I Am The Door
John 10. I am the
door. I am the door into the sheepfold.
I would like you to
pretend that you are having a dream. Most dreams are rather bizarre
and exotic. Most dreams are quite strange and don’t make a whole
lot of sense. I would like to have you have a dream that you are now
outside of your house in the front yard. Is everyone outside of your
house, condo or your apartment? It is not quite your house, condo or
apartment, but it is kind of like the place that you live.
Inside your house a
party is going on. All your favorite people are there. Family,
friends, neighbors, work associate, all your friends and relatives
of the past and present are there. Everyone who is important to you
is there at that party. It’s a good party and through the front
window, you can see everyone laughing boisterously and carrying on
at the party.
outside the house. You are outside the house. It is night and it is
cold, raining and starting to sleet. It is very cold and become
colder and you want to be inside the house where it is warm, the
fire is blazing in the fireplace and the lights inside are cascading
warmth throughout the house. But you are outside in the dark, cold,
drizzling rain. All you are wearing is a shirt, shorts and sandals,
and you are getting cold and colder as you stand outside the house
in the freezing rain.
So, in your dream,
you start to look for the door. You go to the front door but the
front door is not there. There is no front door to your house. The
windows are all lit up. You can see the lights on in the house
through the windows. You can see the action going on inside the
house. You walk out to the middle of the street in front of the
house where you can see into the house more clearly. From the middle
of the street in the cold drizzling rain, you can see the party
going on, with people smiling, laughing and responding to each
others happily. You say to yourself. “I want to get inside.”
And so in your
dream, you walk back to the house and start walking around the right
side of the house, looking for a side door. In your dream, you walk
for blocks and blocks and blocks. Miles and miles and miles. What a
weird dream. And it is getting colder and colder and colder as you
are walking along and you are wearing only a shirt, shorts and
sandals. And there is still no door.
In your dream, you
walk around to the backside of your house. You walk away from the
house, further into the back yard so you can see into the house
through its windows, into the family room and sure enough, the party
is still going on. Everyone is having a really good time. Your
family, friends, neighbors, work associates, friends from your past
and present: they are all there. Standing in the back yard,
you decide to shout loudly to get their attention inside the house.
But the stereo is turned way up loud and the people inside can’t
hear you. As you stand in the back yard, the night is getting darker
and colder and wetter and so are you.
In your dream, you
walk around to the last side of the house, looking for a door into
the house. And there is no door on that side of the house. By now,
you are really freezing and hungry. By now, it seems like a month
has passed. You feel the movement of time, the movement of the hands
on the clock. Minutes, hours, days, months, years, decades. You feel
panicked in your heart and you want to get inside that house because
precious time is flying by.
You go again to the
front door. You see into the front picture window, full of light and
warmth and the party is still going on. Suddenly …there…is…the
… door…the front door…wide open. You walk in and everybody
shouts: “Where have you been?”
Suddenly, you wake
up. You come out of your fog. Out of your trance. Out of the
moment’s dream that seemed so hazy and so long ago. And…there is
a party going on in your house. In your house. Your family is there.
Your friends are there. Your neighbors are there. From past times
and present times. It is a great party. It is a grand time. It is a surprise
birthday party for you and everyone important to you is there. And
you? You are finally in the middle of it all. It would have
been terrible to miss out on your party.
Jesus said: “I am
the door. I am the door to the Father’s house. I am the door to
the Father’s family. I am the door to the Father’s happiness. I
am the door to the abundant life, the door to the banquet, the door
to the feast, the door to the biggest party that you ever imagined.
I AM the door.
It is with this
modern parable that we approach the gospel lesson for today. This
modern parable is helps us understand the teaching of Jesus that he
is the door.
To understand the
Biblical parable of the sheep and the door, it is helpful to trace
our steps back two thousand years into the time of Christ. So we
momentarily need to go back to the time of sheep and shepherds and
watering holes. During the time of Jesus in the land of Palestine,
during the evening, the shepherds would bring the sheep down from
the hills to protect them at night when the wolves and mountain
lions were hunting their prey.
