Homily, “An Open Door- Sermón de Conjunto”
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Morning Chapel at Seminary of the Southwest
Santi Rodriguez and Derek M Larson, TSSF
Today’s Lectionary Reading:
As part of our Critical Context for Latinx Ministries class, my friend, Santi Rodriguez, and I are working on a methodology of collaborative preaching inspired by the Latinx theological principle of en conjunto. This sermon was prepared, prayed over, and presented en conjunto –collaboratively between the two of us–and given in morning chapel at the Seminary of the Southwest on Wednesday, November 18, 2020.
Holy, Holy, Holy… In the name of the Father, and of the son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
“I will never be a pastor.” These were the words that played over and over again in my mind throughout my time in college. “I will never be a pastor.” You see I knew what a pastor looked like. I was the son of a pastor. I knew how a pastor spoke, how a pastor dressed, what a pastor believed. I was not that. “I will never be a pastor.”
Behold! The mysteries you are about to behold require you to use your holy imagination. Let these mysteries play over and over again in your mind and your heart. The contemplation of these holy mysteries requires you to watch and pray. Watch and pray.
“I will never be a pastor.” It’s not that I didn’t love God. In fact, I had a deep love of God. It’s why I majored in theology. I assumed I’d be a religious studies professor. So there I was in college taking every theology class I could and avoiding all of the ministry classes, because I would never be a pastor. And yet in my last semester, because of my program’s requirements, I found myself begrudgingly taking a class on preaching.
Behold the Heavenly liturgy.
A panoply of angels and saints
Sang in praise and worshipped.
The One who sat upon the Throne
Bathed in hues of amber and flame.
They beheld the fiery splendor and sang
Holy, Holy, Holy
Is the One Seated upon the Throne
Worthy is the Holy One:
Yours alone is the glory! the honor! the power!
I remember the small chapel where we preached our class sermons and the curious faces on my peers when I departed from the traditional, pentecostal cadence. I remember the white board on which I drew diagrams and Greek words. I don’t remember my exact message that day, but I do remember feeling satisfied that I had confidently preached the hidden message to which I was clinging so tightly: “I will never be a pastor.”
Four living creatures
Worshipped the One upon the Throne.
The lion-like cherubim danced in praise
Another worshipped with the strength of an ox,
The third with a face like man looked with awe
While the fourth took flight with the majesty of an eagle.
All day and night, they said without ceasing:
Holy, holy, holy!
At the end of my sermon the future pastors in the room–who preached exactly like all the pastors I knew–began to speak sharing praise and encouragement, but with a single, unified caveat: “it sounded more like teaching than preaching”. I slowly smiled and confirmed their response, “yes, that’s right. I don’t want to be a preacher. I’m going to be a teacher. I will never be a pastor.” And then the professor spoke from the back of the room.
Around the Throne
twenty-four elders sat on thrones.
They’re clad in dress of purest white,
And wore gold crowns upon their heads.
The elders fell down before the One
Who sat upon the heav’nly Throne,
They worshipped Him who lives forever.
They cast their crowns before the throne and sang:
Santo! Santo! Santo!
“Don’t put yourself in a box,” the professor said. “A preacher is one whom God calls to preach. A pastor is one whom God calls to pastor. It doesn’t matter if you don’t look and sound like other pastors, if God calls you to preach you’re a preacher, and God might just be calling you. Will you listen?”
The trumpet-like voice I had first heard,
then spoke and said to me,
‘You come up here, and I’ll show you
What ought to take place after this.’
“Will you listen?” In my professor’s words I heard a knocking.
And then, I looked and saw an open door.
And while I walked away from class that day pushing his words from my mind, I couldn’t shake the sound of knocking.
Before me, through the open door I gazed at Heaven.
I couldn’t shake the sound of voices singing and casting down their plans and ambitions for something new.
The voice of Jesus beckoning me through the door.
The sounds coming from just on the other side of an open door.
Our Scripture today features a vision of the heavenly throne room of God. A throne room filled with interesting creatures and colors, the sounds of thunder and of voices, the movement of dance and of worship. It is a vision of the wild and untamed Divine liturgy of the universe—where God sits in glory on a throne while all of creation sings “holy” and the monarchs of the world lay down their crowns of privilege before the Holy One.
John of Patmos, the scribe of this apocalypse, begins the unveiling with the image of an open door. In the first verse of the fourth chapter, he writes, “After this I looked, and there in heaven a door stood open.” What’s so powerful about this simple image is the context. This isn’t the only time we see in this passage a door.
Just a few sentences earlier John ends his final letter to the seven churches throughout Asia with a message from Jesus, “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.”
“And there in heaven a door stood open.” Isn’t that beautiful? This whole terrifyingly dazzling vision of the very throne room of God begins with an invitation. The seven churches are being invited to have an apocalyptic imagination. To hear Christ’s knocking and to open the door to a new and transcendent reality–to new and inconceivable opportunities– to even join the wild and untamed Divine Liturgy in the throne room of God. This is how I felt when I heard my professor’s words. His words felt to me like a terrifying possibility, like a portal to an alternate reality, like a call to an apocalyptic imagination. The invitation is both intimidating and esteeming. But there the door stands. And there the knocking continues. As it continued for the seven churches, it continued for me.
The knocking continues for all of us today. What would it be like if the community of the Seminary of the Southwest was one of the seven churches? How would we hear Jesus knocking on our door?
Can you hear Jesus speak to each of us – to all of us – saying: “Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking.” There is nothing more important than listening to the voice of Jesus and opening the door. Opening the door requires an apocalyptic imagination. This involves worshipping God in all the aspects of our lives. Being open to the wild, untamed reality of the Reign of God means moving beyond the stereotypes and cookie cutter ideas that we have about ministry and what God calls us to do.
I cannot tell you exactly how to listen to the knocking or how to open the door. Listening requires solitude and silence. It demands introspection and discernment. Opening the door requires the willingness to step outside the boxes we have put ourselves into. It necessitates courage. I wonder if there is a call you have been too busy or too frightened to heed. I wonder how God is knocking on our door when we drive by tent city on I-35. I wonder if there is an invitation our seminary community has been unwilling to answer. Walking into the Heavenly Throne Room is scary. Joining the dancing and the singing in the wild and untamed Divine Liturgy is messy. God wants us to respond to the summons with all that we have and all that we are.
My siblings in Christ, there is a Divine Liturgy in the Heavenly Throne Room. We are all invited. And let me tell you something, when we listen to the voice of Jesus and we open the doors of our lives to Divine Love, we join in the songs of the angels and the dance of the saints. We will sing and we will dance. And we will praise and magnify God with our lives.
Jesus is knocking at the door. The Throne of God is calling. Are you ready to open the door?
Let us pray:
Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord, God Almighty!
Early in the morning our song shall rise to thee.
Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,
God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.