Today I got up earlier than I usually do, even earlier than I get up on a Sunday morning. It was still dark when I went out to walk the dog, put on a fresh skirt and clerical collar and drive over to the church and pre-school where I work.
It was the first day of school year, and children with their parents were arriving for the very first time.
I remembered that two years ago I was the new pastor at the school. I came over early that morning too, and got to shake hands and meet many of the parents. That year there was a registration table, and I also got to help check in parents and children, and make sure everyone had complete information. Since then, I thought it was important that I come early on the first day of school, that my presence was important.
It started raining almost as soon as I got in the car: torrential, blinding rain. Not a great start to the new school year, I thought. It was raining hard when I arrived, but it was a slow trickle of parents and small children, some infants-in-arms (we offer infant care through Kindergarten.)
This year there was not a registration table. To be truthful, I wasn't sure what I should do.
Then, I saw a mother struggling with an umbrella, a toddler, and an armful of equipment. I opened the door wide to let them in, and called out, "Welcome! welcome to Grace!" The little family scurried in and found their way to their class.
That's what I ended up doing this morning: holding open the door for moms and dads and children and grandparents, helping with their umbrellas and their rest mats and (once or twice) helping them find the right teacher.
For an hour and a half, I held the door open and said to everyone, "Welcome! Welcome to Grace! Welcome back! It's good to see you!" I admired raincoats and new tennis shoes and fancy umbrellas. I heard about baby brothers and birthdays. I remembered a few names and learned a couple of new ones. I probably didn't need to go to seminary and get a Master of Divinity to do this work, but it was good to be there.
At one point I thought about that one line, near the end of Psalm 84, and wondered if this was what it was like, to be a "doorkeeper in the house of the Lord." "Better to be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord than to live in the tents of wickedness," says the Psalmist. I've never thought that much about that line, focussing instead on the lovely introduction, "How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!"
I'm not sure if the "doorkeeper" is a real job, or if the contrast is that even to stand at the entry of God's house is better than being on the inside, if the place you are inside of is the 'tents of wickedness." Just let me be near the door. I don't have to come all the way inside. I don't need much. Just let me be near the door.
But today I thought about the being the doorkeeper in a different way. It's a kind of grace, to be the one who gets to open the door and say, "Welcome!" It is a grace to open the door as wide as you can, so that the umbrellas and the children and the parents can scurry out of the rain.
It is not a hard job, being the doorkeeper. It is harder to be the director, or a teacher, or even a cook who makes sure the children have nutritious food. I would be honored to have any one of those jobs, to share grace with the children in one of those ways.
But I will take the job I have: just let me be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord. Let me be the one who says "Welcome! Welcome to Grace!" Let me be the one who tells people first of all that they are beloved and that they belong, that nothing can separate them from the love of God. Let me be the one to tell them that their worth is based on God, and not on anything the world can give them.
Just let me be a doorkeeper in the house of the Lord.