“A Place in God’s House”
The Rev. Leonard Oakes
As you entered the Church today, each of you was given a ticket. I ask you to hold it up and look at it. It may look ordinary to you. But imagine for a moment that it is a ticket to something very especial. Not a ticket to a play, or to a concert or a movie. It is not even a ticket to something as important as the Giants or 49ers game. It’s a ticket to an event that is able to change your life for the better. This event is a celebration that has the power to lift you up from where you are stuck. This ticket enables you to witness something that gives people wholeness and healing. This event enables you to harness your creative abilities to the greatest of your potential.
I also ask you to imagine that there are those who don’t have such ticket. They don’t have a place set aside for them to witness this event, to receive the enlightenment, to experience the healing. So they stand about broken, lonely, distraught.
What about imagining that you have more than one ticket? What would you do with them? You are only capable of using one. Would you save them for your family and closest friends? Would you sell them to the highest bidder? Or would you give them away to anyone who would take them.
Have you ever thought how blessed you are to have a roof to live, food to eat and a health care to secure you? You know, having a place is important. It gives one a sense of belonging. Lydia and our friends from St. Luke’s Van Ness could tell us the devastating scenario they witnessed visiting the children at the Garbage Disposal area in Manila. Hundreds of children who sleep in the smokey and filthy cold garbage place, and are vulnerable to diseases and even death. That’s why homelessness is so devastating. The physical effects are bad enough. But the emotional effect is a feeling of not belonging anywhere. Of not having a place. Jesus himself experienced this feeling of not having a place during his birth and when he said “foxes have holes but the son of man has nowhere to lay his head.” Yet he didn’t want us to feel that way thus he promised us to go and prepare a place for us in the kingdom of God.
If you have been observing where people sit in our Church pews, People had their places, just as people have their places in most churches. That can be good and bad. If people get selfish about it and make visitors feel uncomfortable for having sat in their place, its bad. But if, having a place, gives people a sense of belonging, then it is good.
People have their places for a lot of reasons. Some choose their place for matters of convenience. Some sit where they do to be near a friend or relative. Trini and John have special seats which they probably marked as their designated seats, maybe because they want to hear better of what I am bubbling here. Now most of you choose the back because you want to have a better view of what is going here at the altar. You know, in the Old Testament, those who are seated at the very back are those with disturbing sins. I don’t blame you if you insist to have a better view now. What matters most however is you have a place in this Holy place, and having a place is important.
But I am not talking about just any place today – I’m talking about a place in the Kingdom! Having a place is important and Jesus knew that. When Jesus was about to ascend into heaven, he told them, “I go to prepare a place for you so that where I am you may be also”
In the years after Jesus’ resurrection when the Church was being persecuted, they remembered these words. The promise that they had a place in the Kingdom kept them going. It transformed them from a fringe sect of Judaism into the Church of Jesus Christ looking for his return in glory.
By God’s grace we have a place in the Kingdom. We say, “When two or more gather in Jesus’ name, he is in the midst of them.” Jesus is here and we have a place in his presence and that changes us. We sit here and hear God’s Word and are lifted up and enlightened. We sing God’s praises and we realize new gifts and unlock hidden potentials. We are healed and made whole by lifting up our prayers to God. Because we have a place in the Kingdom we are transformed from ordinary people into daughters and sons of God Almighty.
Now, enough with your imagination, you don’t need a ticket to come to church. Admission is free. It’s on the house. You only need to accept the invitation to come into God’s house and worship in Christ’s presence. Jesus already paid the price of your admission when he went to the cross. That is why the tickets we handed out are red, because the price of admission is Jesus’ blood. That ticket merely symbolizes the promise that there is always a place for you. But look at all the empty places and consider all the empty places in the church each Sunday. The places where no one is sitting. And the places were people once sat who have taken their place in glory. Would each of those saints like someone else to take their place here on earth. And there are so many hurting people who need a place in the Kingdom.
I ask you to invite souls to our midst. I have over 500 tickets here. You can take as many as you want. What will you do with your tickets? Don’t try selling them. They aren’t like tickets to the Giants or 49ers game. You can get those for a few hundred dollars. These tickets are priceless. They represent the free gift of Jesus’ holy presence dwelling in our midst.
Give someone a place in the kingdom today – supply them with a ticket into the presence of God. On your way out take some tickets. And give them away and tell people it is a ticket to church. If they look at you strange just tell them it is to remind them there is always a place for them with Jesus at church. Some people will just stick it in their pocket and think you’re strange. But someone might accept the invitation and take a place worshipping God in church on Sunday morning. And won’t they be blest to witness this celebration of God’s love and grace. Amen.