I Stand at the Door, by Sam Shoemaker

Posted: December 12, 2018 by Matt Horan in ReEmergent Church

Dear Readers of Reemerging Church,

As we approach Christmas, I’m asking my congregation at Heritage United Methodist to read a a 100-year-old poem called I Stand at the Door, by Sam Shoemaker, an early 20th century Episcopal priest who was credited by Bill Wilson for inspiring the creation of Alcoholics Anonymous.  

I know there’s not much in that intro that says Christmas, but I think you’ll see as you read it that it’s a great way for the church to prepare for worship on Christmas Eve.

I was first introduced to it by the Rev. Dr. Jim Harnish, the senior pastor with whom I served in my first appointment.  I received many great gifts from being Jim’s associate, and this is one of the greats.  I told him that I was that rare case of a creative writing major who doesn’t really like poetry, but he assured me that I’d be willing to make an exception for this one.  As usual, Jim was right…  –MH

I Stand at the Door
Sam Shoemaker

I stand by the door.
I neither go too far in, nor stay too far out.
The door is the most important door in the world –
It is the door through which men walk when they find God.
There is no use my going way inside and staying there,
When so many are still outside and they, as much as I,
Crave to know where the door is.
And all that so many ever find
Is only the wall where the door ought to be.
They creep along the wall like blind men,
With outstretched, groping hands,
Feeling for a door, knowing there must be a door,
Yet they never find it.
So I stand by the door.

The most tremendous thing in the world
Is for men to find that door – the door to God.
The most important thing that any man can do
Is to take hold of one of those blind, groping hands
And put it on the latch – the latch that only clicks
And opens to the man’s own touch.

Men die outside the door, as starving beggars die
On cold nights in cruel cities in the dead of winter.
Die for want of what is within their grasp.
They live on the other side of it – live because they have not found it.

Nothing else matters compared to helping them find it,
And open it, and walk in, and find Him.
So I stand by the door.

Go in great saints; go all the way in –
Go way down into the cavernous cellars,
And way up into the spacious attics.
It is a vast, roomy house, this house where God is.
Go into the deepest of hidden casements,
Of withdrawal, of silence, of sainthood.
Some must inhabit those inner rooms
And know the depths and heights of God,
And call outside to the rest of us how wonderful it is.
Sometimes I take a deeper look in.
Sometimes venture in a little farther,
But my place seems closer to the opening.
So I stand by the door.

There is another reason why I stand there.
Some people get part way in and become afraid
Lest God and the zeal of His house devour them;
For God is so very great and asks all of us.
And these people feel a cosmic claustrophobia
And want to get out. ‘Let me out!’ they cry.
And the people way inside only terrify them more.
Somebody must be by the door to tell them that they are spoiled.
For the old life, they have seen too much:
One taste of God and nothing but God will do any more.
Somebody must be watching for the frightened
Who seek to sneak out just where they came in,
To tell them how much better it is inside.
The people too far in do not see how near these are
To leaving – preoccupied with the wonder of it all.
Somebody must watch for those who have entered the door
But would like to run away. So for them too,
I stand by the door.

I admire the people who go way in.
But I wish they would not forget how it was
Before they got in. Then they would be able to help
The people who have not yet even found the door.
Or the people who want to run away again from God.
You can go in too deeply and stay in too long
And forget the people outside the door.
As for me, I shall take my old accustomed place,
Near enough to God to hear Him and know He is there,
But not so far from men as not to hear them,
And remember they are there too.

Where? Outside the door –
Thousands of them. Millions of them.
But – more important for me –
One of them, two of them, ten of them.
Whose hands I am intended to put on the latch.
So I shall stand by the door and wait
For those who seek it.

I had rather be a door-keeper
So I stand by the door.


A Better Election?

Posted: November 7, 2018 by Matt Horan in ReEmergent Church

What if we ran elections the way we run the U.S. census. Send people with ballots door to door. That would involve people in nursing homes, homebound, people whose jobs/childcare situations keep them voting…

It would be fascinating to see the effect on how elections are run if there was going to be 100% turnout. Rather than focusing on getting everyone angry enough to show up, they’re have to actually go back to making their case, explaining their point of view, teaching people why their philosophy would work… even casting some vision for the kind of district/department/state/nation they hope we’ll become. That could make elections much less cringeworthy, and maybe even inspiring!

Look Around

Posted: August 22, 2018 by Matt Horan in ReEmergent Church

By Matt Horan

When we started our trip out West between our Seminole Heights United Methodist and Heritage United Methodist appointments, we drove on our first day to St. Louis, Missouri.  After all, that’s where so many of the famous explorations began, and so many gold rush or land rush hopefuls started their journeys.  It felt like a fitting beginning for the Horans’ trip West.

The most dominant feature you notice when you approach St. Louis is the famous Gateway Arch.  The stainless steel arch was completed in 1965 as a celebration of the pioneering spirit that gave courage to those who ventured West into the hopeful, yet unknown and untamed terrain.  When I stood under it and looked west across the mighty Mississippi River, the sky out there looks big.  I can only imagine what it must have been like to embark on the journey that would have awaited the hopeful travelers who stood on that spot 160 years ago, and who came to represent the courageous march of American progress now celebrated by the towering arch. Read the rest of this entry »

Something So Alive

Posted: August 3, 2018 by Matt Horan in ReEmergent Church

By Matt Horan

On almost all of our hikes during out trip out west last month, I found myself lagging far behind my family because of the trees. I found them a fascinating reminder that life is a powerful thing that does not go away quietly.

I can’t tell you how many trees in Yellowstone National Park—known as a place of constantly shifting grounds and landscapes—had to somehow adjust to some geological or meteorological phenomenon, yet were still alive. Some were literally upside down, some were jutting out of the sides of cliffs horizontally, and some had been burned badly in a forest fire—but they were still alive.

At other times, I’d be walking along and see a tree doing something so strange that I simply could not figure out how it got that way. Have a look to the left—this is one of those trees. Read the rest of this entry »