When I bought my home two years ago, one of the first things I did was install a doorbell.
I’m not sure why I did this. No one ever stops by uninvited, and since I’m usually expecting whoever does show up, a firm knock on the door would do.
Even so, the other day a ringing doorbell surprised me. I answered it to find actual human beings standing on the porch. Two of them, older women, dressed in slacks and blazers, every last one of their gray hairs curled perfectly, their lipstick fresh.
“We’ve come to invite you to an event,” one of them announced.
“It’s free, and everyone is invited,” the other continued.
When they handed me a flyer through the door, I saw it was an invitation to the local Jehovah’s Witness hall.
“There will be food!” one of the women chimed, in response to the look of resignation on my face.
I thanked them for the invitation and politely declined.
Everyone is invited
The interaction made me wonder, though, why no one from my congregation had come to my door inviting me to a party. Or for that matter, why I had never gone door-to-door inviting my own neighbors to the many church potlucks and barbecues I have attended.
Before I joined a Lutheran church, growing up, I’d attended a Baptist church where one summer a missionary who visited our summer vacation Bible school asked for volunteers to go with him as he went out to invite those who lived nearby to come to our summer picnic.
I was the only child who volunteered. Looking back, I’m not sure why my parents trusted me to go wandering off with this strange man. Still, the following Saturday, armed with a handful of flyers, my missionary friend and I traipsed through several subdivisions, knocking on doors and dropping off flyers.
Loving and serving our neighbors
We rang the bell of a frail-looking older man who pulled an oxygen tank behind him. We asked if he had a moment to talk, and he invited us in.
I was too young to remember what all they discussed that day in that neighbor’s living room. But I do remember that he wanted to pray with us, so we all bowed our heads and closed our eyes. I remember how grateful he seemed to have us there.
Knocking on doors is not my preferred mission strategy. But then again, loving and serving our neighbors isn’t about what we prefer, is it?
If everyone is indeed invited into the living, breathing kingdom of God on earth, there is something to be said for being willing to extend an actual, physical invitation.
As I learned that day, unless we knock, we will never know who lives behind all those closed doors we pass every Sunday on our way to worship. Behind some of those doors are people who aren’t only waiting for the bell to ring; they are desperate for it. They long for someone with words of grace to show up on their doorstep.
That someone could be you or me.