"I Stand at the Door"#88-03
Presented on The Lutheran Hour on September 20, 2020
By Rev. Dr. Michael Zeigler, Lutheran Hour Speaker
Copyright 2020 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Luke 24:13-35
They were all gathered together around the table: mom, dad, little Billy, and the pastor from the local church. Mom had spent the whole day getting ready. She cleared the mail and the papers and the unfinished projects off of the table so that they'd have a place to sit and eat. She even had dad dust off the old family Bible and put it in a prominent spot on the coffee table. And she told little Billy to be on his best behavior because pastor was coming over.
So they're all there at the table, and mom says, "Let's pray. Billy, why don't you pray for us? Billy is such a good prayer, Pastor. He says his prayers every day. Billy, would you pray for us?"
And Billy says, "Aw, Mom, I don't want to pray."
And she says, "Come on, Billy. You can pray."
And he says, "I don't know what to say."
She says, "Well, just say what your father said before dinner last night."
So Billy folds his hands, bows his head, and says, "Oh, God. Why do we have to have that preacher over for dinner? Amen."
Look, I get it. I'm a pastor, and when I go over to people's houses, if they don't know me, and all they know about me is that I'm a pastor, and I somehow represent God and Jesus, it can make them uncomfortable. They feel like they have to put on a performance for me, and they think that I'll be grading their performance. And if this happens, when a pastor goes over to someone's house, can you imagine what would happen if Jesus came over to your house? What would that be like to have Jesus over at your house for dinner? It's a good question to ask.
It's a question that Jesus Himself encourages us to ask in the last book of the Bible, the book of Revelation 3:20. Jesus says, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him and he with Me." So this begs the question. If Jesus comes over to your house, what's going to happen?
There's a scene in the Bible that answers this question for us. It's at the end of one of the ancient biographies of Jesus, the Gospel of Luke. And we get an answer to this question because Jesus actually goes over to someone's house. Now, if you read the biography of Jesus written by Luke, you'll notice that Jesus often went over to someone's house for dinner. In the Gospel of Luke alone, we hear about Jesus visiting more than 10 different households. But this one at the end is unique because the people who invite Jesus over, they don't realize it's Jesus. They think He's dead. Why do they think He's dead? Because they saw Him crucified and buried just outside of Jerusalem. He was dead.
Here's how it goes at the end of the Gospel of Luke.
Now look, that very day two of the people who had become followers of Jesus were walking toward a village called Emmaus. It's about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking together about the things that had taken place, and it happened: while they were talking and discussing with one another, Jesus Himself drew near and walked with them. But their eyes were held back. So they didn't know Him. They didn't recognize Him. And He said to them, "What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk along the way?" And they stood still, looking sad. And one of them, a man named Cleopas said to Him, "Are You the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that happened there in these days?" And Jesus said to them, "What things?" And they said, "The things concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a Man who was a prophet, mighty in deed and word before God and before all the people. And how our chief priests and rulers handed Him over to be condemned to death and crucified Him. But we were hoping that He was the One who would redeem Israel. But also besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. And even more, some of the women from our company amazed us after they went to the tomb early in the morning. And after they did not find His body, they came back saying that they had seen a vision, a vision of angels who were saying that He is alive. And some of those who were with us, went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but Him they did not see." And He said to them, "Oh, foolish ones and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken. Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter His glory?" And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He explained to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
Now they drew near to the village where they were walking, and He acted as if he were going to keep walking. And they urged Him strongly saying, "Stay, stay with us. For it is almost evening and the day is far spent." And He went in and stayed with them. And it happened while He was reclining at the table with them, after He took the bread, He blessed it. And after He broke it, He was giving it to them, and their eyes were opened. And they knew Him; they recognized Him, and He vanished from their sight. And they said to each other, "Was not our heart burning within us as He talked to us on the way, and He opened to us the Scriptures?" In that very hour, they got up and they went back to Jerusalem and found the eleven, and those who were gathered together with them and they, the eleven and the others, they said to them, "The Lord is risen, and He has appeared to Simon. And they told about the things that had happened along the road, and how He was known to them in the breaking of the bread."
That scene was from the Bible, from the Gospel of Luke. It's a report about something that actually happened. This next scene, however, is not from the Bible. It's completely fictitious, but I'm going to tell you anyway, because it'll help me make a point.
