Open the Door: A Bible Study for Asbury's Worship
by Rev. Lee Johnson
june 13, 2021
Remember the Nursery Rhyme: “Here’s the church, and here’s the steeple, open the door and see all the people?” It’s an action-based Nursery Rhyme that combines lyrics and words and actions. The origins of the rhyme are a bit unclear. However, it’s widely assumed the rhyme has roots in English history where the architecture of churches and its steeples once dominated the skylines of communities throughout England. Later that same architecture would be replicated in the American colonies. This June at Asbury, we’re using the English Nursery Rhyme to re-focus on today’s Christian church. How can a well-worn rhyme have meaning for today’s church? Did you learn the rhyme growing up? If so, did you learn the “hand” actions? What meaning did the rhyme and actions have for you then? What meaning might they have for us today as we seek to help God build the church of tomorrow?
This week’s rhyme focus is on the phrase: open the door. More than 20 years ago, our United Methodist tradition had a catchy phrase used to invite people to church: open minds, open hearts, open doors. The phrase was used in print and television ads to invite people to worship at a nearby United Methodist Church. I liked the vision the phrase painted – as a church we are open. In Paul’s letter to the Colossians, he prays for an open door, literally. Having been imprisoned for preaching the ways of Christ, Paul asked God to “open the (prison) door” so he might be free to share his faith with others and invite them inside the (new Christian) church door. Isn’t that why we “open the door,” to invite others inside so they might hear the Good News of God’s love for them and so grow in relationship with God? Certainly, that was Paul’s motivation for an open door. Yet, just because we pray for an open door, or just because we place advertisements on television proclaiming an open door, it doesn’t always mean the door is open. Have you ever walked in a church door but felt uninvited once inside? Have you ever heard the phrase “bait and switch” used to describe deceptive advertising? Businesses use it to get people inside the door where once inside what was advertised is no longer available. I have heard some people call “open minds, open hearts, open doors” bait and switch. What do you think?
The other day, I visited another United Methodist Church for a funeral. I parked my car next to the door I knew, for certain, to be nearest the sanctuary. Guess what? That door was locked. I walked around the building, stopping at each entrance, seeking an open door. Eventually, I found one on the opposite side of the building, furthest from the sanctuary where the funeral was to be held. I was a bit frustrated, even though I realize the challenges of securing a large church building often necessitate limiting the number of entrances. I guess the experience was a metaphor for what seems to be happening in our United Methodist Church today: we are limiting our entrances, not everyone has access to what’s inside – the Good News of God’s love. Yet, here’s Paul in prison, praying for the door to be open. Maybe we should do the same. Here is the church, here is the steeple, open the door and see all the people. Can you think of people who might step inside a church but feel unwelcomed? What new meaning does “open the door” have for you today? Why might it be important for the future of the church?
Colossians 4: 2-6
Asbury's Weekend Worship: https://www.visitasbury.org/worship/
Beginning Sunday, June 13 at 11 a.m. for Live Stream or 5 p.m. for recording.
"Help us open the doors, O God."