interim pastor starts.
Soon, I will be moving to Richmond, Virginia.

Something new awaits us.

I am curious:
What will you discover as you walk through the portal?

This week, I have been thinking about The Wizard of Oz.
It was my favorite book and movie when I was a kid.

What did I love about it? I am not sure.
Was it the way that Dorothy was looking for a way home?
The way that Dorothy met colorful friends during her adventures?

It is only with the help of her companions that Dorothy finds her way home.
That is a lesson that I have not forgotten.

This story captured the attention of author Gregory Maguire,
who expanded on the tale in a book called Wicked,
which tells the friendship of two witches of Oz, Glinda and Elphaba.
The book became a musical.
In the musical, as intimate friends Glinda and Elphaba part ways,
they sing to each other,

Let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You’ll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have rewritten mine
By being my friend.…
Because I knew you
I have been changed for good.

I have been changed for good.

When Elphaba and Glinda walk through the door of friendship,
their lives transform forever.

They walk through a door. To companionship. To love.
Their words remained imprinted on my heart this week.

In the video sermon that I submitted to the search committee of this church,
I preached on the moment that Jesus called the disciples in the Gospel of John.
The moment when Jesus left an imprint on their hearts.
Jesus asks Andrew and another, “What do you want?”
They reply, “Where do you live?”
Jesus responds, “Come and see.”
The new disciples do come and see, and they remain with Jesus for the rest of the day.
They walk through the portal of discipleship and their life is never the same.

In that first sermon, I named four movements in Jesus’ summons:
Come, see, experience, and come away transformed.

Those words adorn the wall of the office downstairs.

Come, see, experience, and come away transformed.
That is the journey.
Christ changes our lives for good.

Christ has changed my life for good.
Christ has changed your life for good.

That is something to celebrate!

You, the people of this church, walked faithfully through the door of Jesus.
You entered new spaces, following the voice of Jesus.
We found a holy door, many holy doors,
during our time together, and have had the courage to walk through them.

I celebrate the doors through which our church has traveled!
We hosted community conversations around affordable housing
and support of local youth services.
We created a mission identity and lived it out;
we embodied God’s love
through prayer, service to the community, meaningful relationships, and vibrant hospitality.
We worshipped God steadily and soulfully.
We held vigil with the local synagogue in the face of anti-semitism.
We open ourselves to life-changing experiences as we learned how to become anti-racist.
We played during InterPlay events on Saturdays.
We sat in silence during Centering Prayer events.
We celebrated with concerts and music.

We have traveled through many doors,
journeying deeper and deeper into God’s heart.
During the pandemic, we moved through a major door.
In 2020, when we started Zoom worship,
we did not know what we would life would look like on the other side of the pandemic.
You are still exploring this new place. There is still more to learn and discover.

You have remained open to Jesus,
curious about the way Jesus is opening in you and in your community.

I love that Jesus is our door.

I want Jesus to be our door!

I want us never to stop opening the doors, opening them
until we find ourselves, at last, in a place pulsating with vibrant life for every living being.

Jesus is door to this living vision of liberation.
Jesus remains the door even when our life is so gray we cannot see it.
We might be so depressed,
we keep walking by the door every day and never notice it.
Yet, Jesus is a patient door; Jesus keeps knocking, keeps visiting us,
so that someday we might see that we are not alone in our funk.

If Jesus has taught us nothing else it is there:
When life is stinky and we feel stuck,
Jesus is the door beckoning us to something better.

Look around. Start knocking on walls. Are they hollow?
Is there more in there?

Someone recently told me,
I never knew there was a door on your front stage
and that it leads to the baptistry!
Well, yes, there is a door here!
It is there whether you notice it or not.

In Jesus’ discourse today,
Jesus is addressing a man born blind and his community
The community had systematically excluded the man, forcing to beg.
His community did not consider alternate ways for him to make a living.
They never looked for ways to treat him with dignity.
They stuck him in a world of inequity.
Then Jesus came and healed the man.
Jesus opened the door of his heart so he could see
that he was a bright, brilliant, beloved child of God who was beautiful to behold.
This had been true all along.
Now the man could see it.

The door had always been there.
At last, the man walked through it.

Jesus is the door.
No matter what shame we feel.
Jesus invites to a place with soft and beautiful lighting.

This is the story of Mary of Magdala, too.
When she was sad and missing her companion, Jesus called her by name,
like Jesus said he would.
In the passage today, Jesus says,
“The sheep know the shepherd’s voice,
and the shepherd calls them by name and leads them out.”

Yes, Jesus calls Mary by name.
Jesus is the portal to something deeper and more meaningful in her grieving.
She is not left alone.
Jesus is with her leading her yet deeper into the mystical experience of life and love.

Come. See. Experience. Come away transformed.
That is what happened to Mary. To Glinda and Elphaba.
To the man born blind. To the disciples.

To us.

In my last sermon to you, and in this Scripture passage, Jesus offers us a perfect bookend,
which is another door.

The summons to come, see, experience, and come away transformed
is not a singular summons valid only for the first day that we met Jesus.
It is a continual conversion that we experience every day of our lives.

Let’s go deeper,
the risen Christ says to Mary of Magdala, Andrew, Peter … and us.

Did Andrew know what he had done that first day when he saw Jesus?
Do you know what you have done?
Has your adventure only begun?

Transformed and transforming.
Loved and loving.
Moved and moving.

This is the way of Jesus.
This is the way of LIFE LIFE LIFE LIFE.

Wholeness awaits.

A new door beckons.

For now,
we can look at the doors through which we have walked already
and know what is true:
We have been changed for good.

Thanks be to God.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s