At night, the shepherds would gather their sheep together and
lead them into large pens. These large pens were called sheepfolds.
These sheepfolds or sheep pens had large walls which were made out
of rocks. The walls of the sheep pens were about five feet high. On
the top of the four stone walls were briars or prickly branches.
These briars or prickly branches would be used for the crown of
thorns on Good Friday. The shepherds put the prickly briars along
the top of the wall, so it was like our barbed wire today on the top
of walls. The result of all of this is that the mountain lions and
wolves couldn’t get inside the sheep pen.
Now, the door way
was about two feet wide. This wide. Not wide at all. It was a small
entry. It was like one small gap in the wall. So I ask you: what was
the door made out of? This is crucial. Was the door made out of wood
that a carpenter had constructed? Was it made out of wool, a wool
blanket that a weaver had woven? Was it made out of stones that the
shepherd had piled up? Was it made of out sticks, all laced together
to form a barrier? Was it made out of leather, a hide from the
sheep? Was it made out of linen, like a linen cloth hanging there in
the gap in the wall? What was the door made out of? Wood? Wool?
Stones? Sticks? Leather? Linen? What was the door made out of? That
is the key to the story.
There was no door.
The shepherd himself was the door. At night, the
shepherd himself would sleep there in the small opening of the rock
wall. He would sleep there, by the fire, with his rod and staff. If
any mountain lion would come, the shepherd would fight it off with
his weapons, his short stocky club or his long pointed staff.
Literally and actually, the shepherd himself was the door.
meaning of this parable of Jesus in John 10 is unlocked when we
start to think of Jesus himself as being the door. It was as if
Jesus was saying: “I am the door to the Father’s house. I am the
door to the Father’s family. I am the door to the Father’s
safety. I am the door to the fullness of life. I am the door to the
banquet, the feast, the green pastures, to the greatest party ever.
I am literally the door into the safety and security of the
sheep pen and the door out to the green pastures and
the abundant life and feasting that goes on in those pastures. I am
Socratic-method sermons, there are three points to this sermon. The
first is this: Jesus is the living, speaking, talking door who
This past week I
have been thinking about doors. Please imagine some doors in your
mind. The doors that I thought of were some doors at Hastings State
Mental Hospital where I worked years ago. These were large, yellow,
steel doors, down in the tunnels between buildings in that old
mental hospital. As I recall, these doors were intimidating fearsome
doors and kind of spooky, especially their loud, cold clank in the
lonely tunnels. Also, when I think of doors, I think of the doors at
the King County Jail where I have been to visit some folks. When you
go to visit the inner rooms in the King County Jail, several doors
are made out of solid steel, except for a small window. A jailer
would pull back a steel plate from that small window and grumble,
“Yes?” I would reply, “I am here to see so and so. Can I come
in?” Or, when I think of doors, I think of old castles in Europe
and of those giant wooden doors with iron hinges. Recently, when my
wife and I visited Spain, we saw an old iron door on a castle that
was one thousand years old and still working and keeping people out.
In these three examples of doors that I have shared with you, those
closed doors all symbolically said, “KEEP OUT. STOP. NO
Jesus wasn’t and
isn’t that kind of door. Jesus was not like any of these doors.
Jesus was just the opposite. Rather than a barrier and a persistent
“no admittance,” Jesus was a living door, a talking door, a
speaking door who invites us in: “Won’t you come in? Won’t you
come in to my Father’s house? Won’t you come into my Father’s
love? Won’t you come into my Father’s family? Won’t you come
in to the banquet, the feast, the biggest party you have ever
seen?” As in the exotic dream in the introduction to the sermon,
where you wanted to come into the home and into the party and into
the feast where all your family and friends are; so also, you and I
want to come into the feast of God’s eternal love, eternal
happiness, and eternal heaven which begins here on earth. Jesus is a
living door, a living door who speaks and invites us to come into
the Father’s house and into the Father’s family and into the
Father’s eternity which begins now.
