Unhinged and upended . . .
In my first Advent post I wrote about opening the little doors on an Advent calendar. Today I’ve been thinking about a different set of doors.
It was 1993. (Don’t tell me, please, if you were in kindergarten that year.) I was just graduating from seminary. And I attended a worship service in Birmingham at the annual Baptist Women in Ministry (BWIM) meeting. Nancy Hastings Sehested was the preacher that day. The occasion was a ten-year anniversary of BWIM.
At the front of the worship space (very convincingly transformed from hotel ballroom to sacred sanctuary) were several freestanding doors. One was positioned at the head of each aisle. Each one was closed. Nancy began to preach about the doors that are closed to women who feel called to ministry. She talked about knocking on them gently and then more loudly. About sitting in the hall and waiting for someone to open up, even a crack. She talked about sliding résumés under the door, peering through key holes, and waiting.
This jangled all my nerves. I had my first big church interview that very weekend. I’d already spent months waiting for anyone to show any interest in my résumé. It seemed that neither my knock nor my carefully prepared résumés were getting any response from the other side. And who actually had the keys for heaven’s sake?
As I was breathing in every word of Nancy’s sermon and they were reverberating off the walls of my heart . . . suddenly I was transported. I can’t recall now so many years later for sure, exactly when it started, but while she preached and while we sang, someone started disassembling the doors. . .
They took them right off the hinges. They took them right out of their casings. They turned them right up on their sides. They carried them right over to sawhorses which had materialized while I was focused on the deconstruction of the doors. And they laid them flat.
Now the formerly closed doors were tables. Out came chalices, plates, bread and juice. The formerly closed doors were now communion tables. Men and women stood at each table, together ready to serve. We were invited to come forward through the door frames to receive the body of Christ.
We walked through open doors. Wide open. Unhinged and upended. Formerly closed doors which held us out and kept us back and pushed us down. Now those doors were an invitation to the fellowship and communion of God’s incarnate love.
Today as I thought of those closed doors turned communion tables, I felt grateful and convicted. My call to ministry has taken me through a lot of doors since that day. I muscled my way through a few. Found gracious invitations through others. For the many opened doors I feel profoundly grateful. For a few of the closed doors I also feel grateful.
There are still a lot of doors in need of unhinging and upending. Therein lies my conviction. It is not my calling at this point in life simply to wait on others to open the doors that need opening. There are many doors for which I have been given the keys, for heaven’s sake! Not all, mind you. But I cannot deny that at least part of my calling is to open those doors, to unhinge and upend, and to turn closed doors into open invitations to communion and love.
As Advent gives way to Christmas, as anticipation gives way to embodiment, as closed doors give way to communion tables, I am left with the same prayer that began this season:
Holy God, may we never miss out on seeing what is behind each tiny door or taking our turn to open.