Open Door Policy 08.29.21

Order
Sunday, August 29, 2021

Opening Audio (10:15am)
Calm Jazz

#1 ONE Video #1 (4:12)

  • Call to Worship

            Living Hope (Phil Wickham)

Live/OnLine

  • Prayer                                                Rick
  • Music 1                                              Abbie

                    Great is they Faithfulness     Thomas Chisholm | William Runyan

  • Story                                                Online-Sherri, In Person- Peyton
  • Music 2                                            Abbie

                    How Great Thou Art             Stuart Wesley Keene Hine

  • Message    ‘Open Door Policy’      Rick
  • Music 3                                            Abbie

                  Oh How I Love Jesus              Bob Singleton

  • Community                                     Rick
  • Benediction                                     Online-Sherri, In Person-Peyton
  • Sharing the Peace                           Rick

Closing Audio
Spotify – Calm Jazz


Voices & Words
Sunday, August 29, 2021

Prayer
God,
You are our hope.
You are our peace.
You are our source.
You are our rescue.
You are our life.
God,
May we seek you in the midst of uncertainty.
May we look for you in the depths of misery.
May we listen for you when we are deceived by lies.
May we hear you over the noise and false voices.
God,
You are patient even when we focus on evil.
You are empathetic when we are afraid to open our hearts.
You are understanding when our minds fail to discern truth.
You are love when we get caught up in hate.
God,
Let us see you as light so our lives will reflect light.
Let us see you as hope so our lives will reflect hope.
Let us see you as mercy so our lives will reflect mercy.
Let us see you as love so our lives will reflect love.
Amen.

Music 1
Great is Thy Faithfulness
CCLI Song # 18723
Thomas Obediah Chisholm | William Marion Runyan

Verse 1
Great is Thy faithfulness
O God my Father
There is no shadow
Of turning with Thee

Thou changest not
Thy compassions they fail not
As Thou hast been
Thou forever wilt be

Chorus
Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning
New mercies I see

All I have needed
Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me

Verse 2
Summer and winter
And springtime and harvest
Sun moon and stars
In their courses above

Join with all nature
In manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness
Mercy and love

Chorus
Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning
New mercies I see

All I have needed
Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me

Verse 3
Pardon for sin
And a peace that endureth
Thy own dear presence
To cheer and to guide

Strength for today
And bright hope for tomorrow
Blessings all mine
With ten thousand beside

Chorus
Great is Thy faithfulness
Great is Thy faithfulness
Morning by morning
New mercies I see

All I have needed
Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness
Lord unto me

Our Story 
These past weeks we have been horrified watching women, men, children, even babies, risking their lives to get to the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan.

 Their choice to ‘Stay and Hide’, knowing they may spend the rest of your life being hunted, or ‘Go and Trust’ the unknown agendas and doubtful hospitality in distant lands.

At every destination, there were no guarantees, no assurances, no protections – always facing the same decision  – ‘Do I stay put here, or do I go out there?’ They know the risk, around every corner, at every destination.

They commit to their choice, they hold their breath and step out their front door, or they close their eyes and hide behind that door. Either way, the journey has begun.

The apostle Paul constantly faced this same dilemma, ‘Do I stay here or do I go there? Sometimes even his closest friends and allies were quick to disagree with his choice. Pushing him to stay behind the closed door. Paul began to have a clearer view of God after he met Jesus on the way to Damascus.

One thing is certain, a lot happened between destinations, while he was on his way. He should have had a shirt that said ‘I Am Not There Yet.’

The apostle stepped out the door of his life onto an unknown path. Sometimes to get to the next place he had to convince a ship captain to take him aboard, or to convince a crew to not jump off a sinking ship, he had to watch out for fanatics who were dedicated to killing him, and he had to discern the words of politicians who wanted to use him. And, he had to shake snakes off when they attached themself to him. With each arrival, there would be another departure. There would be risk, disappointment, joy, grief, but there was always hope. Hope even when it felt hopeless, cheer even when it was miserable.

Luke closes out the details of Paul’s journey with his arrival in Rome. There, Paul ‘was allowed to live by himself, with the soldier who was guarding him.”