This past week, as
I have been thinking about doors and the messages that the doors
communicate, I have been thinking about the door to my office. Would
you please imagine the door to my office here at church? When I have
the door to my office closed, people normally don’t come in very
easily. When the door is closed, it gives a message: “Stay away. I
am busy.” If, on the other hand, I leave the door wide open,
everyone knows that they can stick their head in my office and say,
“Hi there” or that they can feel free to walk right in and say,
“Hi Ed. Got a moment to chat.”
But let’s take it
a step further and say that I personally am the door and I am
personally standing there in the doorway and I am personally
addressing you and everybody that comes along by saying: “Good
morning. Won’t you come in to chat? What’s going on in your life
right now? Won’t you come in?” Almost all of you would come in
And that is the way
it is with Jesus. Jesus is the living door, the talking door, the
speaking door and he invites us: “Won’t you come into my
Father’s house? Into the party. Into the feast. Into the banquet.
Into the family and friends. For this day and for all eternity.
Won’t you please come in?”
And Jesus is asking you and me, this day, to come into the
Father’s house and family and eternal love.
The first point of the sermon is
that Jesus himself is the door; that Jesus is a living door, the
talking door, the speaking door who extends an invitation to us this
day: “Won’t you come in?
The second point of
the sermon is this: It is through the door that you come into the
sheepfold where you are protected from the wolves of life. It is
through the living door that you come into the sheep pen and within
the sheep pen, you are protected from the predators of life. Do you
have this mental image of a sheep pen, with five foot high rock
walls, with briars on the top of those rock walls, briars that act
like barbed wire? Within the sheepfold, we are protected from the
evils of life.
For us, our homes
are places of protection. They are places of safety and security.
Most of us have deep feelings of safety when we finally are into our
homes. For most children, their homes are symbols of the safest
place they can be on earth. In
the children’ sermon today, I asked them what was the safest place
they could be. All the children said, “Home.” I asked them why
their home was the safest place they could imagine. They said, “It
is secure. The door keeps mean people out.”
Now, it is
absolutely true that Jesus protects people and gives us safety. It
makes all the difference in the world if you come into the family of
Jesus. There is a kind of protection in being part of the family of
Jesus, in being part of the household of faith, of being in the
sheep pen. Where your mothers and fathers, and brothers and sisters,
and grandmas and grandpas, and aunts and uncles, and friends and
neighbors are Christians. Such a life has a way of protecting you
from the foolish of life. There is safety and security in being a
Christian, in being part of the household of faith, in living within
the sheepfold of Jesus. When your best friends are Christians, it
has a way of protecting you from the craziness and insanity of life
that you find all around you in the world.
In my work, I see
it all the time. Christian family. Christian friends. Christian
connections. There is a protection when one lives within these
communities. When you join a church and Christian church people
become your family, you find a greater safety and security than
outside the Christian family/church.
The opposite is
also true. Do you know all the kids that I have seen eaten alive by
the wolves of this world? Not only the kids, but moms and dads who
have somehow strayed away from the protection of the Christian
community and the good shepherd.
There is protection
from the foolishness and craziness of life within the good shepherd
and the Christian community. Of course, there is not protection from
cancer, from heart attacks, from car accidents, from tornadoes, from
economic recession, from unemployment, and similar kinds of things
that are part and parcel of being human. You and I are not protected
from such disaster when we live within our homes or when we live
with the church.
But there is
protection and that protection is very important. There is a
protection from evil, from the evil one, from the power of evil that
wants to ruin your values and ruin the goodness of your life. There
is a spiritual, emotional and psychological security and safety
within Jesus and his community, within the protectiveness of Christ
and Christian friends and Christian family.
Jesus stands at the
gate, trying to keep the evil rapacities of life away. My heart and
mind shake with fear and uneasiness when I see people who do not
think that they need the protection of Christ and the Christian
community for themselves and their loved ones.
