by Harold Dean Trulear
I hear a sound.
It is a knock. Do you hear it? It is a knock– sure and steady. There is a knock; yes, there’s somebody knocking at our door!
Jesus is knocking. He has not given up on Laodicea. Jesus is knocking. There is hope for Laodicea. Jesus is knocking. The ultimate destiny of Laodicean saints is still in view. Jesus is knocking, and he has a word for us in Paterson today.
He says, “If anyone hears my voice …”
Oh, I am glad he said “anyone.” That’s equal opportunity that can’t be dismissed by our legislators. He said “anyone.” That’s egalitarian ethics at its highest. “Anyone” — that’s a democratic call that critiques Domitian’s claim to a corner on the information market.
I am so glad Jesus didn’t say, “If the politicians hear …”
I am so glad he didn’t say, “If the factory owners hear…”
I am particularly pleased he didn’t say, “If the rich and powerful hear…”
No, this is a call to all of us who name the name of Jesus. The future of Laodicea and its churches does not rest on the decisions of its ruling class. God calls out to us for a partnership, the qualifications for which are found under the heading of “anyone”: anyone who “hears my voice and opens the door!”
And if we open the door to our hearts and let him into those seats of trust still warm with the impression of Domitian’s comfortable presence… If we let him into those closed-off areas where we hid our trust in the system’s gains… If we let him into those backyard gardens where we nurtured ideas of economy security and tossed prophetic principles of compassion and justice into our personal landfills… If we let him into the dumps of our toxic, theological waste… If we open the door to our hearts, he promises to come in.
He promises not just to come in but to have supper. The man, woman, boy, or girl who opens his or heart to Christ and chooses to follow him and resist the system’s evil has the promise of supper with the Savior. Now, supper is a special meal. No fast-food fellowship with some wrappers and cups to dispose of quickly. He’s not a drive-thru divinity. No, this supper is like that old-fashioned tradition– you remember down South— when everybody gathered around the table: no TV or radio interrupted the conversation; the day’s events were rehearsed; thanks were rendered for the day’s gifts, grace, and labor; and a time of family intimacy and fellowship became the ritual of belonging for everybody present. This holy ritual prepared the family for the press of the coming days.
That is what Jesus wants with you and me– a time of intimacy and fellowship, where we can talk about the issues of the day; give thanks for gifts, grace, and labor; make plans for the coming hours. He’s knocking because he’s looking for somebody to reject Domitian’s offer of a diet of compliance and cooperation and to choose the fullness of the feast at his feet.
He’s knocking today. His knock says, “I have not given up on Paterson.” It says, “I still have hope for the city.” It says, “There is opportunity for your renewal, if you let me in.” It declares, “I am looking for people of faith who will turn toward me and away from Domitian, turn toward the new Jerusalem and away from Rome, turn to new life and away from death. There’s a reason your city looks the way it does: your trust has been in the wrong places, your heart has been wooed by the wrong song, your gaze has been fixed on the wrong source. Look to me and live.”
That’s what the knocking is about. It is the knock of somebody who sees our plight, receives our repentance, and offers his presence. After all, he’s not an anti-urban God. He is not the Savior of suburbia only, but of the whole world. For when he makes his final move, it is to a city– not one that harnesses creation’s power, but one that is in harmony with creation. That future city doesn’t take its waterfall and use it to create wealth, but it does have a river, flowing clear as crystal. There are no locomotive or gun factories, but there is a tree whose fruit produces healing for the nations. There are no silk or textile mills, but somehow the bride is still dressed beautifully for her husband. He’s still knocking, with invitations to this great wedding.
Harold Dean Trulear was the Dean of First Professional Programs and Professor of Church and Society at New York Theological Seminary. He spent ten years an urban missionary for Youth for Christ/Campus Life. This excerpt appeared in The Best Preaching on Earth edited by Stan L. LeQuire and published by Judson Press in collaboration with the Evangelical Environmental Network in 1996. This is the first of a two part series