A Sermon Preached by the Rev. Susan Allison-Hatch
There they are. The people of the Exodus. People poised on the border of the Promised Land. People weary after forty long years in the wilderness. People wary of what lies before them. People standing on a threshold. There they are listening to Moses.
There they are. The people of the Exile. People who fled Jerusalem. People who left so much behind. People struggling to find a way to live faithfully in a new land. People wondering if and when and how they might return to the Promised Land. There they are reading the words of the Deuteronomist.
There they are. People standing at the threshold. People filled with remembrance and longing. People of fear. People of hope. People juggling a strange mix of anxiety and anticipation.
They know the swirl of feelings that sweep over individuals and communities in times of uncertainty and ambiguity. They know the rough of edges of edgy times—the unease, the little hurts, the anger, the outbursts of irritability, the bittersweet threads of sadness that wend their way through threshold times. But they also know the hope that hovers over such times.
Are they so different from you and me? Are they so different from us? We, too, remember the threshold times of our own lives. Those moments of hope and dread, of anticipation and anxiety when we weren’t sure what lay ahead. Kids and teachers and parents too that last night before school starts again in the fall. The jitters and thrills that often accompany the blush of new love. The anxiety dreams that seem to go along with any big change. The tension that underlies difficult conversations that have to be had. The stunning right-in-the-solar-plexus shock that comes with those rug-pulled-out-from-under-you moments that we all experience at one time or another in our lives—both as individuals and as communities too.
You and I, we, stand poised to enter a new era in our lives together as a congregation. We, too, are standing at the threshold. It’s hard to peek over. It’s hard to see what’s on the other side. It’s hard to take that first step into the Promised Land.
And so we stand here, you and I, on the threshold.
God says to us as Moses said to those standing on the border of the Promised Land, “...today...I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life....”
“Today”. That word appears over two thousand times in the Old Testament. Today, this day. Again and again. In the book of Deuteronomy, that word, that phrase appear over a hundred times. Often in the context of choice.
It makes me think that this choice God offers us is not a one-time-only opportunity. It’s not the choice of a lifetime. It’s a choice we are offered over and over again throughout our lives and throughout our life together. It’s a new-every-day kind of offer. An offer that’s made anew to us even after we have chosen death.
“Choose life,” Moses says to those poised at the gates of the Promised Land.
“Choose life.” A life of loving God, of walking in God’s ways, of observing God’s laws.
“Walk in God’s ways—God’s ways of justice and mercy.”
—God’s ways of kindness and reconciliation.”
—God’s ways of forgiveness and hope.”
“Follow God’s laws—care for the widows and orphans, feed the hungry, welcome the homeless into your homes.”
“Love God, love your neighbor, love the stranger in your midst.”
That’s what Jesus did. He chose a life of living according to God’s law of love. A life of solidarity with those others oppressed. A life of solidarity with those others pushed aside. A life that led to the Cross.
Like our brothers and sisters of the Exodus and the Exile, we, too, are invited to choose life. Like those disciples on the road to Jerusalem, we, too, are invited into a life lived according to God’s love—a life marked by that generous love, a life of blessing. Like those who followed Jesus to the Cross, we, too, are invited to follow the path of solidarity with those others oppress and those others push aside. It’s a path that leads to the Cross. It’s a path that ends in the Kingdom of God. It’s a path paved with stones of love and compassion.
You and I and this part of the Body of Christ we call St. Michael’s stand at the threshold of a new era in our life together. A moment pregnant with opportunity. A moment fraught with danger. A moment filled with anxiety. A moment bursting with hope. All those things are true of this moment we find ourselves in. And yet what God calls out of us in this moment and in every moment of our lives is that we choose life. Life that leans into God’s love. Life that leans into God’s kingdom. Leaning into love. Sometimes that means speaking out for those who have no voice. Sometimes that means giving one another the space and time we need. Sometimes that means hearing one another out. Sometimes that means supporting one another. Always, always, always that means loving one another as best we can with patience, kindness and hope. Now. In this moment.