But Christ is not
only the gate into the sheepfold. (That was point two of the
sermon.) Christ is also the gate out to green pastures. One
side of the metaphor is this: Christ is the gate into the
sheepfold where we will find protection from the wolves of life. The
other side of the metaphor is this: Jesus is the gate by which we go
out to green pastures and experience the fullness of life and
the abundant life.
scenes do you imagine when you imagine green pastures? When I think
of green pastures, I think of Wisconsin and my in-laws lake cabin
there near Turtle Lake, Wisconsin. There is a gorgeous green pasture
near their lake cabin. The pasture is very grassy and very green and
very lush. There are all kinds of Holstein milk cows in that lush
green pasture with its tall fresh grasses. If I were a milk cow, I
would like to live there. I have a feeling that it would be a great
life to live as a milk cow on that farm, chewing grass, giving milk,
talking to all the other cows, and experiencing the fullness of a
cow’s life. It would be like a banquet, a heavenly cow’s banquet
here on earth.
Jesus said, “I am
the gate into the green pastures of life. I am the gate into the
fullness of life, into the abundant life, into the banquet of life,
the feast of life.
What is the
fullness of life? What is the abundant life? What are these green
pastures that Jesus talks about. In Psalm 23, King David tells us
that the good shepherd will make us lie down in green pastures and
lead us beside still waters and thereby restore our soul. What does
that mean that Jesus leads us out to green pastures and beside still
waters and thereby restores our soul?
Jesus is the gate
into the green pastures. I would like to suggest to you that green
pastures are communities of love, communities of justice and
communities of peace.
The green pastures
are communities of people who give and receive love. God created all
human beings with a capacity to love. There is no greater joy than
this: than giving love, receiving love, and being part of
communities of love.
A community of
love. Loving God and one another and loving life. Loving the
goodness that God has showered upon you. Yes, loving God. As you
wake up in the morning and listen to the birds outside the window,
it is knowing and appreciating that God created all the melodies of
the birds. As you live the day at noontime and see the food placed
before you at the table, it is knowing and appreciating that God in
his infinite wisdom created food you for and all humanity. As you
fall asleep at night and your head is nestling into the pillow, it
is knowing and appreciating that God is watching your every breath
in and out through the night. The green pastures? It is knowing and
loving God. It is knowing and loving each other in the families of
the earth. Jesus said, “There is no greater joy than giving and
A community of
justice. The green pastures is living in communities of justice. If
I were a cow in Wisconsin and one tenth of the pasture was green and
nine tenths of the pasture was brown grass stubble, I would not be
happy. As Christians, we are never happy when 90% of people on earth
live with brown stubble of grass and rocks. We are committed to
God’s ideal that all people eat from the lushness of the pastures
of God’s creation. The abundant life, the full life, the banquet
life is when everyone is part of God’s fullness and we as
Christians work for that.
A community of
peace. To find the green pastures means to find peace. Peace within
families. Peace within churches. Peace within schools and
neighborhoods and cities. Peace between nations. Where people work
to solve their differences in peaceful ways without killing each
other or going to war with each other. When huge numbers of people
live in communities and nations that are experiencing war, we work
for peace for those communities and nations.
Yes, Jesus calls us
from the sheepfold and leads us out to green pastures which are
symbolic of communities of love, justice and peace.
It is Mother’s
Day today. May God bless all those mothers this day, especially
those mothers who have created homes that give safety and security
for their families. May
God bless all those mothers this day, especially those mothers who
have found their way to green pastures and led their children to
green pastures. We thank God for mothers who are good shepherds and
know what it means to be part of communities of love, justice and
Jesus said: “I am
the door. Won’t you come in?” Amen.
(As a footnote,
I preached this same sermon but evolving sermon in 1978, 1984, 1992,
1998, and 2004 to the same congregation. I have copies of all five
manuscripts and can see the development and maturation of the same
sermon through the years. It is a fundamental thesis of this website
that sermons evolve, grow and can become stronger through the