A German Shepherd, a Doberman Pinscher, and a cat are brought before Jesus, and Jesus the judge is sitting in the judgment seat, and He says, "Shepherd, what do you believe?"
And the Shepherd says, "I believe in being faithful and loyal to my master."
And Jesus says, "Very well, Shepherd, you may sit at My right hand." And He says, "Doberman, what do you believe?"
And the Doberman says, "I believe in doing my best to serve my house, Sir."
And Jesus says, "Very well, Doberman, you may come and sit at My left hand." And He says to the cat, "Cat, what do you believe?"
And the cat says, "I believe that You're in my seat."
What will happen if you invite Jesus into your house? Maybe you're thinking He's going to judge me. He's going to ask me about my beliefs. Nobody likes to feel judged. I think we're more cat-like in this. We're more comfortable doing the judging rather than being judged. But being judged is an inescapable fact of life. Even if you don't invite Jesus over to your house, you're still going to be judged.
Anytime you open yourself up in conversation with another human being, you open yourself up to their judgments. And maybe this is why a lot of people are avoiding real conversations these days. Author Sherry Turkle in her book, Reclaiming Conversation, has observed how more and more often we are turning away from each other and toward our phones and our devices. Communicating with a phone or a device lets you take control of the conversation, get a handle on people's judgments.
It's like getting a handle on a remote control for a television. You don't like what you hear, you can flip the channel. But if you want to truly be human, if you want to empathize with other people and understand where they're coming from, if you want to love and be loved, you want to forgive and be forgiven, you have to be in conversation.
If you invite Jesus into your house, yes, you will be judged. This is not because He is pro-judgment. It's because He's pro-conversation. Think of the conversations that you've had with a good friend, a trusted friend, conversations that were respectful and open and honest. And you've come away from some of those conversations realizing that you missed the mark, that you crossed the line, that you messed things up. This is the way of conversation. Conversation helps us see things in ourselves that we'd rather not see. And Jesus is devoted to conversation because He's devoted to humanity—humanity, not as we are now, but as God intended us to be.
On the road to Emmaus, Jesus does express a judgment. He calls them foolish because their hearts were slow to believe God's promise, and He confronts them about this, as a good friend would. But that's not all that He's doing.
First, He walks with them and He listens to them. He asks them questions, listens to their response. And then He confronts them, and He teaches them, and He invites them to respond. It wasn't Jesus' practice to work people like a remote control. He dialogued on the road and around the dinner table. And He carried this conversation even to the cross where He asked His Father to forgive even those who were crucifying Him.
Jesus is so devoted to the practice of conversation that not even death and judgment could keep Him from it. And He has risen from the dead to invite you into this dialogue. Conversations with Jesus happen today when He speaks to us through the Bible, when He confronts us and comforts us with His Word and we respond to Him in prayer, and we dialogue with others who are in conversation with Jesus. And this exchange of words, it humanizes us. It broadens our horizons and brings us into a bigger story, a story with Jesus, a story that doesn't end in death and judgment, but in forgiveness and new life. There's a cartoon from The New Yorker, pictures a man and a woman sitting on opposite sides of a living room. Her arms are crossed. His brow is furrowed. They are not talking with each other. They're not even looking at each other.
A little boy walks in and he says, "Dad, what's wrong?"
And he says, "Your mother and I are going to separate."
And he says, "Why?"
And he answers, "Because I want what's best for the country and your mother doesn't."
Maybe you think that's what will happen if you invite Jesus into your house, that He's going to divide you. And there's some truth to this. See, Jesus makes uncompromising claims. He says, "Whoever is not with Me is against Me." And if you recognize Him to be the Creator and the Savior and the King of all people, then He alone has the right to make such a claim.
When Jesus goes into a house, some will stand with Him in faith, but others won't get out of their seat. They won't let go of the remote control. And this causes divisions, but it's not because Jesus is pro-division. It's because He's pro-household. And if He didn't go into that house because He was afraid of causing divisions, then that house would be lost forever. And so He's willing to risk division to save the household.
