Freetext on Letter to Philadelphia (Rev 3:7-13)

Many people have happy stories about their college years or first years of marriage.  The packed jalopy of a car, the studio apartment, the empty wallet and in some stories the spouse with whom you share the experience.  Heidi and I drove to St. Louis in a risky compact car, with light wallets and a destination, seminary for graduate studies to be a pastor.  The apartment was full of family items, a dresser made by Heidi’s dad, a bed from her auntie, a couch, a table from her former co-worker and nearly everything else from the second hand store for students.  But one of the best things about the seminary was what would happen in the evening.  We didn’t cozy up to a computer and flip on cable we went to see other people.  That was the most amazing thing about the time there, you could go up the street, go across the hall and “see what you were up to.”  There’d be cards, renting a movie, a beer by the grill, or just conversation sitting around on the second hand furniture.  It was the picture that came to my mind first when I Jesus shares a picture with the church in the text today – a door, locked open.

“The door is always open” has to be one of the most beautiful expressions of trust, friendship and support that can be given.  It means no matter the time and no matter the reason you are welcome here.  In need of help, company or nothing at all, come on in!  That’s the image Jesus is setting before the people of the church at Philadelphia today.
Philadelphia had an interesting history.  They were a young city in comparison to the other seven churches in these letters.  They were founded by a man named Attalus the second as a testament to his brother Eumenes.  They were great brothers who watched out for each other throughout their lives and so the city was named “brotherly love.”  But the reason the city was placed there was because Greece felt they had something to share with the community of what is now modern day Turkey.  They want to share their culture: their gods, their arts, their language and concepts of democracy.  And so Philadelphia was built in an area with fertile volcanic soil in what would become wine country but also plagued with earthquakes.  In fact they’ve discovered that the buildings of that time showed their awareness of the region’s earthquakes.  A sort of self-inflicted building code that didn’t build tall buildings and allowed for easier rebuilding.  Philadelphia was likely the smallest of the seven cities with a proportionately small congregation.

So to a small congregation, living in a city of earthquakes and close minded neighbors Jesus says, “Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.”  In fact I would like to ask the ushers to please open the doors, I know that we will have more noise from the outside now but these doors will help us talk about this letter while the doors stand open for us.  “Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut.”  A strong, clear, invitation of relationship, a door opened in trust, support and community.

Philadelphia had long been a place that was built to share with others.  It was founded to share the Greek culture.  Like a community that opens a door to it’s world, come, learn, hear, experience the Greek culture.  I’d like to thank the Greek culture for democracy and some amazingly yummy food, and for the language in which much of the New Testament is written; they also carried with them a whole catalog of gods and in this area they worshiped especially Dionysius the god of wine and merriment.  They already had built into their DNA the idea of inviting and sharing.  The open door that Jesus places before them stands on it’s own in this passage.  Jesus doesn’t say this at the end of the letter where the promises of heaven are placed.  It’s in a location of the letter where Jesus is challenging His people.

The challenge I see here is Jesus showing the open door to His church to encourage that same missionary spirit on which the city was built.  That challenge is for us as well, Jesus has set before us an open door.  It is a door that has been opened by His death and resurrection.  As you go through these doors today I want you to imagine them being held opened by the cross of Jesus Christ, no one is able to shut them, His strong death and resurrection make it impossible for anyone to close them.

Jesus opens the door to the people around us.  Remember the description of the open doors I experienced while at school, I hope you have experienced that kind of community and how you have put yourself out there to build that kind of relationship with the people around you.  An open door is what the community needs from us.  People starve for healthy connections with others but turn to destructive relationships.  People turn to drugs and addictions.  They hope in friend lists and anonymous contacts but what they need is someone who shares more than just themselves.  They need someone who shares a love that has come to us from Jesus Christ and comes through us to those around us.

We have lots of opportunities to serve, they begin right here, imagine opening up all the doors here and bringing the school right next to the church, imagine the desks of the children lining up with the pews in the church, imagine the children who go home to a family that doesn’t know or believe in Christ, a family that doesn’t worship or confess Him with their mouth or by their works.  How do we walk through that door and serve them?  How do we serve the families of foster children who surround us in the neighborhood?  How do we serve our community, the schools around us, the people in need.  The door is open by the cross of Jesus Christ.  I love the picture that Jesus puts at the end of the letter.  It is a picture of the promise given to us in baptism.  The one who conquers will be a pillar in the temple of God.  Those pillars have the name of God on it.  In the temple of the Old Testament there were two pillars with names, Jaakin (He establishes) and Boaz (In him is strength).  These pillars stood on both sides of the door of the temple, leading people to the place where God dwelled inside the temple.

Jesus is given a picture a powerful picture to a people who are shaken by earthquakes who don’t know what building will ever last.  And here we have a door set down by Christ, locked open surrounded by pillars made strong by the powerful name of God written on them.  We are that building built in the name of God with God’s name written on us.  The name of God written on us in baptism.  The name of Jesus who conquered death and whose Easter life lives through us.  We are ready for the opportunities that Jesus puts before us because of that name.  I look forward to it, remember that powerful picture as you go through those doors today.

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Published in: on May 17, 2010 at 10:31 am  Leave a Comment  

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