Saturday, May 11, 2013



In reading chapter 14 of Acts this week I was touched by Paul’s report to the church at Antioch
of the results of his missionary expedition  to Asia Minor, of “how God had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles” (v. 27).

I had this vivid image of God’s opening a door for me and inviting me to enter; but I hesitate. I stand there undecided. Do I really want to go through that door? In order to do so I’ll have to leave behind certain comfortable things, certain un-Christian behaviors and ways of thinking. To walk through that door means committing myself, submitting my prideful self, turning my back on my own program in favor of God’s.

A visit to my Greek Lexicon revealed that while the word “door” (thura) is used in its normal material sense now and then in the New Testament, it is sometimes used metaphorically for an opportunity or an “opening” for preaching the word of God:
But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries. (1 Cor. 16:8-9); 
When I came to Troas to proclaim the good news of Christ, a door was opened for me in the Lord; (2 Cor. 2:12),
Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with thanksgiving. At the same time pray for us as well that God will open to us a door for the word, that we may declare the mystery of Christ, for which I am in prison, so that I may reveal it clearly, as I should. (Col. 4:2-4).

So I started thinking about all of the opportunities or openings that the Lord offers me every day, opportunities to preach the Good News by my actions and attitudes, by my words and my thoughts. After all, in that last quote Paul was in prison and was still looking for open doors!

Then I happened to visit a classroom full of students learning photography. I saw dozens of beautiful digital photos of everyday things – doorknobs, sidewalks, stairways, faucets and so on. It seems that when you’re deliberately looking for pictorial possibilities you begin to notice the beautiful color of rust on a pipe or the texture of a tree fungus. The previous day I’d seen the students wandering around the school grounds, cameras in hand, looking attentively, and trying to notice opportunities to capture an interesting picture.
I hope that maybe I look like that to God, at least much of the time, walking through the monastery and the school, or anywhere in the world, with that same attentiveness, on the lookout for opportunities, looking for “doors of faith” that invite me to grow, to risk, to let go, and to both enjoy and proclaim God’s love.       


  1. Sometimes you cannot see the "doors of faith" right away. In these cases, these doors are closed either because we keep them locked, or we do not think that they are doors at all. We also think that we can control this, and we may be able to, but not forever.

  2. I often wonder about these doors as it seems that in scripture it is never clear what the options are of the characters. Even from the very beginning with Adam and Eve. The serpent approaches Eve. What brought her to the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil? Where was Adam? Where was God? We read into the story about what Adam and Eve should have done and are left to speculate why God allowed them to partake of the tree. Yes, you told them there would be a natural consequence of their actions. Did they understand what that meant? The serpent lies, but he also tells a truth too. We will be like God, which seems to be God's intentions, of which they were not ready. But it is not clear, so we create theories of "free will" when it is never ever stated that we are given free will. As Fr. Greg Boyle said in an interview:

    "You know, I don't spend a lot of time in courts anymore except that I will always testify when asked and I'm asked a lot in death penalty sentencing cases where there's a gang member and I'm called in as a gang expert, because I oppose the death penalty. But I've never encountered — and I've probably done 50 of these across the country — I've never encountered somebody, a gang member, who's on the stand, a defendant, who in my estimation was not mentally ill.

    The minute you start to hear the profile, and they always give you the profile, you go, wow, this is a deeply disturbed mentally ill person. No one wants you to say that. The prosecution refuses you to say anything like that. Even the defense says don't say anything like that. Why? Because then you're forced to in the face of somebody who's mentally ill, you can only have one response and that's compassion. And this freaks us out because, oh, what happens to responsibility and he knew what he was doing. Prosecutors always say to me, well, he could choose.

    I go, gosh, you know, not all choices are created equal and a person's ability to choose is not created equal. I don't know. If we were more sensible, you know, at an early age, we'd be somehow infusing the kids with hope when they can't imagine their future and they're planning their funerals, or we'd heal kids who are so damaged that they can't see their way clear to transform their pain, so they continue to transmit it, or to deliver mental health services in a timely, effective, appropriate way. If we did those things …"

    Not all choices are equal. Anyone who doesn't think that is either a liar or a fool. You cannot live in this broken world and think that everyone's choices are equal. I relate this to "doors of faith" in that Adam and Eve for example, still trusted God, despite them doing what he told them not to do. He is the one who made the Tree so enticing. We don't know how informed they were and it would be presumptuous to assume they knew because no one knows the consequences of their actions.

    God is the only one who can see all the possible results.

  3. Who, or what, do you think creates these "doors of faith" in the first place, and, or, gives us free will?

  4. This is a paradox for me. It all comes from God, of course. Given God's intent and him receding from us after the Fall, it would be reasonable to presume the we, as scripture says, are drawn to him. I wonder if an example can be drawn from the tides which recede and return due to the gravitational pull of the Moon. We then are still co-creators to some extent, if not minimally.

    The paradox is deepened because God sees all the possibilities of our choices and is there with us when we make our choices. When Paul says that God hands us over to our sins, it sounds like a door of faith closing. I don't hope. I know he's peeping through the keyhole, still there. Maybe fiddling with the lock to get in? That I hope.

  5. God is the one who creates these "doors of faith," and gives us free will for things like what do with what He creates, and with what else He does for/to us. Basically, God gives us free will in order to make our own choices so He does not have to make them for us. "Doors of faith" can be either created directly by God, or indirectly by God, which is done directly by His creation.

  6. I still don't believe that everyone's ability to make a choice is equal, as Fr. Boyle expresses in the quote. I also struggle with the notion of God testing us which is very clear in scripture, but doesn't tempt us. The problem for me arises out of the notion that the adversary, as scripture clearly states, is working on behalf of God, as the Book of Job and that God in some sense allows to happen. The notion that God is handing us over to our sins, which might be a way to explain the struggles of David, Solomon, Samuel and other figures of the scripture, doesn't make sense if free will is a factor. I am not saying all this out of arrogant disbelief, but of genuine inquiry.

    We do not know the consequences of our actions, our mistakes. God can and it seems reasonable that he will create directly or indirectly the "doors of faith." But, if we stumble, if he leaves us down and if he in turn kicks us when we are down, which, from the role of the adversary, is implied, then that leaves me with the notion that I still have to trust God even if it means that he will "hate" us as he hated Esau, or pour his wrath onto us, despite the success of the Resurrection. The paradox is further complicated by the doctrines the church has created (original sin, namely) which don't seem quite like the actions of a merciful, loving, compassionate God.

    There doesn't seem to be anything simple about the Gospel if all of that has to be worked out. Again, not trying to sound too frustrated about it.

    If the gospel needs to be that complicated, then really what does religion bring to it? Can I maintain my child-like faith and trust in God without doctrine and dogma? What then is the necessity of theology if Jesus seems to become more and more marginalized by it? In our trying to "explain" the story, don't we ultimately take away it's power? In the Book of Acts, we are told that the disciples preach the gospel and people convert. There is really no in-depth explanation of what was said, what was discussed, argued about.

    I sometimes wonder why can't God make it more straightforward. Even the Twelve were baffled by Jesus' words. While God becoming flesh might be seen as condescending, of God lessening himself, isn't that just God being all whom he is to his children at where they are?