Monday, October 22, 2012

Fling wide the gates!

Mighty gates:
   lift up your heads!
   Ancient doors: rise up high!
      So the glorious king can enter!
                            Psalm 24:7, CEB
I've been thinking a lot about open doors lately ... and not the philosophical ones that we UMCers claim are open.  I'm thinking of the actual, physical doors that open up to bring the people into our Narthexes and Sanctuaries.

My wife has taken on the responsibility of co-chairing our new hospitality team, and if you've been following along with me the last few months, you know that hospitality is a frequent subject of mine.  I wrote about some of the issues of my faith family here, and then again here.  I am so excited to see her taking on this vital ministry of the church to help oversee how we welcome the strangers in our community and guide them along the path to making them part of our faith family.  It's a large undertaking, but it's exciting because the team is starting from scratch for the most part.  We've had some things in place, but now their team is working hard and debating their way toward a real layout for the hospitality system this community needs.

But there's one starting place where we're having to be the most critical right off the bat - and that's the aforementioned front door.  For a visiting family, our new guests, the hardest step they'll make is actually parking in the parking lot and getting out of the car.  It's daunting.  Imagine you're a visitor for a moment - that first step is crazy hard.  So it behooves us as faith communities to be there to greet our guests from the second they arrive on our campuses - and yes, the parking lot is absolutely where the campus begins.  But the next crucial place, a hospitality choke point, is the front door.

Do you have somebody on your hospitality team there to open doors and let people in?  Seriously ... do you?

I often get the front door report from my wife at lunch after church.  Like many clergy/ministry spouses (husbands, too)  my wife is a single parent on Sunday morning.  After I leave at the crack of dawn on Sunday morning, she's all on her own.  Feeding the dog, feeding our boy.  Getting everybody out the door in time at least get a little bit settled in the Sanctuary before the celebration of worship begins.  And, I tell you what, she does a great job.  Her service of choice is at 9am, and it's no small feat for any parent in my book to make it to worship that early and have it all together.

But I'm always shocked to hear her tell me that no one opened the front door of the church for her, which wouldn't be so bad, except that the Narthex is always full of people before worship. 

So there she is, 9-month old in hand with a diaper bag and a purse - and most of the time she has to open a door for herself to come in.  There is in fact only one greeter who ever opens the door for her, and if he's not there, she's on her own.

It just makes me wonder - she's not an anonymous guest in our midst.  She's the wife of the worship pastor.  If she doesn't get the door opened for her, what happens to the guests?  She's prayfully tackling the issue as I write, and not just for her - for the community we serve together.

Psalm 24 is one of our great scriptures of the Advent season.  It's a call to get ready for the glorious king, the powerful one, who's coming to bring heaven down to us.  I'm not saying that my son is the king of the church or anything, but didn't Christ say something like, "When you serve the 'least of these', you serve me?"

Who's holding open your ancient doors on Sunday morning?  Have you thought about it?  When you hold that door open, you have an opportunity to do something really great - don't miss the moment.