At a meeting earlier this week, the facilitator opened by reading that passage from Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus says, among other things, “..knock, and the door will be opened for you.” That image of knocking on the door has remained with me, and I was particularly struck by something that I had never paid attention to in this passage before: that once the door is knocked upon, someone has to open it for you. I know — pretty obvious, but not an aspect of this passage I had really attended to in the past.
As I have meditated on this line, I have come to see that this is a wonderful image of community, and of the Trinity community, in particular. As we talk as a community about the value of radical welcoming, and as I have talked in a recent sermon about the importance of Trinity as a place that welcomes the soul, the question of what we do and how we respond to the “knocked-on door” is really at the heart of that conversation.
It is perhaps more clear what we should do when someone almost literally knocks on our door — when people visit us on a Sunday morning, for example. To make the decision to visit a church is to knock on the door, in order to discover whether and how the people of that church will open it. It has seemed to me that Trinity does a pretty good job of opening the door to those who visit here, although I wonder how often we think about the experience of our community from the point of view of someone who is unfamiliar with us. To try to put ourselves in the place of a newcomer might lead us to even deeper levels of radical welcoming.
Less clear, but just as urgent, is the general knocking that goes on at our door by the surrounding culture. The Bay Area has the second-lowest rate of religious affiliation in the country, so we are told. Yet there is no shortage of spiritual hunger here. There is no lack of a crisis of meaning, as the tragic suicides of young people in our community this year have made horribly clear. Faith communities in general, and Trinity in particular, have a vocation and gift to help feed the spiritually as well as the literally hungry, and to help people live with depth of purpose and meaning. Yet, religious institutions are so often seen as irrelevant and unable to deliver what people are really looking for.
This, it seems to me, is the challenge for our time and place. As a community, we must figure out how to open the knocked-on door to the larger community. We must claim our relevance in the context of our culture, not by throwing Prayer Books and Bibles at people, but by inviting them into a safe space where their souls can be nurtured and deeper meaning discovered. I have no grand plan for doing this (yet), but I believe that together we can begin to discover how to open our doors to a culture that is suffering from a crisis of meaning, a crisis of community.