Three days after Paul’s arrival he called together the local Jewish leaders. He proclaimed his innocence, saying  “I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. When they had examined me, the Romans wanted to release me, because there was no reason for the death penalty in my case. But then the Jewish leaders objected, so I had to appeal to the emperor. This is why I am speaking with you, our common hope of Israel.” 

The leaders replied, “This is the first we have heard of this. But we would like to hear from you what you think about this Christianity movement that is upsetting to so many.”

Many religious leaders continued to join Paul at his lodging. From morning until evening he told his story, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus usage the words of Moses and the prophets. Some were convinced by what he had said, while others refused to believe.” There was a significant division among the Jewish religious leaders.’

However, those discussions reached a point where Paul recognized that it was fruitless to continue. He knew that those who had rejected the message of Jesus had hardened themself past the point of no return. So he put an end to this group gatherings, and instead, kept his door open to those in the group who believed, or were interested, and wanted to continue to learn.

As the large group left, Paul quoted the words of the prophet Isaiah, words familiar to all the religious leaders  “‘Go to this people and say, ‘You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this people’s heart has grown dull, and their ears are hard of hearing, and they have shut their eyes; so that they might not look with their eyes, and listen with their ears, and understand with their heart and turn — and I would heal them.’”

final words were even more shocking, “ Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”

Those were surely shocking words!

Paul stuck around Rome for 2 more years of house confinement along with his constant guard companion.

There he continued to have an ‘Open Door Policy” allowing entry to anyone who wanted to hear truth.

Music 2
How Great Thou Art
CCLI Song # 14181
Stuart Wesley Keene Hine

Verse 1
O Lord my God
When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds
Thy hands have made

I see the stars
I hear the rolling thunder
Thy pow’r thru’out
The universe displayed

Chorus
Then sings my soul
My Savior God to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art

Then sings my soul
My Savior God to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art

Verse 2
When through the woods
And forest glades I wander
And hear the birds
Sing sweetly in the trees

When I look down
From lofty mountain grandeur
And hear the brook
And feel the gentle breeze

Verse 3
And when I think
That God His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die
I scarce can take it in

That on the cross
My burden gladly bearing
He bled and died
To take away my sin

Chorus
Then sings my soul
My Savior God to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art

Then sings my soul
My Savior God to Thee
How great Thou art
How great Thou art

Verse 4
When Christ shall come
With shout of acclamation
And take me home
What joy shall fill my heart

Then I shall bow
In humble adoration
And there proclaim
My God how great Thou art

Message        ‘Open Door Policy’ 

The Roman Martyrology is a document used in the Catholic Church as documentation of the various matrys that have been recognized by the Church. This documentation is an interesting record of the many ‘nobodies’ who have been used by God to do something miraculous for other nobodies. While we do not have the same veneration of these individuals as the Catholic Church does, we cannot help but be intrigued by these persons who have opened their lives to God to do something extraordinary.

In that documentation, listed for July 25 (around the year 35 AD), is a man from Damascus named Ananias. Tradition says that Ananias was eventually martyred, however, it is the known events of Ananias like that catch our attention. Anaias was a respected member of his community, even though he was Christian in a majority Jewish community, his consideration for the Law was noticed by the Jews in that knew him. He was also very aware of the events outside of the community of Damascus. He surely was aware of persecution of Christians taking place in Jerusalem as many had escaped persecution and were now living as refugees in Damascus. Ananias also was well aware of the Pharisee Saul of Tarsus who was feared by Christians who knew of his efforts to eliminate Christianity and Christians.

It was assuredly a conundrum for Ananias when God said to him to open his door to this feared Saul of Tarsus.
Ananias responded to God, “Lord, I have heard from  many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints in Jerusalem; and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who invoke your name.” (Acts 9:13-14).

I cannot imagine the thoughts that must have been going through Ananias’ mind upon receiving this instruction. Being a committed follower of Christ while being respected by those who are suspicious, at best, of Christianity had been like walking on egg shells. Ananias had surely become an expert at being subtle without, at the same time, compromising his faith. He was fully dedicated to a full commitment of his faith, while also being fully dedicated to protecting his own life as well as the lives of his fellow believers.