Look how it happened when He went into this household at Emmaus. Now we don't know the details about this household. We're only told that one guy's named Cleopas, and we don't know anything about the other individual. So it could have been a husband and wife household. It could have been an uncle and a nephew household. They could have been roommates. We don't know. And so, imagine it's your household that Jesus goes into and look at how Jesus brings them together. They say, "Did not our heart burn within us?" The old King James translation gets it right. It's not our hearts plural. It's our heart singular. Jesus came into that house and united their hearts as one. And then as soon as they recognize Him, He disappears. Why?
Well, on another occasion, Jesus was visiting in someone else's house and a divisive argument erupted. To address the division in that home, Jesus brought a small child next to Him, and He said to them, "Whoever welcomes this child, this small household member in My Name, welcomes Me." Maybe that's why He's removed Himself from our sight as we wait for Him to return. If we want to see Jesus now, we have to look for Him in others, starting with the members of our own household, and in the guests to our household, in the breaking of bread, and in our life together.
Once there was a pastor who went to visit Janice, an elderly widow in his congregation. He went up to Janice's front door and knocked, but there was no answer. He peeked in through the window, and he could see that the lights were on, so he knew that she had to be in there. So he knocked again and waited, knock some more, and nothing. So he left her a note at her door, and all he said was "Dear Janice, Revelation 3:20. Pastor."
And he knew that Janice would be curious, and she'd look up the verse, and there she would see the words of Jesus, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock and whoever hears My voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him and he with Me."
Three days later, pastor finds a note on his desk. It says, "Dear Pastor, Genesis 3:10. Janice." And he's thinking, "What does Genesis 3:10 say?" So he opens it up and he reads, "I heard the sound of you in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, and I hid myself."
Ever since the Garden of Eden when our first parents tried to seize control, we've been more or less hiding from God in our makeshift houses. But He has sent His only Son, not ultimately to judge, not ultimately to divide, but to seek and to save. He walks with us because He's pro-conversation. He comes into us because He is pro-household. He is the Guest who will become the Host for all who trust in Him.
Would you pray with me? Lord Jesus, You stand at the door and knock, and You call me to open the door. So I open the door to You, not just the door of my heart, but the door of my home. Be for me and the members of my household that burning fire that makes our hearts one. Because You live and You reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
Reflections for September 20, 2020
Title: I Stand at the Door
Mike Zeigler : Once again, I'm getting to visit with Don Everts. He's the author of this book we've been talking about, The Spiritually Vibrant Home. He's also the manager for content development with Lutheran Hour Ministries. Welcome back, Don.
Don Everts: Good to be with you, Mike.
Mike Zeigler: And joining Don and I today is Rev. Dr. Jason Broge. He is the director for design and development for Lutheran Hour Ministries, and an all-around great guy. Thanks for joining us, Jason.
Jason Broge: Thanks for having me, Mike. It's a pleasure to be here, as always.
Mike Zeigler: So we've been talking about the spiritually vibrant home or the household. Real briefly, define household again for us, Don.
Don Everts: Yes. So a household is the people you live with and the people who are in and out of your home. So you can think of it as your core household, the people that sleep there at night, and then your extended household, the people who are in and out of your home, or maybe you're in and out of their home as well.
Mike Zeigler: Okay. So not just people who live under your roof ...
Don Everts: That's right.
Mike Zeigler: ... but people you do life with together.
Don Everts: That's right. Yep.
Mike Zeigler: And we've been talking about spiritual vibrancy and have mentioned these characteristics of a spiritually vibrant home. And today we talked about one of the characteristics—you call it in your book, "loud tables" or, more specifically, "households that engage in spiritual conversations." Now, what do we mean by spiritual conversations? That sounds kind of deep and serious.
Don Everts: It's actually not a high bar. It's anytime you're talking about your faith, or your doubt, or your lack of faith.
Mike Zeigler: Jason, if you were talking with a Christian friend, and that friend expressed to you that they don't really talk about faith in their household, and with the members of their house, but they go to church together and they feel like that's enough. What would you want to say to that friend?
Jason Broge: Most Christians aren't having spiritual conversations. And we looked at the reasons for that. And we found that people felt like there were barriers to that. They had to segment their life between church and the rest of their life. When in actuality when we look at Scripture, we see a very different sort of view. We see that God is inviting us to be having these spiritual conversations all of the time with everyone and, most specifically, definitely, with those people we live with, those most intimate relationships. This central stuff about our faith—these things that matter so much—are the things that we should learn to be comfortable talking about with the people we care most about.
