Palm Sunday, March 25, 2018 Doug Norris
Please think for a moment of a door you have gone through lately. And while very often we take things metaphorically, in this case I mean an actual door, a step into or out of a place that has been meaningful. An office, a school, an airport, a house, an interview room, a prison…. where have you been?
To enter the city of Jerusalem they had to pass through a door, a gate, there was a clear moment of now being in the place that was so powerful, so risky, an actual door. ‘Open to me the gates that I may enter through them and give thanks to the Lord!’ (Psalm 118) In the record of the gospels it is clear that Jesus understood something definitive would happen in Jerusalem, when he got there. Even though it was all written down after they knew how it ended, Jerusalem was where something would happen if anything was going to happen. He had to go through that door.
Some I know have lately stepped through the office door of the oncologist – into a world not everybody comes to know. What a threshold, to turn that handle, open the gate, become part of that journey.
There’s a door right here, for the men to come into church for a wedding, ‘close the door behind you’… (groom in back room, looking out the window)
In through this other door, a family comes into church for a funeral – hesitation – in there is deep and powerful emotion in there, it will be hard…
Many years ago I was one a few night chaplains at the Guelph hospital, and calls almost always meant a tragic death, often telling a family something they could barely hear. Woken by a pager, a brief walk or drive over, and then, through those doors was, invariably, something deeply troubling, and I can still feel how my heart sank each time I pushed them open.
There’s the thing about doors and passages, that we don’t know what will come to pass beyond them. But it has power. Through there we will be tested, and part of the power of doors and gates is that we simply don’t know how it ends.
I wondered yesterday about the French police officer who took the place of a hostage this week and was subsequently killed, what must have been beating in his heart as he stepped through that door, what a powerful door to open. And the unimaginable gratitude of the woman whose place he was taking, as she stepped out through that door…
So doors are exactly the place where we move – if we are going to make this move – from a place of knowing to a place of faith. Which by definition is about not knowing, but believing that all shall be well. In some new way.
The person trying to come out of the closet of sexual identity, the man or woman understanding that a marriage must end, parents receiving children into our midst, literally onto our laps, and for all our bravado we don’t know how it goes but we go through the door and it makes us people of faith.
I do believe that many of us spend much time camped in front of a door, living by a gate, understanding that some powerful route opens up just through that door, and our path has led to it – but we fear it, and we hit pause.
I imagine an alternate ending for Jesus -along lines of Nikos Kazantzakis, in The Last Temptation of Christ. Jesus pauses before entering Jerusalem, says, ‘Let’s just stay here a while longer. It’s been going OK, right ? Let me think up a few more parables, and you can bring some more sick people for healing… Maybe I don’t yet have to go in there and confront the demons of power and violence. Through this gate is something hard and I don’t know how it ends. Let me stay here a while.’ I guess in terms of human psychology, to camp in front of the gate is to be stuck, unable to grow, a place of false comfort.
Here’s something I learned when I accidentally went through the door of a church in New York city last year, and ended up in a Jewish shabbat service, which was very moving. The preacher’s name was David.
David was the great king, and you may have noticed in the Palm Sunday reading just now that when the people thronged to Jesus thinking maybe this is the one, the Messiah, they called called him ‘David’ – here comes the new king!
In the New York shabbat service, rabbi David told us that he loved playing with the meanings of the Hebrew language, the meanings of the letters. David begins and ends with the letter ‘Dalet’, and the meaning of this letter is ‘door’. Rabbi David said that to be a Jew is to be a door, to live faithfully is to hold the door open, to summon people in, through, to a place of light. I like that.
I hope we can be faithful at all our doors, content to not know all that is coming, and courageous to walk even where we can’t see, even or especially in the hard places, go as the choir sang for us, ‘Ride on! Ride on !’