"So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”  ~ Luke 11:9

I finally did it. I was a bit wary so it took some time, but it is done. Yes, I threw away the key. And there is no going back. Ok, so it doesn’t seem all that dramatic or life-changing at first glance, but at some level, you have been there too, I’m sure. For quite a while now, there have been two keys on the ring I use for my house key. I don’t actually remember when the second one appeared, where it came from, or why it was there because the locks in our house are all keyed alike. Recently, I’ve been pestered with questions of its identity:
Was it the key to one of the churches? No, they get their own key chain.
Was it to a neighbor’s house? Yikes! Was I supposed to feed their cats?
Was it a key to some other house we used to live in?
There were few clues to solve the riddle. It was shiny and new- not used too many times. To get into the house, I always used the silver-worn-away-revealing-the-brass key that shared the loop. Roger had no recollection. Raz would have tried to hunt for the secret portal if I’d asked him. The key seemed useless, but I just couldn’t get rid of it.

My fear of throwing things away can’t be blamed on the Depression. It does trace back to my childhood though. I once had a Barbie doll whose head somehow went missing (strange I know, but I have two brothers whom I still suspect). I searched the house. I searched the yard. I searched the trunk of GI Joe’s Jeep. All to no avail. I tried to press on without it. It was easier to do wardrobe changes but Ken and Skipper were getting a bit creeped out. Finally, I gave in. Realizing the search was hopeless, I threw the headless body away. And, you know what happened? As the garbage truck was pulling away from the curb (not really, but it seemed like it was that soon), yes, you guessed it… I found her head. For a bit I thought I might save it as a back-up, just in case the culprits struck again. But disembodied Barbie was equally creepy and much less a fashion statement.

So, you can see why getting rid of this key was so traumatic! What if I discovered the locked door that only this key would open? I’d be trapped in or trapped out because of the reckless disposal of a key just a moment too soon. It hung there, this mystery, awaiting the day I discovered the portal. Then, that fateful day came. Examining it more closely, it looked awfully familiar… almost a duplicate of the worn key that shared the ring. It turns out, it was also a key to our front door. The door it fit was the door I’d been passing through several times a day, without its assistance. It was a perfect match, with one crucial difference- it didn’t work. It was an imposter. Actually, it was just cut poorly so it didn’t work… unless you wiggled it, pulled it out three micrometers, twisted it first right then left, used only your left hand (I really wasn’t ready to give up on it!).

So, the biggest challenge remained, to just get rid of it. And not just by tossing it into that Drawer of Potential where I stash all the other half-missing, almost functional, could be “useful someday” things. No, it went the way of Barbie’s head. It would be an overstatement to say that there is a great freedom from this brave riddance, but baby steps are inspirational for the New Year too. Maybe an inspiration for our churches to check our key chains also. We tend to carry around a lot of keys, like over-burdened spiritual custodians. And we get so focused on keeping track of the keys that we lose track of the door.

Too often, the Church (capital “C”), gets caught up in the next popular movement, the surefire program, the exciting flashy new plan with a really hip catch phrase. There is a constant pursuit of what will really work (this time) to get people into the pews, keep our churches open, to appeal to young people, to entice seekers. And the key chains become so cumbersome we spend more time and energy trying to find the key, than open the door! We need to ask the tough question- do our own churches have extra keys hanging around? Ones that used to work. Ones that we thought would work, but didn’t really. Ones that work, but take way too much effort and finagling. Sometimes they are ones that have become too worn to work well anymore. Sometimes they are new keys that never really fit.

With this process of examination is a recommitment to the too often neglected truth- we really only need one set of keys. Jesus makes it simple, “I was dead, but look! Now I’m alive forever and always. I have the keys of Death and the Grave (Revelation 1:18).” We know the door we want to pass through and we know who holds the keys. Jesus the Risen Christ has already unlocked the door for us. And Jesus taught us what we need to do to open that door. "So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened (Luke 11:9-10).

Ask. Seek. Knock. In everything we do, as individuals, as communities, as churches, are we following these directions.
Ask- are we spending time in prayer asking God for entrance? (This scripture from Luke, comes directly after Jesus teaches the Lord’s prayer!)
Seek- are we seeking to know God by reading Scripture?
Knock- are we making ourselves present and available through worship and service?
Or, are we still fumbling with keys of our own making? And hoping the next generation will think to look under the mat for a spare? We stand on the threshold of a new year as people who will receive, who will find, and who will enter. Praise God!

Hand on the knob, trusting the door is unlocked, kitty