Mike Zeigler: And I like how you say, "learn to be comfortable with," and that goes back with what you said, Don, that the bar doesn't have to be so high as in have a formal devotion or Bible study, but just simply talking about even your doubts, the things that you're struggling with.
Don Everts: It's not religious per se. You know what I mean? We tend to think it has to be in a religious tone or with a religious language and that sort of thing. And it's talking about your faith, right? If you're talking with people in your household about your faith, there's a correlation between that characteristic, that habit, in the household, and having a more vibrant faith.
Mike Zeigler: This is part of an ongoing partnership that we've engaged with Barna Group, studying, specifically in this case, Christian households. We asked them tons of questions, and one of them was about spiritual conversations. Jason, what do you remember about some insights that arose for you in looking at that research?
Jason Broge: We noticed there were some interesting correlations. The households that are having these spiritual conversations are more likely to be having fun together. They're more likely to do everything from watch movies together, to go out to eat together, to play sports together, read a book together, play games together. The households that are having spiritual conversations together are more likely to be having fun together as well.
Don Everts: If the whole household is together, the odds are they're at a table and there's food. It's not like some dour devotional and it's very serious, but that conversations are likely to happen when there's food involved. And that's encouraging. How do I get more spiritual conversations? Well, eat meals together, right? It's a great first step. That being said, the research did also point out that some households struggle to have spiritual conversations. And there's some interesting things in the research—nuclear families with adult children—if the children have come back home and are adult now, but are living in their home, statistically speaking, they're less likely to be talking about their faith as a household. The folks who are older generations tend to talk about their faith a little bit less. So, just some interesting trends in the research as well.
Jason Broge: So there's something about finding the time intentionally to be together. I mean, Don talked earlier about it. It doesn't have to be a high bar to get these things moving. And this kind of fear of "Maybe I need to know everything about the Bible. Maybe I need to have all the answers." No! It could be questions; it could be simple things. It could be the things you're struggling with. But if you're not having that time together, you're not creating the opportunity for these spiritual conversations to happen.
Mike Zeigler: Well, maybe someone's listening right now and thinking that they would like to grow or take a step forward. Would you have a recommendation on maybe one step that someone could take to grow in this area?
Jason Broge: I think you can start with questions. What's the thing you're wondering about? It could be a deep doubt, it could be something that you just didn't understand in the Bible. Put that out there during that time together. Ask a question. "Does anybody actually know why this story occurred, or why this happened?" Or "I was listening to this sermon on The Lutheran Hour, and I'd never heard that story before," and see where it goes from there—anything that comes next. Unless people just sit there stone-faced and stare at you and say nothing, it's going to be a spiritual conversation, and it is going to begin the process of growing some fruit. We also have a number of resources here at Lutheran Hour Ministries that we have created designed to help you. We have online free Bible studies.
We even have a card deck that has conversation prompts. It works as just a card deck, but it's also a playful way to get spiritual conversations going. So if there's anything that we can do for you, we want to be able to do that for you, to help you get that started when you're ready to make a step.
Mike Zeigler: We worked on this series of sermons together. The three of us have talked about it with others, from Lutheran Hour Ministries and Jason, you're going to be bringing the Word to us next week, talking about another attribute or characteristic of a vibrant household: hospitality. What could we as listeners be doing to prepare our hearts, to receive God's Word in the message next week?
Jason Broge: As we talked about households of faith, this is the characteristic that I most frequently get questions about. Like, "Why are you spending time on hospitality? That doesn't seem biblical." And so, here would be my challenge. If you're getting ready for next week, maybe spend some time and pick an epistle from the New Testament. Maybe it's 1 Peter, maybe it's going to be Philippians, or something from Paul. Maybe it's going to even be Hebrews. Keep an eye out for how often and when hospitality is mentioned, I think you'll be surprised. It shows up again and again, throughout the New Testament. Read the Book of Acts and see the descriptions of hospitality that play themselves out, and then we'll spend some more time talking about it next week.
Mike Zeigler: Thank you both for joining us.
Don Everts: Good to be with you.
Jason Broge: Thank you.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Salvation Unto Us Has Come" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)