Sunday, July 28, 2019

Seventh Sunday After Pentecost

"The door will be opened"

Rev. Kealahou Alika

Luke 11:1-13

Our reading from The Gospel According to Luke contains a number of Jesus’ teachings on prayer. It is not likely that Jesus taught all of what is in this passage on prayer on only one occasion.

It is said that “collections of materials into sections on controversies, miracles, parables, instructions on conduct, and other themes are common” in Luke and in the writings Matthew, Mark and John. The settings may vary but the stories in one account are often paralleled the stories in other accounts (Preaching through the Christian Year C, Craddock, Hayes, Holladay & Tucker, Trinity International Press, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1994, page 352).

The thirteen verses in our reading this morning provides us with a wealth of materials including “question and answer, the Lord’s prayer, a parable, simple analogies, direct instruction.” There is enough to be said in more than one sermon (Op. cit.).

In verses 1-4, Jesus responds to one of the disciples who asks that they be taught to pray as John the Baptizer taught his disciples. Jesus tells them to pray a briefer form of the Lord’s Prayer.

In verses 5-8, Jesus offers a parable “framed as one long question” in which “the listener is to identify at the outset with the one who asks a neighbor for bread, but ends with attention on the neighbor who responds to the late-night request.” The parable makes the point that if our “friends respond to our persistent appeals, how much more so will God who desires to give us the kingdom” (Luke 12:32) (Ibid., pages 352-353).

In verses 9-13, the analogy Jesus offers about persevering in prayer is not about one’s friends but about one’s parents. Luke emphasizes the point that if parents “give good gifts” (Luke 11:13) to their children, how much more so will God “give good gifts” to those who ask. The key to this concluding section is the significance of the Holy Spirit.

That gift – of the Holy Spirit - is vital to our understanding of the Jesus (Luke 3:21) and the church (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4, 5, 8; 2:38). It is the Holy Spirit that creates, sustains and empowers us – as the body of the Christ, as the church – to continue what Jesus began to do and to teach centuries ago (Ibid., page 353).

Having said all of this, what actually caught my attention was neither the Lord’s Prayer nor the parable about a snake or a fish or an egg or a scorpion, but verse 9. Jesus said, “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.”

As I look ahead to my retirement next February and as I look back on the seventy years of my life to the days of my youth, I had somehow attributed to Jesus the words that were spoken by the angel of the church in Laodicea in the Book of Revelation: “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me” (Revelation 3:20).

The Greek word that appears in the verse is angelos which simply means “messenger.” Sometimes the word was used for supernatural “messengers” from God and sometimes it was applied to human messengers of God’s word. Some scholars interpret the angel in Laodicea as a heavenly being. But others are inclined to identify the angel there and in the other churches as pastors, elders or bishops who actually delivered the messages to the congregations.

Whatever the case may be, what is striking to me is part of my spiritual journey as a Christian began with the assumption that it was Jesus who said, “I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me” (Revelation 3:20).

At the time I was still in my teens and when I heard those words quoted by a well-meaning, but misinformed, street evangelist I decided that the invitation to “open the door” to Jesus was worth taking. It was an invitation, not a demand. After all, the decision to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior would be fraught with difficulties if anyone is coerced or forced into the faith.

We have all heard it said: “Oh, you better accept the Lord before you die or you will go to hell.” “Jesus died for your sins and if you don’t believe that, you will go to hell.” “The Bible says there is no other name under heaven by which you will be saved, so if you decide not to accept him, you will go to hell.”

Some of the “messengers” in the early church and the church today may favor the four horsemen of the Apocalypse symbolizing conquest, war, famine and death as a way of motivating us with fear into the kingdom of God. It is no surprise that we marvel at those with such strength and prowess. We want our super heroes. Choosing a carpenter’s son astride on a borrowed donkey on his way to die for the sins of us all is not the world’s idea of a super hero.

While it is evident that the verse from the Book of Revelation has been mistakenly attributed to Jesus, what I can say is this: accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior is about receiving God’s amazing grace. The Jesus I know is not intent on barging his way into our hearts.

The Jesus I know stands at the door and saying, “Hūi!” It is the Hawaiian way to get another person’s attention. Jesus wants to get our attention.

It is a phrase that works even in the most isolated and crowded of places. You know this and I know this. There have been occasions when I have been in the middle of an airport terminal and I see someone I recognize. Wanting to catch his or her attention, I find myself instinctively calling out, “Hūi!,” and that person will turn in my direction.

Jesus may be standing on the other side of a door, out of view, but when we hear his voice we are compelled to respond. If Jesus was standing at the door and speaking in pidgin English, I imagine he would say, “Eh, open the door, auntie. Es me! I like eat.”

And as we open the door, we would say “E komo mai i ku‘u home! Come into my home. E komo mai i loko o ku‘u pu‘uwai! Come into my heart!” Amen.

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