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While you are cleaning up the aftermath of Halloween, you may also like to know that yesterday was Reformation Day on the Protestant church calendar. It was on October 31, 1517, that the then-Roman Catholic priest, Martin Luther, nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of his church in Wittenberg, Germany, sparking a debate and a series of events that came to be known as the Protestant Reformation. On another door, in present-day, Bristol, Rhode Island, John Anderson, an award-winning wood sculptor, is making his mark on church history. Mr. Anderson's work is being created to adorn the doors of his church, dedicated ninety-two years ago to St. Elizabeth of Portugal. His pastor, the Rev. Thomas J. Ferland, invited Anderson to do the work, made suggestions for themes for the carvings and considers it particularly meaningful that the work is being contributed by a parishioner of the congregation. Each of these men, in creative, powerful ways, will be remembered by the people around them, and the people who have and will come after them.
By the these two examples, it is clear that doors are not just practical fixtures in our homes, businesses and public buildings. More than protection from the elements and maintainers of our privacy, they are entryways between worlds, portals of transition that help frame our thoughts and behavior. Doors get our attention. They give us information and guidelines by which to proceed to the next step. It is no wonder then, that Martin Luther, ready to see the church include the people in the pews as full-fledged participants, chose the church door as his bulletin board. People came to church expecting certain things, the same things we expect when we go to church: prayers, scripture readings, music, communion. One difference in the usual routine, particularly a large, detailed list of what needed to be addressed, and changed, to fully bring the church to the people, would be noticed by more people, including church hierarchy, because it was planted before them at the transition between their everyday secular world, and the sacred sanctuary that connected them to their faith community.
Rev. Ferland's desire to showcase his parishioner's talent is such a public format may have its roots in this same recognition that things get noticed when they are posted where people travel on a regular basis. Although not presented in such a dramatic fashion, or to make a public stand, Anderson's carvings, which should be completed next year, are designed to tell part of the story of the life of st. Elizabeth, and symbolize the writers of the four gospels, as represented in Ezekial, as a human face, a lion, an ox and an eagle, for Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. As the ninety-five theses were noticed, so will be these carvings for years to come.
Perhaps the declarative quality of posting important information and stories that tie into our lives in profound ways, is not just good marketing, but also good theology. It is, after all, not uncommon for God to use transitional portals in our lives, moving between work or personal worlds, to draw our attention, and help us move in new directions The old saying about God opening a window when a door closes for us, I believe, is true. But I also am sure that God uses closed doors to impart key points to us on sacred bulletin boards that would otherwise be facing the wall if we were able to walk through them wide open and unabated. When we understand the communication God is trying to impart, the door usually opens to reveal what we would not have seen, or perhaps not understood, had we not been graced with the opportunity to read the writing or view the carving placed before us. At these times, the secular, everyday life merges with the sacred, spiritual flow of God among us in transformative, life-altering ways.
Perhaps, too, closed doors are not meant to deny us, as much as they are a request to deter us, to redirect us to an integral portion of our journey that would be best not to be denied. Along with asking and searching, we are called to knock on these doors in front of us when we encounter them. We are led to receive, find and, "for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened (Matthew 7:8)." And so, we are also called to interact with God in this transformative process. When we choose to move forward, recognizing these doors as transitional opportunities, the adventure begins, or continues.
This article was posted on November 05, 2005