And now, he was to open his door to this terrifying man, even worse he was to go find this man named Saul.

For Ananias, it all began with a call from God to open his door, to open it to risk, discomfort, the unknown, and to the scary. It is most familiar to us if we paint it in a more contemporary thinking, image that God was to call us to  permit those who disagree, those who believe differently, those who live different lives, those who face different hurdles, those who face struggles we cannot understand, those who may be offensive, those who may make us think, to enter the threshold of our lives. While the similarity of danger may be different the personal hesitation and discomfort is the same.

It is apples and oranges, love and hatred, acceptance and condemnation, arrogance and humility, hope and despair, it is different. It is not the what and who that we usually open our door for. It goes against the bias, prejudices, and teachings of our tradition, it is counter to the teachings of our respected leaders, it is sometimes a swim against the flow of our own community.

Ananias followed God’s command and was the human factor in the transformation of Saul the Terror to Paul the Apostle. Ananias explained and welcomed Saul who had just met the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus. Saul the seeker of truth, on this day, was transformed into Saul/ Paul  the proclaimer of truth, and eyewitness to the life and resurrection of Jesus.  It was a renewal of his search, a renewal of his quest, it was a transformation…
”Renewal by the spirit is not modification but total transformation.” (Pastors Daniel Martino and Antonio Vargas)

For Saul, the transformation from religious zeal to personal passion, a desire not to stop something but to continue something, to move from hate and fear to proclamations of resurrection and hope was a work of the Spirit, accepted by a blind and confused zealot.

So Saul, who had achieved the position of Pharisee about 5 years earlier, now was an eye witness of the resurrected Messiah, he had opened his door to that which would destroy his position, his career achievement, but now was witness to the fulfillment of expectancy in the arrival of the deliverer. And, now, 14 years after crossing the threshold of the open door at the house of Ananias, Paul was in Rome.

It is while he is under house arrest in Rome that the shattered boundaries of his transformation begin to be fully evident. 3 years earlier he had written to the churches in Rome, and now he was there in the flesh, among them, encouraging, teaching, confronting, engaging, and enlightening them. It was in the pages of that letter that Paul expressed his disillusionment in the reality that Jesus had been rejected by most of his own people, his own friends, his own contemporaries, his own faith family – he came to a conclusion that this rejection was a mystery that he did not understand but also, it was a test of his own faith in a just and faithful God, a God who would not abandon his own people.

This all explains why, once in Rome, his door was first open to the Jewish leaders in Rome. Many, if not all, of these shared Paul’s conviction in regard to resurrection. Since this was a connection point for his own Jewish faith and his Christian faith this was the best place to begin. Interestingly, these leaders had not heard of the accusations against Paul in Jerusalem, they only knew that Paul was either hated or beloved. So, they listened, they asked questions, they agreed and they disagreed, at the end of the day they left, divided amongst themselves.

Finally, as the many that did not believe, continued in their unbelief, it became obvious to Paul that this group was stuck, they were glued to their past, to the teachings and observances that had been a part of their past, they could not make a change, they could not accept that this Jesus was the deliver they had been waiting for.
So Paul quoted the prophet Isaiah,  “You will indeed listen, but never understand, and you will indeed look, but never perceive. For this your heart has grown dull, and your ears are hard of hearing, and you have shut your eyes; so that you might not look with your eyes, and listen with your ears, and understand with your heart and turn to God for deliverance.’”

Then, as his contemporaries walked away, Paul added, “ Let it be known to you then that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”

It was then that Paul adopted an ‘Open Door Policy’ a policy he had first witnessed in the acts of the ‘nobody’ Ananias. He began a practice of opening his door to all. He no longer focused on ‘a people’ or even ‘his people’ to tell his story, now his door was open to ‘all peoples’. His investment shifted from an institution to people of all kinds of institutions. He focused on other words of God from the prophet Isaiah, “I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:19)

These 2 years in Rome under house arrest brought the apostle to an understanding that ‘Disagreement does not call for Division,” that ‘Differences does not call for Fear.’ This understanding led him to leave his door open, open to everyone and anyone. Those things that had previously been justifiable factors for exclusion now held no sway. Compassion, Mercy, Hope, and Love had replace those elements of condemnation.

