Foundry United Methodist Church

Rev. Dean Snyder , Senior Minister

 

 

 

“How to Receive Christ - Open the Door”


Sunday, June 27, 2010

 

 

Dean

Rev. Dean Snyder

I’d like to invite you to sit today in this one verse of the Bible from the book of Revelation. It is part of a word of prophecy given to Bishop John, bishop of the Christian churches of Asia Minor. It was given to him for a Christian congregation in the city of Laodicea. There is someone here who after this sermon, this will become your favorite verse in the Bible. It Revelation 3:20.

Revelation 3:14 says the prophecy is from “the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the origin of God’s creation.” The prophecy is from Christ. Christ is the Amen to all God’s promises. Christ is the faithful and true witness. Christ is the Word through whom all things, all creation, came into being.

So this is a word from Christ, through Bishop John, to the Christians who were part of the church at Laodicea in Asia Minor. The verse says:  “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.”

That’s the verse I want us to sit with and to try to absorb this morning. I think it is an answer to the question I’ve been asking last Sunday and this Sunday. How do we receive Christ?

What do we see in this verse?

In this verse, all Christ wants is company. All Christ wants is a relationship. In this verse, Christ doesn’t want to do anything to us or have us do anything to him. Christ doesn’t want to improve us. Christ doesn’t want to save us. Not in this verse. Christ doesn’t want to scold us or praise us. Christ doesn’t want to take care of us or be taken care of. Christ does not want us to do anything for him.

Christ just wants to eat with us and for us to eat with him.

In biblical times, meals were about much more than fueling. I read biking magazines and running magazines and they talk about eating as fueling.  In biblical times, eating was not just about eating. It was about being together.

When Christ says in this verse – “I will come in and eat with you and you with me.” The Greek verb for “eat” is a word that implies having supper. The end-of-the-day meal. The meal when all the work for the day is done and families and friends can be with one another and enjoy the food and good company.

People in biblical times ate sitting on the floor. When there was a table it was just a few inches high. People stretched their legs out behind them and leaned on their left arms with pillows behind their backs. There were no individual plates, only the dishes the food was served on. There was no silverware. People ate with only one hand. They dipped bread into the sauces and ate meat with their fingers.

There was no way to eat fast. Supper was not as much about fueling as it was about relaxing, enjoying each other’s company, sharing thoughts and feelings.

In the church we often call this fellowship. Fellowship is being with another person or other people with no agenda.

Have you ever been invited to a meal when you thought it was just going to be an evening of conversation and fellowship and then halfway through the evening you discover there was an agenda? Have you ever known someone who you can never just hang out with without them having an agenda? It gets tiresome.

Have you ever had a spouse or a partner and you sit down with him or her at the end of the day and you are trying to relax with a glass of wine, say, and they inevitably have a list of problems that need to be solved or tasks that need to be done? It has never happened to me but I’ve been told it can be stressful.

The imagery of this verse from Revelation suggests that Christ does not want his relationship with us to be driven primarily by agenda … not our agenda, not his. Christ just wants to know us and for us to know him.

I think that the reason we get into trouble all too often with Bible study is because we do Bible study with an agenda. The best and highest purpose of Bible study is to have fellowship with God … to come to know the heart of the One whom we have called God. Christ reveals to us the heart of God.

All I want to know when I study the Bible, or for that matter when I study other religion and traditions, is to get a sense of the heart of the Creator.

So one of the things this verse is about is the quality of the relationship Christ wants with us. Christ wants fellowship with us.

And fellowship with Christ is also at the same time fellowship with our own deepest self. How many of us have much fellowship with our own selves, I wonder? Many of us have two gears – engagement and distraction. We are either, working and trying to shape the world around us, or we are trying to lose ourselves in a book, or TV, or music, or something.

Having fellowship with Christ is also having fellowship with our own deepest self, and it is also having fellowship with others.

Our capacity for intimacy with others may depend on our willingness to be intimate with Christ.

Fellowship is really important. John Ortberg came across a study that tracked the lives of 7,000 people over nine years. The study discovered that isolated and disconnected people were three times more likely to die sooner that people with strong relational connections and friendships.

They found that people who had bad health habits like smoking, poor eating habits, no exercise, alcohol use, and so one … people with bad health habits but lots of fellowship in their lives lived significantly longer than people who had great health habits – jogging and everything – but who were isolated from others.

John Ortberg’s conclusion from reading that study is that it is better to eat Twinkies with good friends than to eat broccoli alone.  

Fellowship – relationship without an agenda – is critically important to our health and well-being and it is the kind of relationship Christ wants with us.

So to receive Christ we need to set aside our agenda and be willing to just eat supper with him and him with us.

Another image in this verse is Christ knocking at the door. “Listen,” he says, “I am standing at the door, knocking. If you hear my voice and will open the door I will come in.”

Christ wants fellowship with us. Christ doesn’t wait for us to come to him. Christ comes to us and knocks at our door. Christ humbles himself, risks rejection, and seeks out our friendship. 

This prophecy of Christ knocking at the door was given to the church in Laodicea. Laodicea was a thriving city in biblical times. It was perhaps the most affluent city in Asia Minor.

Laodicea led Asia Minor in three industries – perhaps the three things most people care about most. It was a banking center. It was the Wall Street of Asia Minor. It was a great medical center. It had the most famous medical school and hospital of all Asia Minor. And it was a great textile center. It produced black wool cloth that was used to make the clothing worn at the most significant events and occasions.

It specialized in the three things many of us care about the most – money, health and looking good.

It was a successful and affluent city. It was where the upwardly mobile, highly motivated people of Asia Minor relocated to. It was a city of ambitious busy people.

So Christ says to them, “Listen, I am standing at the door, knocking. If you hear my voice …”

Anybody home? Do you know it is possible for us to not be at home in our own souls? We can’t hear Christ and open the door if we are not at home in our own souls.

It is possible for our souls to be so noisy that we can not hear Christ knocking.

Christ patiently knocks until we come home to our own soul. Christ patiently knocks until we take off our earphones or turn down the TV so we can hear.

Christ wants fellowship with us. Christ knocks at the door of our lives. All we need to do is open the door to receive Christ.

We have some extra doors in our sanctuary this morning. Some of them are labeled … trust. Last Sunday I talked about some of us having a hard time receiving Christ because we find it difficult to trust Christ into our lives. I trust Christ but we don’t trust that Christ would want to live in me.

Some of us live such agenda centered lives that we have a hard time having fellowship with Christ.

Some of us have a hard time being at home in our own lives, listening to hear Christ knock. We are too busy. We are too distracted.


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