- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 7, 2006

The following is an excerpt from a sermon preached yesterday at All Saints Episcopal Church in Chevy Chase by retired Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey:

Our motto this year has been Revelation 3:20: “Behold I stand at the door and knock. If any one hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and sup with him and he with me.”

What a wonderful invitation to belong and to know the reality of faith! The lovely glass doors of the church that I dedicated on Nov. 20 are a reminder of what we want All Saints to be in the future: Visible and open, where people may meet the living God and be drawn into this lively fellowship.

However, that is easier said than done, as we know from the reading in Revelation. The English Victorian artist Holman Hunt once painted a lovely painting of that biblical verse, known to us as ‘The Light of the World.’ Christ stands with a lamp in His hand outside a door representing the human heart. To judge from the brambles growing outside, the door had never been opened. The message of the painting is clear: “Let me come in and shed my light on the dark places. Let us share a greater intimacy so that you may eat with me and I with you.”

We don’t always want God or anyone getting in the way of our ambitions, desires and possessions. In seven searing letters to the seven churches of Asia Minor, the risen Christ not only encourages but also rebukes the seven congregations. But it was to the Church of Laodicea that Christ levels His strictest condemnation. They saw themselves as rich, self-sufficient and in need of nothing and richly clothed. God saw them as poor, in rags, in desperate need, blind and wretched.

It is strange how we can deceive ourselves, isn’t it? Perhaps that is how God sees the Western church, too. From our point of view, we see ourselves as rich and resourceful Christians. He sees us, sadly, as far away from our full potential; poor and blind and very needy.

Before becoming archbishop of Canterbury, I was for nearly three years bishop of Bath and Wells. Three centuries ago, Thomas Ken, one of my great predecessors, wrote a remarkable prayer:

“O God, make the door of this house wide enough to receive all who need human love and fellowship; narrow enough to shut out all envy, pride and strife. Make its threshold smooth enough to be no stumbling block to children, nor to straying feet, but rugged and strong enough to turn back the tempter’s power. God make the door of this house the gateway to Thy eternal kingdom”

Thomas Ken was not prepared to say that the doors of the church would allow in anything. As a high churchman, doctrine mattered to him, and his concept of the church was that it should stand full square with the truth revealed in the Scriptures and in the historic tradition. I think he would approve of All Saints, under your rector’s leadership, being a strong Episcopal church, where doctrine matters, where people are taught to love the truth of God.

Another of my predecessors, Edward Benson, archbishop of Canterbury at the end of the 19th century, wrote some powerful words so relevant for our times, too: “We must remember what we exist for. We exist to make Christ’s message known, through word and sacrament. We must be much bolder to speak out and say that the Gospel is the power of God. Let us say so plainly, and let us live and work as if we believed it. Then it will be the power of God.”

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