THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A
ST. AUGUSTINE’S EPISCOPAL CHURCH
THE REVEREND BARRY GRIFFIN
Old dreams. Old dreams die hard. Old dreams usually die a slow and painful death. That’s how life handles old dreams.
Have you ever had a dream that died? And were you finally able to put that dream to bed? Have you laid that dream to rest? That’s a hard thing to do. Old dreams die hard.
In today’s gospel the prophet John the Baptist is barely holding on. He’s holding on to an old dream. John is in prison, and he’s no one’s fool. He understands he’s about to be killed. John proclaimed the coming of the Lord. That was his ministry. John wants to know if what he gave his life for mattered one way or the other.
So he sends word to Jesus. Tell me Jesus. Are you who I thought you were, or are you not? Give it to me straight. Yes or no? “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”
Do you hear the sadness in that question? John the Baptist has given his life to a very specific dream: to a Messiah who is going to shake things up. But now he’s disappointed. Jesus in not going to do what John expected. It’s not going to happen the way John thought it would. Simply put, Jesus is too compassionate to suit John the Baptist.
Old dreams die hard.
It hurts very much when old dreams pass away.
A few months ago The Rev. Murphy Davis preached for us. In the early 1980’s Murphy and her spouse Ed Loring established The Open Door Community in Atlanta. For thirty-something years The Open Door has served homeless people and the incarcerated. The house at 910 Ponce de Leon welcomed countless people in need. The Open Door helped downtrodden people understand that Jesus was on their side. The Good News was proclaimed to the poor.
When Murphy Davis preached for us she shared with me privately that The Open Door was closing. In 2017 The Open Door will no longer be there. Younger people have not come along to continue the ministry, and the area has changed.
It’s sad, but that’s the way it is. Old dreams die hard.
The closing of The Open Door hits home for me. I first visited there in 1982 (I think). A dear and now-deceased friend, Gerry Conroy, introduced me to Murphy and Ed, and I got a tour of the house. I was impressed. Unlike our own Catherine Meeks, who has been very much involved with The Open Door, I never was, really. But somehow the ministry at 910 Ponce mattered to me very much. Like many others, I sent in my fifty bucks every December, and I responded to special appeals when something in the house broke down. I wish I had done more. I’m probably not the only one who feels that way.
So why does the closing of The Open Door hit home for me? Why am I grieving? Good Questions. I can think of two reasons. First of all, The Open Door was always supposed to be there, doing what it’s always done. The poor were supposed to be with The Open Door always. Things weren’t supposed to happen this way.
Secondly, my minimal gifts to The Open Door allowed me to feel that I was doing something to help homeless people. I encounter homeless people on the streets of Midtown Atlanta on a regular basis. I know I cannot solve the problem of homelessness. But I can support people who have given their lives to help the homeless.
I wonder how Murphy and Ed and the others at The Open Door are feeling these days. I imagine they are feeling several different things. They must be sad. Old dreams die hard. Hopefully, they are also excited about the onset of their much deserved retirement. Well done, good and faithful servants!
I hope they feel fulfilled, never, ever doubting that their life’s work was in vain. It was not. Many of us can attest to that.
Your life’s work has not been in vain. True, things seldom turn out the way we plan. Just ask John the Baptist about that. But God’s ways are not our ways. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. We give our best, and we leave the rest in God’s hands. That’s all God asks.
Old dreams die hard. But when we trust God, new dreams can be born.
There’s that old saying (old, but true): God never closes a door without opening a window.
So as The Open Door closes, we say “Goodbye”. Goodbye Open Door. Hello, Open Window.
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