The Price of Admission

Standing at the door

There are two passages of Scripture that came to mind as I reflected on the readings for the Fourth Sunday after Epiphany: the Lesson – Micah 6:1-8; the Response (to the Lesson) – Psalm 15; the Epistle: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 and the Gospel – Matthew 5:1-12. The passages (the ones that came to mind) have something to do with a door. They are Revelation 3:20 and Matthew 7:7. The verse from Revelation reads ‘Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me’. The verse from Matthew reads ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you’. Why do these verses come to mind? Because they both have to do with entering, with admission.  

Let’s begin with the Gospel. This Sunday’s Gospel is the beginning of the famous Sermon on the Mount. Many of us know the beginning of the Sermon as the Beatitudes. In these verses, Jesus lists nine circumstances under which we are blessed. In this context, ‘blessed’ is not to be confused with being showered with prosperity and success, as the word is loosely used nowadays. In this context, ‘blessed’ means receiving the favour or approval of the Lord. In fact, in the Good News Translation of the Holy Bible, ‘blessed’ is conveyed as ‘happy’.

Let’s now consider the Psalm. The Psalm in our Eucharistic services responds to the Lesson (the Old Testament reading). That is, the Psalm causes us to reflect on the Lesson. Psalm 15 asks, ‘Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle? Who may abide upon your holy hill?’ and then answers the questions by listing the virtues – the behaviours, mindsets, and attitudes – of such a person. This is in response to the Lesson, Micah 6:1-8 in which God challenges Israel for, once again, their delinquency and straying from God. The reading ends with a summary (like the Psalm) of what God requires. Verse 8 reads, ‘He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?’

As I’ve pointed out, the Psalm encourages reflection upon the Lesson, yet, I see such a parallel between the Gospel and the Psalm. For, just as the Psalm lists who may abide upon God’s holy hill (in effect, who is regarded as righteous), the Gospel celebrates those who are righteous (who have received the approval of God) and lists the conditions under which one can be regarded as righteous.

So, what does any of this have to do with doors or, as this week’s piece is entitled, the price of admission? Hmm…let’s explore.

The price of admission

Revelation 3:20 is taken from the message to the Church in Laodicea, one of the seven churches being sent a message. Oddly enough, the name ‘Laodicea’ comes from two Greek words which, when combined, mean the righteous judgement of the people. Quite fitting for the readings today, wouldn’t you say? The readings this Sunday pronounce God’s righteous judgement on the people. In fact, Micah 6 begins, ‘Hear what the Lord says: “Rise, plead your case before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice”’. God has examined Israel and executed righteous judgement on them that they are not blessed, they have not received the favour or approval of the Lord. Just as God the Creator pleaded with Israel in Micah, God the Son pleaded with Laodicea in Revelation. Jesus urged, that they hear his voice and open the door.

What does this mean, though, ‘open the door’? Simply, it’s taking heed of God’s word and God’s counsel. It is to live in a manner that is pleasing to God. It is to honour God’s will. Opening the door is walking in purpose. After all, who can welcome a guest without making adequate provision for the guest. In like manner, we cannot accommodate the Lord in our hearts without making adequate provisions for the Lord. And, if we do not hear his voice and open the door, he cannot come in and eat with us and us with him. Continuing further, if that can’t happen, then we cannot dwell in the Lord’s tabernacle or abide upon his holy hill. In short, we will not be blessed.

So, where does Matthew 7:7 belong in this argument? After all, it reads in part, ‘knock, and the door will be opened for you’. You will notice that Revelation 3:20 speaks of us opening the door of our heart to Christ. Matthew 7:7, though, speaks of God opening the door for us. Matthew 7 is the final chapter in the Sermon on the Mount, which is a sermon that establishes, just as the Ten Commandments did, what it takes to enter into God’s Holy Kingdom. The Commandments told us what we are to do; the Sermon on the Mount speaks to the spirit with which we are to follow God’s Holy Law. Did you know that it is in the Sermon on the Mount where the ‘Golden Rule’: ‘do unto others as you would have them do unto you’ can be found?

In summary, the readings this Sunday are saying, ‘Listen, there’s a price of admission to the Kingdom and it involves reciprocal action. You open the door of your heart to God; God will come in, dine with you, and transform (HEW) you. When you do that, God will open the door to His Tabernacle to you. If God opens the door to His tabernacle to you, you will be called righteous, and you will be counted among the blessed. It doesn’t matter what you endure, for your reward in heaven will be great.’ Alternatively, we could receive the readings as God saying, ‘When you ask me to open the door to my Kingdom to you, you must first open your heart to me so that I can come in, transform (HEW) you, and then the door will be open for you. That is the price of admission into my Kingdom.’

Are you willing to pay the price of admission?

Friends, when we do all this, not only will we be called blessed, not only will we receive the favour and approval of the Lord and abide upon God’s holy hill, but we will also receive the power of God which is Jesus Christ, who is the source of our life. And, when we receive that power, we earn all right to boast in the Lord!

Dear ones, I’ve quoted the price of admission for you. My question as I leave you is this: are you willing to pay the price? It is my hope that you are!

Until next time, I pray you the love of the Father, the peace of the Son, and the joy of the Spirit.

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