Devotion: “Jesus Knocking”

In the building of the church I’m currently serving as interim, there’s  a “Jesus Knocking at the Door” stained glass window.

And there’s a copy of the traditional painting in Fellowship Hall downstairs.  It’s very common; this isn’t the first church I’ve served that’s had that image in the building somewhere.   The pleasant “Nordic” Jesus raps on the heavy door with one knuckle; looks like maybe he’s been going house-to-house and is a little tired.  Needs coffee.  Actually, he wants more.

 “Listen! I stand at the door and knock; if any hear my voice and open the door, I will come into their house and eat with them, and they will eat with me.” (Revelation 3:20)

I used to think that this verse was about his desire to enter the lives of those who don’t believe in him. While Jesus does have that desire, that’s not what the verse is about.  He’s knocking on the door of the church and he’s there because he’s not happy (read all of verses 14-21, to the church of Laodicea, in modern Turkey). They are too comfortable with their stuff; they are “lukewarm.”  He wants the church to take the risk of more faith.  Do something!  He is not happy.

But, Jesus would like to reconcile.  That’s why he’s at the door. He is assuming that the door will open and there will be hospitality on the other side. Can you believe it?  He’s inviting himself for a meal. The nerve!  He assumes we’ll understand his concern and his authority to be there.  It’s his church and we say we are his followers.  He wants to straighten things out.

I like to think of myself as reconciled with Jesus, but he’s looking for a deeper relationship.  He’s asking me to put aside my comfortable stuff and find true reconciliation through meal-type sharing with people God loves. That’s one way to think about it.  He’s also asking me to simply act on what I say I believe – in real ways.  Tap, tap, tap.  “Can we talk?”

When I seem distracted, looking at the south windows, that’s what I’m thinking.  He’s disrupting my moment, but I need to hear what he has to say, to know what he’s thinking.

For a different take on the “Jesus Knocking at the Door” image, check out this devotional by Mary Luti, called “The Threat.”  http://www.ucc.org/daily_devotional_threat

I recommend the UCC daily devotionals to you:  http://www.ucc.org/daily_devotional

Devotion: “Resurrection in Nursery School”

Once upon a time, I had an arrangement with the director of our church’s nursery school to come and give children’s sermons to the three and four-year-olds when the holidays arrived.  At Christmas, I would bring out the Nativity set, and that was pretty straightforward.  The concept of Baby Jesus being God was a little abstract, but that we pay special attention to this birth made sense, mostly.  Angels, shepherds, animals, parents and a baby – it’s all good.  But Easter was a challenge.  I actually had a parent tell me that if I intended to mention anything about death, they would keep their child home that day.  And I wasn’t going to be talking about Easter bunnies.

In the meantime, about once a month or so, I was visiting Doris, a very frail lady, tethered to large canister of oxygen in the corner of her living room.  She lived alone in a small neighborhood of houses near one of the lakes in town.  Although she had one of those portable oxygen units with a shoulder strap, I don’t think I ever saw her outside of her house.  In spite of this limitation, she found ways to enjoy life very much.  She helped her granddaughter with her homework and stayed in contact with her neighbors.  Her oxygen tube was long enough to reach the mailbox by the street and that was her daily adventure when the weather allowed.

Doris had a hobby few people knew about or ever would have expected.  She raised cecropia moths.  Those are the enormous moths you sometimes see in the summer – brownish with big “eyes” on their wings and large, feathery antennae.  Very beautiful, a miracle of creation, really.  Doris knew what the cecropia caterpillars ate, their perfect environment, and every detail of their life-cycle.  It might seem a little creepy to some people, but this was mostly hidden.  The cocoons were in a fridge in the garage for much of the year, and when it came time for them to hatch, they went into an aquarium in a side room so that she could watch the transformation.  She released the new moths each spring.

For a couple of years, Doris supplied me with my Easter children’s sermons.  She could actually time the hatching of the moths with Holy Week.  I would leave a cocoon in the nursery school in a large jar.  By Easter weekend, a moth had emerged and we would talk about it.  The kids were fascinated.  I would describe to them how believing in Jesus also brings new life, a special life that only God can give – that’s what Easter is really all about.  Jesus died, but God brought him back to life, something like the caterpillar in the cocoon.  When we pray to God, God can make us into a new kind of person.  Okay, still a little abstract!

Doris eventually experienced her own re-creation; her body no longer has limitations.  And in the years since she has gone, I’ve found myself paying more attention to butterflies and moths, these temporary visitors to our flower beds, snapping a photo every now and then.  Exquisite and fragile, sometimes wildly colorful, God is able to make them reappear every spring, after a winter of “death.”  Especially in challenging places, especially when things seem lost, there is a promise of hope, new life, and renewal.  Nothing is impossible with God.