Summary: Interactive sermon on the anxieties involved in sharing our faith and on the power of being prepared, both intellectually and emotionally.
Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.
Closed doors intimidate me. If your door is closed, I want to leave it alone. I don’t like to knock and ask for admission. I want somebody to welcome me first, and then I’ll cross the threshold. But closed doors intimidate me.
I took my first job when I was sixteen years old. I rode a bicycle and delivered prescriptions and other items to the customers of a small pharmacy. Would anybody care to guess what my pay rate was back in ’54? (That’s 19 – 54!!). It was the princely sum of 55 cents an hour! Now, in order to earn this magnificent wage, I had to ride out to various homes in the community with their orders, ring their doorbells, give them their goods, and collect the money. That felt awkward. I never knew how I would be received. Sometimes I had to listen to complaints about the prices or about how I didn’t get there fast enough. Sometimes people gave me a hard time when I came to their doors. There would always be a problem. Some doors were hard to knock on; some thresholds were not welcoming.
Now, what do you think? Did I do the job or not? Did I go ahead and knock? Or did I back off and return to the store, goods undelivered, bill uncollected? What do you think? Which won over – shyness or responsibility? Personal discomfort or my duty as a drugstore worker? Why?
INTERACT [getting paid mattered]
About the same time in my life, my church decided to conduct a religious census. Now, David Sorrell, just hold back on the “Amens” until I finish this story! My church decided that as a good church that wanted to share its witness, we needed to know who lived in our community. We needed to know whether they had church homes. And so we set out with teams of church members to knock on doors and ask a few simple questions – who lives in this home, and does everyone have a church home? Pretty simple, right? Just get it down on a card – Mrs. Jones is a Presbyterian, Mr. Jones goes to the Catholic Church, and all the little Joneses are happy pagans, right! Simple. Easy. No problem.
Except that my shyness kicked in, big time. This hurt! This was painful! It was relatively easy at the first house I went to, because nobody was home! Hallelujah, thank you, Jesus! And it was almost as easy at the second house, because I knew these people, and, glory be, they were all members of my church already. So I dutifully filled out cards on mom and dad and grandma and four kids. I lingered long at this house. I thought about filling out a card on the family cat, just so I could stay a little longer. No pain at this threshold. Easy.
But then came the third house. Who lives here? I already knew that she was an elderly widow, living alone. And I knew her name. But I didn’t know that key information – where is your church home? I knocked; I listened, hoping she wasn’t home. I’ll give her thirty seconds to answer! But here she came, unlocking that door. Fast on her feet for an old lady! Well, stumbling on my words, with my tang tungled up, I told her why I was there and what I wanted to know, and she said, “Mighty personal stuff you’re asking! What are you going to do with the information if I give it to you?”
What should I have said? What should my answer have been to that question?
INTERACT [need to have had an answer ready!]
She probably thought, they are going to send crowd of missionaries to my house. Or maybe they are going to flood my mailbox with junk mail inviting you to everything from Bible studies to chicken dinners to revival services? I frankly don’t remember what I did get out, but she said, “Well, if you must know, I am Jewish, I go to Temple Adath Israel, and I’m sure you won’t need to contact me.” And she slammed that door! Now that’s pain at the threshold, isn’t it? She was irritated, I was embarrassed, nobody was happy. There was pain at that threshold.
What do you think I did about the fourth house? And the fifth house? Do you think I went to the rest of the block? Did I complete my census assignment? Did I do what I had promised to do, or did I let my personal discomfort get to me? Did I square my shoulders and march down that block, bravely ringing every doorbell and filling out every card? Or did I suddenly develop a headache and turn toward home?