Good doors equal good security.
During the week I was reading Psalm 84 the set reading on the Anglican Cycle of Prayer, something I find easy to access each morning via the Internet.
The psalmist says that “I would rather be a “Door-keeper” in the house of my God, than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
Some years ago I was on the weekly “Door-keepers” rota at Carisbrooke Priory. Two of us were assigned to welcome people to the Thursday service at 12 noon; During the service we remained there in case of people coming in or out who may need help- perhaps holiday-makers.
Out of this rota some close friendships developed, and I still enjoy chatting to April with whom I was first paired and sharing the ups and downs which happen to us and our families over the years.
Some of you will have served as Stewards in a Church, and it really is an important role- welcoming people – giving them the first impression of the Church.
For several years I was a hospital receptionist in a dedicated Orthopaedic Hospital in Exeter; I was one of my happiest places. Situated just inside the Main entrance, I was the first point of contact for patients, visitors and staff- especially the new rotation of Senior House Officers and Registrars, often from other countries.
I was the first person they met when they arrived, and the last to see them go, hopefully having had a successful hip or knee replacement. I really enjoyed this job; Whenever you work with people each day is always different.
I always enjoy the opportunity to be on the door at St. John's, or after I have been preaching at The Minster;
It is particularly important on days when there are Baptisms, Weddings or Funerals, when you have a lot of people many who may be unfamiliar with Church altogether, or this one in particular. They need a friendly smile, a helpful direction- to the toilets or changing facilities, a listening ear if they are distressed or wanting to reminisce. When there is a funeral, people often want to talk about a previous loss that comes to mind by the present one.
An established place of Worship
Over the years, for Israel their place of worship changed from
the movable tent in the wilderness- The Tabernacle -
to centres such as Shiloh where Eli inistered in the time of Samuel-
and eventually to the Temple, planned by David and built by his son Solomon
In this place God made his presence known to His people Israel.
It was a special place to every Jew, who would go there as often as possible during their life and especially at the major festivals such as Passover.
For the resident priests and the visiting pilgrim it was very important.
Experiencing an enforced exclusion
For whatever reason, the Psalmist is suffering an enforced absence from the Temple he loves so much.. and longs to return to public worship.
He longs to be able to return to that temple,- his soul yearns , even faints for the courts of the living God... to this lovely dwelling place of the Lord Almighty, the living God.
Sometimes we have to endure an enforced separation – temporary or permanent from a place and from people that we have enjoyed;
It may be a holiday destination.. or a place we loved to walk.. that is no longer accessible perhaps because we don't drive, or our legs don't work as they once did.
Some years ago I broke my ankle, and for several weeks I couldn't work or get to Church without being given a lift.
As we get older the ill-health of a husband or wife or our own declining health may temporarily or permanently exclude us from a place of worship that we have enjoyed for years.
The desire may be to return to worship, but the practicality may make it impossible- and God understands. Many people find that Sunday evening's Songs of Praise eases the gap, or other Sunday radio programmes with the likes of Tim Daykin or Aled Jones.
Our service this afternoon similarly enables us to express our faith. Whenever we cannot get to the house of God, we can by faith come to the God of the house.
Psalmist is envious of the birds and people
He draws attention to the memories of sparrows and swallows (John Stott reckons these are swifts) who are able to make the temple their dwelling place.
I know that Sts. Thomas do not enjoy the resident pigeon that gets into the Church from time to time
He also reminds himself of the people who are able to praise God in His temple- the priests and all who have access to this special place.
And he cites the pilgrims who travel through difficult places, until they too are able to get to Zion, Jerusalem and its Temple.
Toward the end of the Psalm this writer says that one day spent in God's temple court is better than 1000 spent elsewhere ..I have to ask myself whether I put such a high value on worship?
And that he would rather be a door-keeper in the House of His God than dwell in the tents of the wicked
He would rather be just on the very threshold of the temple, than anywhere elsewhere, particularly among the tents of the wicked.
What is our preference?
We do not have a temple in the Jewish sense;
We do have Churches which may or may not be accessible to us at this point in time
Yet as Christians we know that the Church is more than just buildings; The Church is when people who love God, who know that Christ died for them and who lives in them by the Holy Spirit.
So Christ could say “When two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them”.
The Church is here.. now.. this afternoon at St. Cross Court as we make our act of worship.
Back to Church Sunday
In a few weeks time there is a “Back to Church Sunday” a national initiative, seeking to encourage those who used to be part of a worshipping congregation to re-engage.. to make contact, and think about coming back to a place of worship. It has proved very successful in other places in previous years helping people to make an inner desire a practical reality.
One commentator suggests it is not the house itself, but the occupant of the house that is important- the Lord Almighty.. the living God..my king and my God..the God of Jacob
God himself- described as a sun and shield .. no good thing will he withhold from those whose walk is blameless... those who walk uprightly in God's ways. A sun to enlighten and enliven; a shield to protect and secure.
No good thing does He withhold...
If our best endeavors are to walk in God's ways, then when he withholds something we can be assured that this would not be for our good “No good thing does He withhold...” That is sometimes hard to believe at the time, and perhaps it is many years later that we understand that what we wanted so much, was not God's best for us.
“ Whatever they desire and think they need, they may be sure that either Infinite Wisdom sees it is not good for them, or Infinite Goodness will give to them in due time”
I had planned to look at some other doors mentioned in the Bible, but they can wait for another time: Where Jesus speaks of himself as the Door/ Gate of the Sheepfold;
“ I said to the man”- by Minnie Louise Haskins
Used by King George VI for his Christmas broadcast 1939.
Written in 1909 at Warmley House Bristol, Minnie was reportedly standing at an upstairs balcony looking down the illuminated drive to the gate....when she put pen to paper...
The poem apparently came to the King's attention from the Queen Mother who received it in a Christmas card.
Overnight the poem became a worldwide success as the BBC was inundated with inquiries as to the author. It became one of the most quoted poems of the Twentieth Century.
The words are engraved on the entrance to the King George VI Memorial Chapel at Windsor