The Third Sunday after Pentecost -- Proper 4A (6/1/2008)
Write Them on Your Doorpost
Lessons: Deuteronomy 11:18-21, 26-28 Psalm 31:1-5, 19-24 Romans 1:16-17, 3:22b-28 [29-31] St. Matthew 7:21-29 Semicontinuous Reading and Psalm: Genesis 6:9-22; 7:24; 8:14-19 Psalm 46
Prayer of the Day: O God our rock, you offer us a covenant of mercy, and you provide the foundation of our lives. Ground us in your word, and strengthen our resolve to be your disciples, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
7.21 "Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?' 23 Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.'
24 "Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. 25 The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. 27 The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell-and great was its fall!"
28 Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, 29 for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.
St. Matthew 7:21-29, New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
In the 1990s, I had the privilege of being the founding pastor of a Lutheran congregation in the Phoenix area. I spent the first three months of that call knocking on doors, seeking people to work with me in starting this new church. Every once in a while I would see a small brass object fixed to the doorframe of the front door. People I met in those homes were usually polite, but uninterested in becoming part of my church. Finally, one person (more irritated with me than concerned about my theological development) explained to me that this object was called a Mezuzah, and that affixing one to the front door was a Jewish custom, in response to Deuteronomy 11:20 (which is included in this week's first lesson).
I immediately realized that my unenlightened invitation for those neighbors of mine to join me in forming a new Christian church was probably not the most sensitive or pastoral act I had ever taken. For a time, I was tempted not to knock on the door when I saw a Mezuzah. After a while I began to knock on those doors to introduce myself, and to share my hope that this new Lutheran congregation would be a good neighbor to them in years to come.
Eventually, I became a bit envious of them. I wished that my tribe had a similar tradition.
Actually, I write that with some hesitation, because I do remember that when I was first ordained a pastor, many of my colleagues affixed a "clergy" sticker to their bumpers. It was often the ticket to good parking spots at hospitals, but I was always afraid to put one on my car. I tend to be a "Martha of Bethany" driver - worried and distracted about many things [Luke 10:40] - and I always feared that I would unknowingly cut someone off, and leave them muttering under their breath about the rotten Christian pastor who just ran them off the road.
I wonder, though, whether this Jewish practice might be helpful for us Christians. What if God's word was prominently displayed on our front doors? Would it serve as a reminder to us, every time we entered our homes, of who (whose) we are? Would it remind us that we are children of God, forgiven by grace? That we are called to build our lives on the word of Christ? That a life centered on the word of Christ is like a house built on a rock solid foundation? Would it be a witness to those who visit our homes of how important our relationship with God is?
I'm sure there would be times when we'd mess up, and our sinfulness would be even more embarrassing (than if there wasn't something publicly declaring our faith). But on balance, it still might be a helpful reminder for all of us - of the grace that has claimed us, and of our call to build our lives on the word of Christ.
In Deuteronomy 11, Moses taught the Israelites to put God's word in their heart and soul, to bind them as a sign on their hands, to fix them as an emblem on their foreheads, to write them on the doorposts of their homes.
I'm not sure I'm ready to tattoo a fish on my forehead, or permanently wear a WWJD bracelet. But this weekend's lessons come to me as a strong reminder to keep the words of Jesus before me always, to build my life on them, and to remember that the word of Christ which calls us to faithfulness is a gift. It is a gift that helps us withstand the storms of life. It is a gift that empowers us to live into the grace of the one whose death and resurrection has saved us. It is a gift that transforms our lives, and despite our brokenness, allows us to become public witnesses of God's power.
David J. Risendal
Exploring This Week's Text:
- Why did Moses instruct the people of Israel to display the word of God on their front doors?
- Why did Jesus compare believers who act on his word with a homeowner who builds a house on a rock foundation?
- What does it mean that it takes more than words to experience the kingdom of heaven?
Connecting with This Week's Text:
- When has it been hard for me to live according to God's word?
- When have I been able to experience faithfulness to God's word?
- How would it change my faithfulness, or my trust in God's promises, to have the word prominently displayed on the front door of my home?