Sermon: “The Doorkeeper” (A)
Scripture: Psalm 84: 10
Prepare by Carl Schaefer
Did you notice the want-ad in the bulletin today - for a “Doorkeeper.” It says, wanted, “Doorkeeper,” permanent position, 24/7, but with heavenly benefits. Who does it say that you can send your response to? God? (B)The position is referred to in Psalm 84: 10. Vs. 10 says, “For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God that live in the tents of wickedness.”
The Ad reminds me of a story about a man named Bill. The character is fictional, but the story is as true as life itself.
© Bill was approaching his seventies and had worked as a doorkeeper at a turn-of-the century “posh” apartment house in the lower East side of Manhattan for almost 40 years. He was a remarkable person and everyone who lived there loved him. It is wasn’t for his cheery personality that brightened-up the coming and going, it was his willingness to carry bags, hold the cat’s, or dog’s leash for a few minutes, open car doors, and give directions. As a matter of fact, he was a walking information center as he not only new everyone in the building in which apartment that they lived-in, but he also knew most the friends that came to visit. Needless to say he loved his job.
Then came the day when the management group decided that the front doors needed replacing and they decided to replace them with a revolving door. Not only was it more energy efficient, but also it was a transitional plan to illuminating his job, but also they didn’t want to make too many changes all at once. Just give the people some time to learn that they could open their own door, and eventually they wouldn’t even miss Bill. This change didn’t seem to mind Bill so much as he was still able to greet people, and it gave him more time for conversation with the residents. He was even able to extract a few people that seemed to get “lost” in the door.
Then the fateful day came and they decided it was time to eliminate Bill’s position. It shattered Bill when he learned of the news. His health took a nosedive, as he no longer felt needed. He emotionally lost his purpose for living, and he longed just to fade away and let the Lord “take” him. In the hospital, with an unknown ailment, his old friend Charles that he had gone to school with in his early days came to visit him. Charles had traveled to New York and learned that Bill was no longer at the doorpost, and after a few inquiries, learned that he was in the hospital. Charles and Bill had always had a special relationship, and it seemed that Charles was the only that Bill was willing to listen to when he got down on his spirit – down on things at times. They had talked on the phone occasionally and had kept in touch with cards and a few letters. What’s wrong with you Bill, Charles asked?
“Why don’t you just get another job,” Charles asked Bill. Bill responded, “that’s ridiculous, I’m seventy years old. And besides, what else would I do?” No, I think God must be mad at me, or it’s mine time to hang-up my “hat.” Bill had died inside, and Charles was concerned. After all, who would hire a seventy-year old man. Doorkeepers had gone the way of elevator operators. Even the people that had depended so much on these guides and walking catalogs of information had been transformed into ATM’s and the Internet.
I wonder about that Psalmist. What was his reason for wanting to be a doorkeeper? Despair comes on quickly when we lose sight of the possibilities for our lives. Sometimes God’s plan for our lives is incomplete, or at least, not completely known to us at anyone point in time.
Charles left the hospital frustrated. He was unable to talk his friend out his state of depression. He was almost convinced that this was it for Bill. In driving to the airport, he passed a Wal-Mart and remembers he wanted to pick-up some cards to send to Bill to the hospital. Upon entering, he (D) noticed a small sign on the window – Greeters wanted. The light went on. “That’s it. I’ll send a note to Bill when I get back home. He was convinced that God was not done with Bill yet.
It was a number of weeks before Bill left the hospital. It seemed that the more he thought about how useless he was, the more he was convinced there God had forgotten him.
Charles’ note arrived at Bill’s home the day he got home from the hospital. Bill saw Charles’ return address and the envelope was among the first to be opened. Inside was a note wherein Charles described the need for greeters at a local Wal-Mart. Bill ignored the note for almost a week. But after going almost nuts at home, Bill searched and found Charles’s note, and read it again. Bill noticed it didn’t say which Wal-Mart; there was no address listed. Bill remembered that Charles had said that he saw it when he was on the way back to the airport. Yes, it must be the one on the way to the airport.
Bill inquired at the Wal-Mart that was closest to the airport. It was about 20 minutes from his apartment. He was going nut at home watching “Days of our lives” and “The Price is Right” – real classy, educational TV. To his surprise, the manager of the store said that they had not advertised for a position and he didn’t recall putting an add in the window. They did, however, strike up a conversation about Bill’s background, and Bill was fascinated with a position at Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart had been one of the retailers that had revived the idea of putting someone at the door to greet people as they came into the store. They wanted the personal touch at the door. People came into the store, received a greeting and a cart, and sometimes directions as to where to find what they were looking for or a referral to customer service. Before long, the store manager was really impressed with Bill and offered to keep him in mind. The manager even offered to call around to the other stores to see if any of them had advertised for a position of “greeter.”
(E) Bill wondered if the psalmist had been persecuted by evil forces when he wrote the words of Psalm 84. After all, it says, “…that live in the tents of wickedness.” Could it be that he was in despair, and was trying to escape from this world into the hands of the Almighty. Could it be that Bill and the Psalmist had something in common – doubted that there was a God? Could it be that Job, who seemingly had lost all and suffered much was like the Psalmist. After all, Job would love to have had a job as a doorkeeper for a day rather than suffer the way he did.
Possibly the Psalmist, Job, or even Paul imprisoned in Rome, would have been able to share in the same despair, or would they. You could certainly hear Bill’s words in the hospital when he had said, “Has God forgotten me?” Did Bill really believe that or had his depression just clouded his faith?
