Summary: This sermon is a short story called A Closed Door.
The Closed Door-
Over the last few weeks we have examined the life and ministry of Nehemiah. How when he received a report of the devastation of Jerusalem was faced with a choice. He chose to get involved and risk his life and go before the king and ask first for permission to go to Jerusalem to rebuild its wall and second for financial resources to make it happen. Once in Jerusalem he saw the despair and the devastation for himself. The Next morning he challenges all the people to dream and again and do the impossible Rebuild the wall. The people responded and together did the impossible; they rebuilt the wall in 52 days. God gave to the people an open door of opportunity- They chose to together walk through it and God was once again honored glorified and lifted up within and throughout the area of Jerusalem.
But what if they people had responded differently what if instead of risking and trusting they murmured and grumbled looking down and the problem instead of up and the answer. What would have happened? Trials, tragedies, crises, and pain fall on all. Problems and situations that seem insurmountable and impossible. When these situations come, how do we respond. Do we trust and walk through the open door or do we shake our heads in despair and simply quit?
This morning, I feel led to do something a little bit different. The remainder of this message is a short story. A story that practically illustrates the choices that each of us have and also the consequences of these choices. As you listen to this story that is purely fiction, try to imagine and picture yourself there- experiencing it all firsthand for yourself.
It was a brisk cool fall day. For some reason, I found myself driving aimlessly down a country road. Being less time conscious, I found myself looking intently at my surroundings. As I drove, I saw stately oak trees with their gray moss hanging low, I saw barns filled to its brim with odds and ends, and I saw bare fields that showed signs of a recent harvest. But as the road curved, I saw something that seemed to draw me like a magnet, a small church.
The church was no longer active. Windows were broken, trees and grass were overgrown, and a once used parking lot was now weed and ant infested. As I walked around the church grounds, I saw its sign, The church’s sign. A sign that had once hung proudly, now laying face down below. As I turned the sign over, I read its words: Elim Baptist Church.
As I walked around the church building, it seem to beckon me to come inside. At first I shook off the notion, but soon my curiosity got the best of me. In the back of the church was a broken window with a break large enough for me to crawl through. Once inside the church, each room and each wall seemed to echo its history A history that once was.
Once inside, I began to walk down a hallway, As I walked, doors were opened into various classrooms. On the walls of these classrooms were posters chronicling many years of Sunday school lessons. In fact some of the tables still contained used Sunday school material. On the door of one of the classrooms was a banner that read High Attendance. One of the rooms must been their nursery. Its floor was littered with toys and in one corner lay a crib mattress with its stuffing mostly gone.
As the hall T- off leading into two different directions. I was drawn to a picture. The picture contained about 60-70 people- all dressed in Sunday clothes. I guessed it must have been taken after a Sunday morning service. Looking a little closer, I dusted off an inscription that read Elim Baptist Church April 1985. As I looked closely at the faces of each of the people, I saw both young and old. I saw many smiles. I saw in the faces of the people a sense of pride saying this is my church. Eyes that seemed to be filled with hope. And yet 15 years later… Where were they? Where was that hope? Where was that pride? Why had they forsaken their church? As I continued to roam, questions abounded. What happened to bring all this about?
After lingering at the picture, I walked toward what appeared to be the church’s sanctuary. Once inside, I was amazed. Other than dust, spider webs, and a occasional mouse, the sanctuary was in relatively good shape. Many of its pews were still in place, as well as its pulpit and communion table.
As I walked through this sanctuary, a sense of not only sadness, but of reverent fear swept over me. This sanctuary had been a place where God had been worshipped, where men and women had been saved, where community weddings and funerals had taken place,- It was God’s house. This fear lead me first to a pew and then to the altar where I knelt before my God praying out loud. “ Lord”, why did this happen? Why is empty? Why is its door closed