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Beloved, Love: Thresholds Shaken

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You can watch the video of Pastor Kris’ reflection, Beloved, Love: Thresholds Shaken, HERE.

Well… you probably already knew this… but we are… in a time… of transition. Great. Political. Shifts. No, I do not mean 2020. I am talking about 738 B.C.E. King Uzziah has died. Who in the world will reign next? Will the transition go smoothly? Will there be factions in the government? Collectively, we hold our breath. There is anxiety in the land. It is in this time of tension and uncertainty we meet up with Isaiah today.

This is a story of visions and dreams.

Have you heard that during the pandemic people are reporting “weirder than normal”[1] dreams? Have any of you experienced extraordinarily vivid dreams? COVID dreams? I have, and I am not usually much of a dreamer. Last Monday night church staff, Becky, Jonathan, Jeff, Cindy Rosch (from the Worship Committee), and I met on Zoom to plan Memorial’s Advent and Christmas services. Shortly after that I went to bed and had my first Zoom meeting dream. It was indistinguishable from the awake version. There we all were, on my dreamt computer screen—planning worship. Sooooo…. was it a dream, or not? Had the meeting ended in real life… or had I just fallen asleep during the meeting? And… if I had fallen asleep, was my video at least off?!?!? Ahhh… the realities of Zoom.

When you are living during a time in history as we are, and as Isaiah was, when thresholds shake, voices call out, and the world fills with smoke, God catches your attention! And apparently—you dream extravagant dreams.

In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has shaken the foundation of all we have understood our lives to be. Brought us to the core of what Church is. Reshaped our day-to-day lives. Made us wonder how we balance health, safety, and economic realities. The virus has even penetrated our dreams. A threshold is a space, a boundary, a demarcation of an entry point, or beginning.[2] Think of a doorway. A point of going through into someplace else. Isaiah’s call story, in which the underpinnings of the world as he knew it trembled and quaked, made me wonder: As God calls out, “Who will go? Which of us is going to impulsively raise our hand and “Oh, here I am God, send me?”

Pondering that question, I began to prepare for Aidan’s confirmation this morning. I then reread the postcards I’ve received from Memorial’s youth on which they wrote what THEY want to do to change the world I realized— Oh THAT’S WHO! Our kids are here, saying “Oh, Oh, send me!”

So, members and friends of Memorial United Church of Christ, I have a challenge for you that I am going to share in a moment. Rabbi Nahum Ward-Lev writes of the prophets like Isaiah who, “proclaimed an alternative story, one engendered by extraordinary imaginative vision…” and that this message is “both timeless and current.” The message is that “today is a day of creation, today is a day of exodus, today is a day to take God’s outstretched hand and set off into the wilderness of an alternative future.”[3]

Who will go?

I want to raise this (in a moment) challenge to you because maybe most importantly this “… exodus must take place in every generation (and) can be heard in our day as a moral imperative to counter racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and related oppression—an imperative to work for a society in which all people can flourish.”[4]

In our time, who will go? For the “prophets teach us that the liberation narrative, the ongoing creation/exodus story, needs to be reimagined for every generation, releasing the flow of the prophetic stream to move a society forward. As inheritors of prophetic wisdom, we, too, can bring forth from ancient stories the new ideas we need to meet the challenges of the present moment.”[5]

So. Who will go?

In confirmation, the students and mentors worked on their God Statement. This is akin to a faith statement, but with the understanding that each testimonial will grow and stretch throughout the person’s lifetime. With his permission, I want to share with you Aidan’s God Statement with you:

God is the definition of good. God has never been bad, and never will be. God is here to guide earth and make life as good as possible for all human beings no matter what race or gender. God does not have control over what we do, but still guides us through life with faith practices such as praying and baptizing. God created Jesus to help us physically by healing the sick and guiding humanity further by gaining a following. Our job as people on this earth is to worship God and to not sin.

Aidan, you wrote a strong, concise statement of faith. I encourage you to continue listening to the Still Speaking God that guides you.

I also mentioned the postcards I’ve received from the youth this fall. As school started, I sent letters to the youth… and raised a challenge to them. In the letter I included a stamped postcard. I asked them to write down what they want to do to change the world, and to send the postcard back to me. I have received 22 postcards. Several of the youth listed more than one issue they are concerned about.

So here is the challenge for you adults: Those of you in leadership roles in the church, those of you who volunteer in the community and/or have vocational interests in a specific area, and ALL of YOU gathered on Zoom and FaceBook today: how will you, how will I, how will we guide the youth in this congregation and support them as they develop their faith as followers of Jesus?

For here are the ways our youth want to change the world:

  • 10 say they want to focus on creation care and justice, from working on climate change, to invasive species, decreasing pollution, and the use of plastics
  • Six are interested in issues of equality. One teen wrote, “I would like to change the worlds so that all races and genders are equal and have equal opportunities to get jobs and make a good life for themselves and their families.”
  • Another 8 want to work on issues of economic justice, including poverty, homelessness, and ending hunger.
  • One youth wants to decrease and/or end murder
  • Another wrote, “Dear Pastor Kris, one problem I see is friends at school can’t get their own backpacks on. I can help them get their backpacks on, and maybe I can make a new kind of backpack with a stuffed animal on the strap that is hard to put on.”
  • Last, but not least, is the card which says, “Dear Pastor Kris, we should set a time to eat crackers and marshmallows at a campfire.”

And that, beloved, is how you change the world.

For the word of our youth is the sound of things changing.

The sound of things that need to change as foundations of oppression shake and the smoke of lies swirl about.

Let us be swept this morning into the movement our God who calls out, “Who will go?”

Hear the “whoosh” of the Holy Spirit filling the earth.

May we all see visions and do more than dream dreams.

May we be as bold as Isaiah as we say, “Oh, oh! Send me!”

May we be THAT bold in faith. Bold in God’s Love.


Reflection on Isaiah 6:1-8 offered November 15, 2020

[1] Christie Taylor, Kathleen Davis, and Ira Flatow, “Why COVID Dreams Are Weirder Than Normal,” Science Friday, accessed November 12, 2020, https://www.sciencefriday.com/segments/covid-dreams/.

[2] “Threshold,” Merriam-Webster (Merriam-Webster), accessed November 11, 2020, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/threshold.

[3] Nahum Ward-Lev, The Liberating Path of the Hebrew Prophets: Then and Now (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis books, 2019), 42.

[4] Ibid, 43

[5] Ibid, 43.