SYR

Sermon 11/27/2022

KaB FKB (Volker Aßmann)

That sounds promising – Open the door!

Paving the way for God in our lives and in the world!

This sermon is translated from German into English. You can find the original video here

 

“The earth and everything on it belongs to the LORD.
The world and people are His.
For HE anchored the foundations of the earth in the seas and built them on the depths of the oceans.
Who may climb the mountain of the LORD
stand in His holy place ?
Only the people whose hands and hearts are pure
who worship no idols and take no false oaths.
They receive the blessing of the Lord and righteousness from God their Savior.
This applies to the people who ask about the God of Israel and seek His presence.
 
Open yourselves, you venerable gates and you ancient doors,
so that the king of glory can enter!
Who is the king of glory?
It is the LORD, strong and mighty,
the LORD mighty in battle.
Open yourselves, you venerable gates and you ancient doors,
so that the king of glory can enter!
Who is the king of glory?
It is the LORD Almighty (LORD Sabaoth)
It is the king of glory.”
(Psalm 24)
It is likely that this psalm was sung over and over again during temple services.
We probably have to imagine that people were standing outside the temple and asking for the temple doors to be opened! Open to the people who yearned for God’s presence. And the question is: for what and why should the doors be opened?
So that the king of glory would be let in!
From within, the priests asked, “Who is the King of Glory?” The people answered from outside: “It is the LORD, strong and mighty! It is the Lord Almighty.”
It is people’s desire for God’s presence with them and fellowship with them. But suddenly a completely different question arises. The people who longed for God’s presence were not in the temple at all, but stood outside, they were excluded. And then David asks in this Psalm:
>Who may come to the LORD and His holy place?<
Who is allowed in God’s presence?
David answers the question like this:
“Only those whose hands and hearts are pure, who worship no idols and take no false oaths.
They receive the blessing of the Lord and righteousness from God their Savior. This applies to the people who ask about the God of Israel and seek His presence.”
 
That ‘s not exactly inviting! Imagine we have a sign at our entrance that says:
Welcome to all whose hands and hearts are pure, if you always believe in God, never lie and never take false oaths.
I think I would preach to empty pews, no, I wouldn’t preach at all, I would stand outside myself. Do you understand what this question means? Who then may come to the Lord and to his holy place? – Who is allowed in here with us? – Who is allowed to meet God? Does he look at me at all, does he even notice me? am i good enough
Open yourselves, you venerable gates and you ancient doors, so that the king of glory can enter!
 
Suddenly it is not the venerable gates of the temple, but the life doors of people, then in the OT, today with you and me?
Suddenly the question is: May I go to God? God accept me, will someone open the door to God for me? It’s about my life door, not the church house door, not the temple door. Can someone open my door?
Question: Do you still have any doors that can be opened, that you can open, or do you live with doors barricaded to people and to God? Have you already closed your doors like a hurricane is coming and you need to protect your house? Are there still doors in your life that you are willing to open for people and God?
Can anyone get close to you? People? God? Or is it all too much for you?
These are questions that are just as relevant in our time and society as they were when the Psalm was prayed and sung.
How much religiosity and commerce blocks people’s access to Advent, Christmas, to God himself?! Sometimes the only consolation is knowing that you can exchange the gifts you don’t need after Christmas.
How many things block our view of Advent, Christmas, of the God who comes, who opens doors and invites us to himself?
The song: Makes the door high, the gate makes it wide , we have just sung it, is a 400-year-old hymn written by the Königsberg pastor Georg Weisselim in Advent 1623 for the ceremonial inauguration of the new Altroßgärter church.
  1. Open the door, open the gate;
    The Lord of glory is coming,
    King of all kingdoms,
    Savior of all the world at once,
    bringing salvation and life;
    therefore rejoices, sings with joy:
    Praised be my God,
    my Creator rich in counsel.
  2. 2.He is righteous, worthy of a helper;
    Meekness is his companion,
    his crown is holiness,
    his scepter is mercy;
    He brings all our troubles to an end, so
    shouts for joy, sings with joy:
    Praised be my God,
    my Savior great in deeds.3. O good to the country, o good to the city that
    has this king with it.
    Good for all hearts in general,
    since this king moves in.
    He is the real joy,
    brings with him nothing but joy and delight .
    Blessed be my God,
    my Comforter early and late .4. Open the door, the gate widens ,
    prepare your heart for the temple .
    The sprigs of godliness
    put on with devotion, delight and joy ;
    so the king also comes to you,
    yes, salvation and life at the same time.
    Blessed be my God,
    full of counsel, full of action, full of grace.

    5. Come, O my Savior Jesus Christ,
    the door of my heart is open to you.
    Ah, enter with your grace;
    your kindness appears to us too.
    Your Holy Spirit guides us and guides
    the way to eternal bliss.
    Your name, O Lord,
    be glory and honor forever.

