Summary: We are not shut out: Jesus includes us by giving us knowledge, by giving us a place in His mission, and by paying the price to see that we are included in the Kingdom.
A number of years ago I saw a very provocative poster. It was a depiction of the doors of Washington. Nothing more than a series of doors, arranged in rows on the poster, probably twenty or twenty-five, all photographs of various doors in this city.
Some of them were beautifully simple doorways to private homes. Some were grand doorways to office buildings and government structures, public places.
Some were old and some were new. Some were drab and some were ornate. Some felt inviting and warm; others felt forbidding and cold. But there was one thing common to all of them. There was one common denominator among all the doors of Washington. They were all closed. Every door on that poster was shut. Shut and locked tight.
That poster, I think, broadcasts a message about our world. The message is that no matter where you go, somebody is being shut out. No matter what kind of place it is, whether it is a home or a store, an office or a factory; whether it is a school or a church, a hospital or a theater, somebody is being shut out. Somebody is constantly being told, "You may not enter here."
Being shut out is an experience common to all of us. But there are some ways of being shut out that are especially burdensome. There are some doors, when closed, which bring particular pain.
A generation ago, or less, we would have been talking about the closed doors of opportunity. We would have been weeping that just because you were female or just because you were black or just because you were not American or just because just because … you were shut out. If you tried to make it through, well you found the doors slammed shut in your face.
I think I have mentioned before how, somewhere back in the middle ages, I started out as an engineering student. The first day of classes the dean got us all together and said, as deans everywhere do, "Look to your right and then look to your left. Because the chances are that at graduation only one of the three of you will be there.” Well, I looked to my right, and saw my friend, who, as a chemistry nut had persuaded me to enter engineering school, and I thought, "He might be the one who makes it." Then I looked to my left, and saw … remember we are talking about 1955 now ... I saw the only member of the entering class who was both black and female. What did I think about her? You know. I thought, "She won’t make it. Not a prayer." And, unfortunately, I was right. She didn’t last the first semester. The truth is that the door was really slammed shut in her face. In 1955 blacks and women didn’t get far in the engineering fraternity.
I say, we used to talk about people being shut out because of circumstances like race or poverty or place of birth. Praise God, many of those doors have been opened. But that does not mean that the problem is solved. That does not mean that no longer is anybody shut out.
No, in fact, I would argue that today it is even more sinister to be shut out. Today people are shut out emotionally and spiritually. Today people are shut out, either by their own bad choices or because someone else has stolen their sense of belonging. Today people are shut out, not just because of where they were born or into what circumstances they came, but because emotionally and spiritually, some terrible choices are being made.
I am thinking about children who have to raise themselves because their parents are so into their own thing that they do not invest in the children. One of the realities about the use of drugs and alcohol is that these habits so draw a person inward to focus on his own wants that he cannot spend any energy on anyone else, not even his own children. Many children today are being shut out.
I am thinking about emotionally deprived people, spiritually damaged people, who seem to be flying blind. People who have no moral compass, no sense of right and wrong, no guidance. We are seeing more and more of this in the news, stories of people who kill apparently at random, who will kill just for the thrill of killing, who will take lives just because somebody is in the way. A couple of years ago your life could be forfeited to some youngster if you were in the way of his getting sneakers and a jacket. Well, those kids have grown up. Now it’s your gold-plated car wheels that will get you shot. But whatever the object of desire is, the point is that somebody is taking life not just because he or she wants something. They are taking life because they feel emotionally and spiritually shut out, closed off. Nobody else matters.