Sermon July 28, 2019

“God’s Open Door Policy”
Rev. Jeffrey Long-Middleton
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
Luke 11:1-13
July 28, 2019

 So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.  For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.– Luke 11:9 & 10i

The scientific method — it has brought us everything from roach repellent to rockets. It is the method that makes the modern world go around and the method is relatively simple: observe, ask a question, formulate a hypothesis, test the hypothesis though experimentation, report the findings and formulate new theories. Simple. But in order for one’s findings to have any scientific merit, they must be replicatable. If the boiling point of water is 211.3°F then it holds true at the parsonage and at your home. We could replicate an experiment and test this hypothesis that water always boils at 211.3°F. But it isn’t always true. Go to the top of Mount Everest (29,029 feet) and water will boil at 160°F a much lower temperature. How do we know? We observed the phenomenon over and over again.1

And today the promise made by Jesus can be likened to the scientific method! Jesus tells us that EVERYONE who seeks, finds; EVERYONE who knocks has the door opened to them, and if ANYONE asks they receive. So today I would ask you two things:

  1. Has this been true for you? Have you asked and received, knocked and had the door opened, sought and found?

That’s the first question and this is the second:

  1. What must people of faith do to cling to these promises?

The first question you must answer for yourself. I ardently hope that this promise of Jesus has proven true in your life. My heart is filled with sorrow for those who cannot say that they sought and found, knocked and the door opened, asked and received. It must be terribly hard to maintain a faith in God when there is no evidence of God caring. My prayer is that you keep trusting the promise even though it has not yet come to fulfillment. Is it not true that sometimes the journey to the answer of our deepest questions is the journey itself, that in pursuing the unknown we come to know? It was the poet Rilke who said, “We learn by going / which way we are to go.” So it is in the life of faith.

I know this is not an easy answer. How we all would like to have the promises of Jesus fulfilled in an instant of time. But sometimes we must journey with the question before we can discern the answer. We may knock and find ourselves ushered into a room we never expected. We may seek and find that what we had dismissed as worthless becomes the pearl of great price.

When Israel out of Egypt came, it would be forty years before they entered the promised land. Many who started the journey would never see what God had promised, but was not the journey part of the fulfillment of the promise?

Our first question can be answered by you and it will take an openness to journey and quest for the answer. If our reading from Luke 11 is our guide, know that the promises often do not come with a bang. They unfold. The door you knocked on, the answer you sought, the spiritual truth you sought may be right before you, but it is in the journey to the promise that makes us see.

If our first question was whether the promises made by Jesus have been true for you, our second question is: What must we do to cling to the promises of Jesus? Here’s my list:

  1. Persevere. Persistence is at the heart of faith. From Hebrews 11:1 comes this: “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Only those who dare to live as if the promises are true can find them truthful.

Remember the beginning of our scripture lesson this morning? Jesus tells a parable of a person going to a friend’s home and asking for some hors d’oeuvers to set before some unexpected guests. It’s midnight. This was well before the invention of the electric light bulb. The house is shut tight, which usually meant there was something thrown against the front door. If your friend did get up, he would have to remove the barrier, light a lamp and by its rather frail light find what this friend had requested. You have to be a really good friend to get me out of bed if those are the circumstances! But this friend is undeterred. The homeowner is awake now and this friend keeps banging on the door and shouting out this request for food. To stop the knocking, to stop the shouting, the owner of the home gets and fetches the hors d’ouvers. The owner did it, not out of compassion for the need of his friend, but because the friend kept at it. Persistence was the key. Jesus is telling us that the door opens, the thing is found, the answer comes, but not in the immediacy of the moment, that persistence is the key to having the promises fulfilled.

  1. As much as possible, free your mind of preconceived notions of what lies behind the door. I cannot tell you how often I have heard from people within the church that what they received from God was not what they had expected, that the gift they sought was wrapped in the crucible of suffering. It took all they had to work through the crucible to the promise. God’s mercy, God’s gift, is sometimes the very thing that we seek to be delivered from. Our preconceptions of how God is supposed to act on the human stage, often makes it impossible to see God at all.
  1. Listen to the witness of those around you. I have been privileged to hear the struggles some of you faced. God moved in the midst of your darkness and there, in the corner of the unexpected, you found the light of hope. Listen to the voices of those whose faith has been tested by the fires of hell and who yet rise again. They are here in our midst — the silent witnesses of promises fulfilled.
  1. Never forget the unending purpose of God. It is a love that knows no bounds, that would go into the depths of hell to redeem the world. Search for that presence and you will find. It’s a promise.

Let us pray…

1From Boiling Temperature of water The IUPAC recommended standard boiling point of water at a standard pressure of 100 kPa (1 bar) is 99.61 °C (211.3 °F). For comparison, on top of Mount Everest, at 8,848 m (29,029 ft) elevation, the pressure is about 34 kPa (255 Torr) and the boiling point of water is 71 °C (160 °F).

iLuke 11:1-13

1 He was praying in a certain place, and after he had finished, one of his disciples said to him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.’ 2He said to them, ‘When you pray, say:
Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
3   Give us each day our daily bread.
4   And forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us.
And do not bring us to the time of trial.’

And he said to them, ‘Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, “Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; 6for a friend of mine has arrived, and I have nothing to set before him.” 7And he answers from within, “Do not bother me; the door has already been locked, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.” 8I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, at least because of his persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

‘So I say to you, Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. 10For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. 11Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for a fish, will give a snake instead of a fish? 12Or if the child asks for an egg, will give a scorpion? 13If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!’