Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Room of Requirement

Romans 12: 9-21
New Ark United Church of Christ, Newark, DE
September 3, 2017


         During our college move-in trip with Olivia we took a couple of days to visit Universal Studios, especially the Wizarding World of Harry Potter: King’s Cross station, Diagon Alley, Hogsmeade, and of course, Hogwarts. Much attention was paid in painstaking detail, including a fire-breathing dragon over the wizards’ bank Gringotts, an animatronic Hedwig the owl on platform 9 ¾, and a secluded, unmarked entrance to Diagon Alley.

         One piece of spectacular movie magic that could not be duplicated is the Come and Go room in Hogwarts, otherwise known as the Room of Requirement. According to the house elf Dobby, the Room of Requirement is “a room that a person can only enter when they have real need of it. Sometimes it is there, and sometimes it is not, but when it appears, it is always equipped with the seeker’s needs.” To open it, you must walk past the area of the door three times, concentrating specifically on what you need. It’s been a place to study, a training room and hideout for Dumbledore’s Army, it’s been the Room of Hidden Things—it’s even appeared as a water closet for a certain headmaster.

         The room can be spacious or small, depending on what is needed, probably the result of what is called an extension charm. Not to go too deep into the weeds but an extension charm not only increases the interior space of an object but also makes it lighter. Can you see where I’m going with this?

         I like to think of the Church as a Room of Requirement, but the door is always open because the real need is always there.

It’s not all things to all people, but the Church is called to be what the seeker usually needs: unconditional welcome, acceptance, nurture, challenge, meaning, mission. Sometimes it’s a safe place to spend the night. Rather than the room to hide things in, the Church is where what is hidden or lost gets found; what is broken is restored and becomes whole again. It’s where our interior space is enlarged so we can be full of grace. The weight of what we carry becomes lighter because we share it.

         But the Church isn’t just a collection of walls and floors and a roof. It’s not only we who gather intentionally as the Church but it’s also every human being. You can see where I’m going with this, right?  
The real Room of Requirement is our hearts and our lives, our bodies and our will, our brains and our minds, and whenever we let our love be genuine, or as Eugene Peterson puts it, love from the center of who we are, we are not just ourselves, we are Church; we are not our own but God’s. Anyone who does this is not their own, but each other’s, everyone’s. It’s a room that requires something of us and not easy; it is God who seeks us out because the need is real. It is suffering and injustice that seeks us out because the need for compassion and justice is real. Not our need but the need of the other; the other who is not like us but wholly other and just as holy as God holds us to be.

         The apostle Paul doesn’t get too specific in his letter to the Romans about who are these saints and strangers and enemies. He leaves that up to his listeners to know or figure out. Or maybe he was worried his words would fall into the wrong hands. But sometimes we need specifics, if only to close the loopholes our nerve might slip through.

         Sherman Alexie, who wrote the screenplay for the film Smoke Signals, gets a little more specific for us in his newest poem entitled “Hymn”. This is the last half of it.

But it’s wrong to measure my family and friends
By where their love for me begins or ends.

It’s too easy to keep a domestic score.
This world demands more love than that. More.

So let me ask demanding questions: Will you be
Eyes for the blind? Will you become the feet

For the wounded? Will you protect the poor?
Will you welcome the lost to your shore?

Will you battle the blood-thieves
And rescue the powerless from their teeth?

Who will you be? Who will I become
As we gather in this terrible kingdom?

My friends, I'm not quite sure what I should do.
I'm as angry and afraid and disillusioned as you.

But I do know this: I will resist hate. I will resist.
I will stand and sing my love. I will use my fist

To drum and drum my love. I will write and read poems
That offer the warmth and shelter of any good home.

I will sing for people who might not sing for me.
I will sing for people who are not my family.

I will sing honor songs for the unfamiliar and new.
I will visit a different church and pray in a different pew.

I will silently sit and carefully listen to new stories
About other people’s tragedies and glories.

I will not assume my pain and joy are better.
I will not claim my people invented gravity or weather.

And, oh, I know I will still feel my rage and rage and rage
But I won’t act like I’m the only person onstage.

I am one more citizen marching against hatred.
Alone, we are defenseless. Collected, we are sacred.

We will march by the millions. We will tremble and grieve.

We will praise and weep and laugh. We will believe.

We will be courageous with our love. We will risk danger
As we sing and sing and sing to welcome strangers.

         Now you see where I’m going with this. We are in serious danger of being overcome by evil, not the evil without but the evil within.

We are in danger of allowing evil to literally get the best of us: to move into that Room of Requirement called our hearts and minds and shrink that space until we are as fisted and knotted as those we rail against. Love is what expands and opens, love that is not easy but hard, confounding, like a cross with an innocent nailed to it. Love is what our enemy needs most of all, and of all people, it needs to come from us. And it is this Table that gives us the nourishment, the reminder, the courage, the strength, the provocation to love when it is hard, to keep ourselves open when we’d like to shut down, to keep going when we feel like giving up.

         The world has a real need for this Room of Requirement. Thank God we can enter it anytime.


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