This hymn is about the great King and Lord of Glory moving in somewhere. He is the focus, just like in Psalm 24 and this hymn goes back to this Psalm.
Stanzas 3 and 4 are now about the places where ER moves in. And these places are becoming more and more personal : from the “world” to “country” and “city” to the “heart” of the individual, to you and me.
The king himself is described in stanza 1 in terms of “glory,” a universal king (“king of all kingdoms”) bringing “salvation” and “life.” And suddenly it’s about terms like “gentleness”, “holiness” and “mercy” (stanza 2), terms that appear completely alien to the powerful of this world and also in history.
This king does not come with military force, he is holy, not corrupt. He is a king who loves you because he is merciful.
These terms describe the king in more detail and his arrival is cause for joy. This king is so powerful and holy that there is no comparison
This king moves into the “country” and “city” – that is, into public life – (stanza 3), but also into the private, personal area: into the “heart”, which reacts with “joy” and “bliss”. It is “your (my) heart” and the entry “to you (me)” (stanza 4), and man’s opening to the king is expected.
In stanza 5, the image of the king is apparently left and another title is chosen, which is already echoed in stanza 1 and 2: “my savior (my saviour) Jesus Christ”.
A personal relationship is established with him, it is about “my heart” and the form of speech changes to a prayer: “Come, O my Savior Jesus Christ”.
Here the circle closes: ‘Who is this LORD? – Who can come to HIM? Now it says:
Come, O my Savior Jesus Christ, the door of my heart is open to you.
Ah, enter with your grace; your kindness appears to us too.
 
This is about much, much more than religiosity and liturgy, it is about a personal relationship of an individual and ultimately many people to this great and glorious king, it’s about your relationship to this great and glorious God, who with nothing and no one can compare.
It’s about HE becoming/is your Savior and my Saviour, the Savior who opens the door to the almighty and glorious King, the door that nothing and no one could open. Jesus Christ opened this door for us.
You may think that this is all old and familiar. That may be so, but God challenges us to live it (again) anew and to experience how it shapes and changes our everyday life.
And there is this all-important word, which is also known to most, and which alone opens the door for us: GRACE!
Nothing else, nothing you can believe, nothing you can do, opens the door for us. It doesn’t matter if you’re particularly brave or strong or weak. Grace alone opens the door to God, and grace means it is a gift, not something you deserve or can deserve. No one is entitled to God opening that door to HIM. And no one meets the requirements of Psalm 24! But the answer is:
Grace, not achievement or anything I can show, opens the door, even for those with dirty hands or a heart to tremble at!
And that we can still celebrate Advent and Christmas in 2022 in a world that is getting darker and darker, that too is grace. And this light of grace must go to those who live in darkness and hopelessness!
That is also part of the story of Advent and Christmas and the song “Make your door high!” that the grace of God will and must leave traces in our lives, otherwise we will have missed Advent and Christmas.
A story from the time this song was written makes this clear. The story of Mr. Sturgis , who had cordoned off the path leading from the poorhouse across his property to barring the way for the poor to enter the church.
And then this Mr. Sturgis sits in the church on the 2nd Advent 1623 and they sing this song: “Open the door, the gate opens wide” –
Singing this song touched his heart and he asked himself, “What am I doing here?” I block access to help for poor people who need help, I block access for people who live in hopelessness and darkness to the church! Who am I anyway that I can say to someone: “You are not allowed to come?”. I don’t know if that same day or the next morning he tore down the fence he had made and reopened the entrance to the church.
Which locked door in your life should you open for people and for God?! In this Advent!? TODAY?!
With whom have you perhaps not spoken a word for a long time?
For whom should you (and I) open the apartment, the house and maybe the wallet and help them and do good? Where’s the fence you should tear down?
For whom should you pave and invite the way to church?
The door to God is wide open, for you, for me, for everyone who comes.

Psalm 24 ends with this central question, which is asked twice and seems particularly important: “Who is this King of glory for whom we are to open the door? (24.8+10) and two answers to this question:

“The LORD is mighty and mighty, the LORD mighty in battle.”
 