When we open our doors we see

  • Our fears of those who believe differently diminishes into a respect for a seeker/believer.
  • Our fears of those of different background and cultures diminishes into an appreciation for the diversity of God’s created.
  • Our fear of the uncomfortable diminishes into an interest in all others.
  • Our fear of those who look or live differently than us diminishes into the unity God desires among his descendants.
  • Our fear of evil diminishes into an understand of what is good and lovely.
  • Our fear of letting go of false beliefs and strongholds diminishes in the relief found in the freedom of a fingers no longer grasping to keep a grasp on the nonsensical.
  • Our fear of letting go of Pride diminishes into Truth.

For centuries the church has focused on evangelism as the practice of converting others to our belief. But look at the nobody Ananias. Lived a respectable life, even in the eyes of those who disagreed and possibly despised him. He, unknowingly was an evangelist in his community, not because of his words but because of his life. Part of that was a relationship with God that listened to and for God, even when God spoke the uncomfortable words, ‘Open your door, Ananias.’ It was then that he spoke words that were already verified in his life, it was then that he, along with Paul, experienced transformation.

We each have the challenge and the responsibility to open the doors of our hearts and our minds. To look around and see who is missing that belongs amongst us. To see out, into the marketplace and public square of our world.

Who will we see there, for whom does God desire we open the door to? Will be those who you do not understand? Will it be those who have hurt you in the past? Will it be those that your religious and faith institutions  have warned you against? Will it be those you have hated, rejected, feared, and judged? Will it be those you have dismissed or ignored. Will it be those who have dismissed and ignored you?

The apostle Paul went from keeping his own door closed while kicking down the doors of those he hated, he went from keeping condemning an entire people to leading that very people, he want from looking for and rejecting the Messiah to accepting and proclaiming that Messiah. It went from a closed door on his heart and mind, to opening his own door to all who wanted to hear and see. It all began with a little nobody opening his door and led to this charismatic leader opening his door every where he went. Are the doors of your heart and mind open to God, are they open to those God sends your way?

Let us pray.

Music 3 
Oh How I Love Jesus
CCLI Song # 4596756
Bob Singleton

Verse 1
There is a name I love to hear
I love to sing its worth
It sounds like music in my ear
The sweetest name on earth

Chorus
Oh how I love Jesus
Oh how I love Jesus
Oh how I love Jesus
Because He first loved me

Verse 2
It tells me of a Savior’s love
Who died to set me free
It tells me of His precious blood
The sinner’s perfect plea

Chorus
Oh how I love Jesus
Oh how I love Jesus
Oh how I love Jesus
Because He first loved me

Because He first loved me

Community 

  • Community
  • Dirty Hands Day
  • hin·nê·nî  (Here I Am) – Bible Studies resume in October (survey before to see options and preferences)
  • Uncomfortable beginning September 19 – solicit uncomfortable passages/stories
  • Next Sunday – ‘Incarnate Response’, Mark 1:14-20 & Luke 10:1-11
  • Free Stuff in entryway
  • Covid Update
  • Offering Basket at doors

Benediction

It is time to open the doors and exit this place.

Time to open the doors to see.

It it time to open the doors to hear.

Time to step out and into the world of our journey

Time to walk with our fellow descendants.

Time to tell our story.

Our story of God’s love, hope, deliverance, and rescue.

It’s Time.

 It’s Time.

Closing Peace 

May God’s grace, peace, joy, love, and hope go with you.

And also with you.

Let’s take God’s instruction to open the doors of our hearts and minds into the marketplace and the public square. Let’s open our doors as fellow created humans, let’s open our doors to be the love of God in a world desiring love.

Let our open doors be evident in our actions and words. Let’s open our doors to experience God’s great grace, God’s great peace, God’s great love, and God’s great hope. Let’s go!

Published by rickanthony1993

Husband of Andrea, Father of five, pastor of Grace Fellowship Norman OK.

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