One morning about 1 a.m, I am waiting for him in a dark, seedy bar and the INS bursts in. There I am sitting in a suit and tie, 30 officers storming in with flashlights, people running out, and pure chaos. An officer comes up to me, and glaringly asks “what are you doing here?” What was I to say? I responded, “sitting here.” He looked at me in amazement and ran off after someone who was not stationary.
Another time, I was in Chicago and visited the Sears Tour. I decided I would explore, so I got off on the 60th floor. Because of my relative youth and accompanying intelligence commensurate to the years, I decided I would take the stairs. Well after 25 flights, I said enough of this stuff – I am tired.
So I walked to the door and pulled. It was locked, I pulled harder. I then noticed the sign. “No entry.” I decided to run down one floor, locked. I began to panic, running from floor to floor in that stairwell. All were locked, and I could not get back in, I felt that feeling of being trapped, worse yet of being left alone in that stair well with no way out. Each door, locked.
Finally about the 20 floor, I began kicking the door, banging on the door, screaming “let me in.” Finally, I heard a small voice saying, I here, I will open the doors. An small woman in her early 70’s swung open the door, smiled, and said “come on in.” At that moment, I felt this overwhelming sense of relief and safety. I hugged her.
As I read today’s Gospel, I thought of that time trapped in that stairwell with all the doors locked and then my thoughts turned to all those in the world, from the beginning of time until now, who have had the door locked to them. In the Gospels, the lepers, the poor, the blind and the handicapped.
And those today, locked out because they live on the margins, or those on the margins, those who do not fit into accepted standards, maybe those from other lands. All God’s children who had the door shut in their faces by the church, society, family, friends, shut out by the gate keepers.
Different people, different denominations, different places, and there they are, like I was in that stairwell; violently pounding on the door, yelling “let me in” hoping that someone will hear their cries, that the light and door of acceptance will open up for them.
The imagery of today’s Gospel is beautiful, for all those small, cold lambs shivering outside of the door, we hear the voice of Jesus calling out "Hurry, Come in, your safe – I have been looking for you.” Jesus calling us to his side, so that no one is shut out.
And as we see in today’s Gospel, he not only accepts, Jesus protects, from all those who condemn, his love protects from all who tell us what is acceptable, whether we are acceptable, protecting us from those who say we cannot join the rest of the flock.
On that Easter Morning, when that door on the tomb was opened, Jesus opened the door of acceptance, opened the door of love, and opened the door to his father in the Kingdom of God. To each and every one of you. No longer on the outside, hoping to be let in.
That open door lets us in to God’s love, peace and joy. It keeps out the turbulence of the world. The door is open for those who hurt, and for those who seek. For those who doubt, for those who believe. Open for everyone, without conditions, without requirements, only to listen for the sound of his voice.
And when we understand that door of love and acceptance has been opened for us, we can leave the past behind. We can leave behind our regrets, our mistakes, our sorrows, and our pain. We can let go of our dark cold places and we find love, we have finally found our home.
Today is a special day for the youth from the Church. For those of you that are young (and wiser in years) For each one of you, I want you to know that as you move through life; many people will attempt to shut you out, close doors. Some may try to do that in a Church structure, never allow it to happen.
Bang and kick on those doors. In your personal life, always remember that there is one certainty, one constant, one truth and that is Jesus. Throughout these next few years, when you feel that no one is listening, when life is difficult, when no one understands, when all the doors seem closed. Speak to him through a silent prayer, and he will respond. You will see how life opens up.
And it does end there. The easy part of Christianity is sitting here listening to the Gospel. The hard part is actually living it. We don’t follow Christ because he makes us feel good, or because he looks good or that the bread taste good. We are not called to be simple admirers of Christ, we are called to follow him, to become like him.
And that requires actions. Just as Jesus opened the door is opened for us, we must open that door for others. When you open the door for others in the name of Christ, crazy things happen. You may find your voice, you may find your strength, and you may find your calling. To get up and open that door. Because there are so many doors are closed to the people in the world.
AIDS still exists and it has not gone away, women are still being abused and desecrated all across the world, children are forced to work in sweatshops, people are struggling to find a better life, sacrificing their lives in order to survive. Hunger is still prevalent; billions of people are without hope. Will your hand be the one that opens the door?
God is not only in here, God is out there and there are a lot of people and places that have closed doors to God’s people. The great thing about the door is that it is not only an entrance it is an exit. You open the Kingdom for others. Look around, see who is hungry, who is without clothes, who is neglected.
Imagine if the money we spent on bottled water during one year was sent to a place where it would pay to dig waterholes for children that only want clean drinking water. Imagine, 6,500 Africans are still dying every day of a preventable, treatable disease, for lack of drugs we can buy at any drug store.
It was when I finally realized that I had to do my part and open the door to others that if finally understood the pain of those immigrants as they ran in panic that night during the INS raid, or the realization that the reason that my former boss drowned his evenings in vodka was an attempt to alleviate the recurring nightmares of Vietnam. I had to open the door to others, before I finally understood.
Today is a mixture of sadness and joy. I will watch as my son moves from Rite 13 to J2A at St. Michael. And it is also the last time I will preach as an assisting Priest at my home. In 3 weeks, I will move through a door that has opened for me.
Brian, Mother Sandra Bess, Fr. Ken Clark, Christopher, Jan, Judith, Sandra, my surrogate dad Charles Pederson, Sam Hall, friends like Diana Haynes, Thom Andrewz, Stacie Moses and many others too numerous to mention opened the door for me, Suzanne and Jude. I am grieving the loss of this community; however, I rejoice that this community will form my son – spiritually.
St. Michael will always hold a special place in my heart because of the doors this Church has opened for all those who have been locked out. You were the door of acceptance, the door of love, the door of Christ. As I journey, I know that each one of you will step forward and open the doors for the minority, the poor, the neglected, and the handicapped, those on the margins.
If I know the heart of this community, I know that you will not only open the door, you will rip it off the hinges. If I know this community, once the door is open you will stand there welcoming everyone in, If I know this community, your voice will ring out like Jesus, calling “come in, your safe.
With that door open, with that voice, the entire world will see the face of acceptance, the face of love; they will see the face of Christ through the heart of St. Michael. Christ is calling your name, step forward walk through his door, and then open for others. God bless you and I will miss you.