Summary: Communion is a celebration of the One who opened what we could not open ourselves – the door of Heaven. He opened it on the cross and then He walked through the door of death and He waits for us on the other side where He will call us by our name and welcome us into His Temple.
Before I moved here, I was asked to preach at my very first appointment … Anthony United Methodist Church in Anthony, FL. I was their pastor from 1994 to the year 2000. They were kind. They were patient. They had to suffer through a lot of boring … and honestly … terrible sermons and I made a lot of mistakes. The Number One fear that they had … one that we discussed at countless committee meetings, parking lot meetings, and church suppers … was the fact that they used to be a much bigger church … well, much bigger than they were by the time I became their pastor. In the 50s and 60s they had over a hundred regular attendees on Sunday morning. By the time I got there, they were struggling to get 20 people to come on Sunday morning. It was the same 10 or 12 people serving on all the committees and doing most of the work and we were constantly looking at the bottom-line and hoping and praying that we would survive another year. Sound familiar?
Twenty-two years had passed since the last time I preached from their pulpit and I just had to point something out to them. For all their fretting … for all their fears and worry … it was 22 years later and they were still there … the doors were still open … there were about 20 or so people there … and they were still looking at the bottom-line and wondering if they would still be there next year.
The question we’re going to be looking at today is this … what does our church look like through our eyes and how does this church look through the eyes of Jesus and we’re going to do that by looking at how Jesus saw the church in Philadelphia.
Throughout this series I have been preaching about Jesus’ seven letters to seven churches. To be Biblically and historically correct, there were no “churches” at all when Jesus wrote His letters … not in the way that we understand them. The word “church” is a mistranslation of the Greek word “ecclesia” … which means “the called ones.” What Jesus was writing to in all of these cities were communities or collections of believers who gathered because they were called by God.
As I have pointed out several times, Jesus starts out each of His letters by describing Himself. I had also pointed out that they came from John’s description of Jesus in Revelation 1:12-16: hair white as snow, eyes like flames of fire, his feet shining like burnished bronze, standing among the seven lampstands or churches of Asia Minor. To the Christian community at Ephesus, He describes Himself as the One who holds the seven stars in His right hand and walks among the seven lampstands (Revelation 2:1). To the community in Smyrna, He describes Himself as the Alpha and Omega … to the community in Pergamum, He is a two-edged sword … to the community in Thyatira He is the one who has eyes of fire … and to the community in Sardis, He is the one who holds the seven stars or angels in the palm of His right hand … but the description that He uses in His letter to the Christian community in Philadelphia is not found in John’s description in Revelation 1:12-16: “These are the words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens” (Revelation 3:7).
Jesus describes Himself as the One who has the “key of David.” In Isaiah 22, the Bible says that Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, was responsible for the “key of the House of David” (v. 22). Notice that the word “key” is singular. We’re not talking about a physical key that opened all the doors in David’s palace. I’m sure that there were many doors requiring many different keys in David’s kingdom just as I have a ring of “keys” for both of our churches and a set of “keys” for the parsonage. The word “key” is singular because it represents Eliakim’s “authority.” What he opened stayed open … if he said this will happen, it happened … and if he said something wouldn’t happen, that door was shut and the only one who could open it again was Eliakim. In other words, the king trusted him and he had the king’s authority to speak and to act on the king’s behalf or in the king’s absence.
Jesus has the “key of David” … only Jesus has the key that opens a whole lot more than the kingdom or House of David … which no longer existed at the time that He wrote this letter. Jesus has the key to what then? He has the key to Heaven … to the City of God! Again, the word “key” is singular. Jesus only needs the key to one door … the front door of Heaven. Once inside, there is no need for any other keys because there will be no need for locks. Locks are designed to keep people out. Locks and doors are designed to keep things safe. Safe from what? In Heaven there is no need to keep things safe. There is no need to protect things because God is there … our shield and our protection, amen? Unlike the Christians in the city of Philadelphia, once we’re inside the city of God, we are totally safe. Who is going to steal from us? Who can storm the walls of Heaven and take us away as slaves? Who would even dare to attack the City of God and take what is His, amen?