It was at this moment of doubt that the manager of Wal-Mart store called and said that one of his greeters had taken ill, and was Bill still interested in a position? Bill immediately accepted, and had been working at the Wal-Mart store for about two months when in the middle of greeting some customers he heard a cry for help in the parking lot. (F) His instincts told him to lend aide, and he ran out to find a woman about 35 years old down in the parking lot with her new little baby next to her. When he rolled her over, he concluded she wasn’t breathing. It had been a long time since he had practice CPR, skills he had been taught long ago as the doorkeeper at the apartment. He wasn’t sure about all the steps, but time passed quickly as the EMS crew was there in a matter of minutes. Bill was relieved to the let the EMS crew take over, and after about a half-an-hour, they loaded her into their truck. Before the EMS driver got in the truck, Bill noticed he looked back at him with a grin and a gleam in his eye. It was a look of pride and respect, especially for Bill’s age, that he had been willing to be there and act in time.
Bill had decided to visit the younger mother of that new little baby in the hospital to see how she was getting along. After a brief introduction, the mother expressed both appreciation and compliments for what Bill had done to save her life, she asked Bill if he wanted to hold the baby – a baby girl. Bill couldn’t resist holding the life he had been called to save. While Bill was holding the baby, the mother couldn’t help but notice the expression on Bill’s face. He was very proud. Call had called him --- as reflected in the poem by ---
I stand by the door. I neither go too far in, nor stay too far out,
The door is the most important door in the world---
It is the door through which (people) walk when they find God.
There’s no use my going way inside, and staying there,
When so many are still outside and they, as much as I,
Crave to know where the door is.
And all that so many ever find
Is there only a wall where a door ought to be?
They creep along the wall like blind men,
With outstretched, groping hands.
Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door,
Yet they never find it…
So I stand by the door.
The most tremendous thing in the world
Is for (people) to find that door --- that door to God.
The most important thing any person can do
Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands,
And put it on the latch – the latch that only clicks
And opens to the person’s own touch.
Men die outside that door, as starving beggars die
On cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter –
Die for want of what is within their grasp.
They live, on the other side of it – live because they have not found it,
Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it.
And open it, and walk in, and find (God) –
So I stand by the door.
Go in, great saints; go all the way in –
Go way down into the cavernous cellars,
And way up into the spacious attics –
It is a vast, roomy house, this house where God is.
Go into the deepest of hidden casements,
Of withdrawal, of silence, of sainthood.
Some must inhabit those inner rooms,
And I know the depth and heights of God,
And call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is.
Sometimes I take a deeper look in,
Sometimes some venture in a little father;
But the place seems closer to the opening –
So I stand by the door.
There is another reason why I stand there.
Some people get part way in and become afraid
Lest God and the zeal of His house devour them;
For God is so very great, and asks all of us.
And these people feel a cosmic claustrophobia,
And want to get out. “Let me out!” they cry.
And the people way inside only terrify them more.
Somebody must be by the door to tell them that they are spoiled
For the old life, they have seen too much:
Once you taste God, and nothing but God will do any more.
Somebody must be watching for the frightened
Who seeks to sneak out just where they came in?
To tell them how much better it is inside.
The people too far in do not see how near these are
To leaving --- preoccupied with the wonder of it all.
Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door,
But would like to run away. So for them, too,
I stand by the door.
I admire the people who go way in.
But I wish they would not forget how it was
Before they got in. They would be able to help
The people who have not yet found the door,
Or the people who want to run away again from God.
You can go in too deeply, and stay in too long,
And forget the people outside the door.
As for me, I shall take my old accustomed place,
Near enough to God to hear him, and know God is there,
But not so far from the people as not to hear then,
And remember they are there, too.
Where? Outside the door –
Thousands of them, millions of them.
But – more important to me –
One of them, two of them, then of them,
Whose hands I am intended to put on the latch.
So I shall stand by the door and wait
For those who seek it.
“I had rather be a doorkeeper…”
So I stand by the door.
Before Bill left her bedside, she looked at Bill one last time, looked into his eyes and said that she thought that she had seen him before someplace. After searching her mind, she took a stab and asked him if he had ever lived at the Saxony Apartments on the lower East side where her mother had been a resident some twenty years ago. She got her answer as Bill admitted, “Yes, I was the doorman.” She said to him, “God has found me again because of you.” (Bill didn’t know what she was referring to; she didn’t explain it either.) At that Bill turned to leave and a piece of paper fell out of his pocket. Before she had a chance to call after him about the piece of paper, but he was gone. Just then, a nurse came into the room and picked-up the piece of paper of the floor. The nurse asked if it belonged to the patient who asked the nurse to see if she could catch-up with Bill but he was gone. Upon being asked to read the note, the nurse explained that it was the want ad for a greeter at the local Wal-Mart store with a letter pinned to it. The note was signed Charles, your dear friend and fellow doorkeeper.” “That’s funny,” the nurse said, “it doesn’t have an address or tell you which Wal-Mart where you can send in application/resume, but it does have a Psalm 84:10,” The young mother reached for the Bible in the night stand next to her bed and looked-up the verse referenced in the note. It said, “For a day in the courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than live in the tents of wickedness.”
“Doorkeeper, interesting Ad” said the nurse looking at the Ad and the pinned note.”
(H) Let’s look at that ad in the bulletin again
Does the job sound interesting to you? Under what circumstances would go looking for such a position; I don’t mean at Wal-Mart, but at the place you are in your life!