“It is the LORD Almighty (the LORD of all hosts), HE is the King of glory.”
It is the LORD Zebaoth. A name for God that expresses the special power and majesty of God.
“YAHWEH Zebaoth” (I am that I am): This is a common ‘nickname’ of God, a name for God expressing the special power and majesty of God. It describes God standing above and in front of the army of His people Israel.
(1 Samuel 17:45+46: David called back to Goliath: “You meet me with sword, spear and javelin. But I come in the name of the LORD Almighty – the God of the Israelite army, whom you have taunted. Today the LORD will defeat you…” )
We know how the story ended: the seemingly helplessly defeated shepherd boy David defeated the giant with the help of Yahweh Sabaoth.
That sounds too foreign and military for our ears? But it simply means: Our God is strong, no, that’s far too little that HE is strong. HE is incomparably strong. His power has no limits.
This name of God ” Yahweh Sabaoth ” also means that HE is the commander of hosts of countless angels (Joshua 5:14 and Psalm 103:21: “Praise the LORD, you angelic hosts who serve HIM and do His will!”).
He stands in front of and behind a vast army of angels, each of whom represents immense power in and of itself. God is the one who stands above everything, above whom nothing and no one stands.
We only find this epithet of God from the beginning of Israel’s reign (1 Sam.1: 3 ; 4:4; 15:2; 2 Sam.5:10; 6:2) and it is used frequently in the Psalms and in the prophets, especially Isaiah.
The LORD is he who “is enthroned over the cherubim.”
Isaiah 37:16: “O LORD of hosts (Yahweh Sabaoth), God of Israel, who reigns over the cherubim! You alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. It is you who created heaven and earth. Bend your ear, O LORD, and hear! Open your eyes, O LORD, and see !… )
Who are cherubim ? the Cherubim are mighty angels, perhaps the mightiest of angels.
Two cherubim were on and over the Ark of the Covenant, the place where God dwelt on earth at that time, as it were, as an expression of the omnipotence and holiness of God (Exodus 25:18-22)
Perhaps it is just what we need as God’s children and in our world at large: a strong expression and proof of God’s unlimited power and holiness, so as not to be tossed about like on sea waves by all sorts of bad news and frightening things (James 1 ,6)
And we need faith in this mighty God and a heart full of trust in this mighty God.
” You know that when your faith is tried and proven, it breeds steadfastness. And through perseverance, the good that has begun in your life shall come to completion. Then you will be perfect, and you will lack for nothing.” (James 1:3+4)
Romans 3:25: “HIM (Jesus Christ) God made (made) a place of atonement ( Hilasterion = atonement cover of the Ark of the Covenant under the two cherubim ) through faith in His blood…”
The almighty God, YAHWEH ZEBAOTH, is not a power-hungry despot, as we still experience far too often in our world, but HE is God who likes to open the gate and the door to HIM Himself for people.
So God’s unlimited power and His love are not a contradiction, but at the place with the greatest possible expression of His power at the time, right in the middle is the greatest proof of His love for us humans, namely the crucified Jesus.
Here is the place and the person who alone can and will save us.
Open the door, the gate widens…!
I believe that God wants to make His greatness and power over everything and everyone great and clear to us this Advent, so that we live and serve with HIM courageously and with a view to the goal!
In terms of content and meaning, it is exactly what Paul describes:
“…until Christ our Lord comes again.
This will happen in God’s appointed time –
HE, the perfect and sole ruler,
the king over all kings and the lord over all lords,
He who alone possesses immortality and who dwells in an inaccessible light,
He whom no man has ever seen and whom no man can ever see.
HIM be honor and power forever and ever!
I invite you to read a chapter from the book of Isaiah on the 1st Advent, Isaiah 40.
It is about God’s people, just living in exile and captivity, smoothing God’s way into human life and into our world. At that time it was about God’s help and the rescue of His people from captivity.
And God shows himself to be powerful and reliable!
As a God who is comparable to nothing and no one.
And this chapter ends very personally, also for your and my life situation today!
>So why do you say, Jacob, and you, Israel (and you….): “The LORD does not know how I am doing, and HE doesn’t care about my rights?”<
“Don’t you know? Didn’t you hear?
The LORD is an everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth.
HE does not become faint or tired. His mind is unfathomable.
HE gives new strength to the weary; He gives ample strength to the powerless.
It may be that even young people become weary and weary, and young men break down completely, but those who wait (wait) on the Lord gain new strength.
They soar like eagles. You run fast without tiring. They walk and do not faint.”
(Isaiah 40:27-31)
Go into the new week and Advent with this trust: YAHWEH ZEBAOTH knows you and me and HE is still the same. HE gives us strength and hope, even when our own strength is at the end.

HE walks with us, HE has not forgotten you and HE never will!

Amen!

Make our God a road through the desert, a way through the steppe! (Isaiah 40:3)
All obstacles to the glory of the Lord will be removed. (40:3-5)
“The people are grass. The grass withers and the flowers wither; but the word of the LORD stands forever.” (40:7-8)
è”Look, there is your God! Behold, the LORD your ruler is coming with power.” HE will feed his flock like a shepherd: HE will carry the lambs in his arms and hold them on his lap; HE will guide the ewes kindly.” (40:9-11)
No one compares to the LORD!! (40:12-
And the seemingly powerful and the many people are as nothing in His sight! (40:15-16)
“Who could be like God, or what could be compared to Him?” (40:19)
“God is enthroned high above the earth. People appear to HIM like locusts…HE renders the great ones of this world ineffective and destroys the highest judges. No sooner are they planted and sown, no sooner have they taken root, than HE blows over them and they have to wither. The storm carries them away like chaff.” (40:22-24)
è”So who do you want to compare me to? Who is like me?” asked the SAINT. (40.25)