Links of Interest/Bibliography:
Words of Welcome & Announcements
Lighting the Christ Candle & Acknowledgement of Place
As we gather to worship, let us pause to remember that in this region we live and work and worship on lands that are, by law, the unceded territories of the Wabanaki peoples—predominantly the lands of the Mi’kmaq, Maliseet, and Passamaquoddy. May we live with respect on this land, and live in peace and friendship with its people.
Hymn All Things Bright and Beautiful VU 291
Call to Worship “One: The season of creation surrounds us
All: We look for God’s presence in the changing leaves, the fall mums, and crisp apples
One: God is in creation and in our relationship with creation
All: We celebrate God’s presence as we gather to worship in this season of creation
Opening Prayer Source of Life and Love, we pray that we will be encouraged by your Love and strengthened by your peace. Amen.
Hymn Take Your Shoes Off Moses Arr. Courtney Patton
Theme Conversation I am who I am
Readings Exodus 2:23-25, 3:1-17
From “What is the Bible?”
Musical Response I Know Your Word MV 108
Sermon Standing at the Threshold
So Jesus is quoting Moses today, and unfortunately Jesus chooses a particular story that doesn’t translate to English overly well, but the parts that do make for a very impressive story. So when the people of power ask Jesus who he is, he responds with the same line as God gave Moses, when Moses asked who God was. Of course the people who were questioning Jesus were upset. They were so upset that they chased him out of the temple in an attempt to throw stones at him. The part of the Moses story he quotes, is so confusing because the climax of the story is somewhat untranslatable, and it’s the climax Jesus quoted. But allow me to back up a bit. For those of you unfamiliar with the Moses story, Moses was Hebrew in a time that was particularly horrible for Hebrew people. The Pharoah during the time of Moses’ birth had ordered that all the Hebrew babies be killed. Fortunately for Moses, his mother hid him in the reeds by the river where the Pharoh’s daughter found him and raised him as her own. During his formative years Moses often noticed the way the Hebrew people were treated and felt it was unfair. Moses identified as Hebrew, and when he sees someone mistreating another Hebrew person, he kills the attacker and needs to flee. After running from Egypt to Midian, Moses marries and becomes a shepherd. And this is where we find him in today’s reading. Out, tending the sheep, when he sees a sight beyond all sights. A bush that is burning, yet the fire doesn’t kill it. Moses knows he’s standing in a sacred place, so he takes off his shoes, and receives his call from God. Moses feels a little inadequate to do the job, and in his back and forth with God he asks the question “Who am I to say that you are?” and the reply was “Yahweh” a word so sacred that it’s often spelt without vowels. Untranslatable, “I am” is sometimes considered the meaning of the word Yahweh, but that doesn’t really do it either. There just isn’t a word to sum up “I have been since before time began and I will be beyond the end of time. I am everything and everything is me.”
So Hum is a Sanskrit phrase that is used in the yogic tradition as a mantra. It’s meaning is very similar. Again, it’s untranslatable in English, but is traditionally thought of as “I am THAT”, that being in all capital letters and unique to each person. It’s often used when a person needs to reconnect to the Spirit. Inhaling on So, exhaling on Hum, syncing the mind and the breath. It is found in many of the sacred texts of yoga.
I learned about So Hum during my yoga teacher training a few years ago. I took my training with Breathing Space Yoga because the certifying person is the daughter of a colleague and I wanted to take the training with someone who understood Christianity and would understand why I couldn’t be there on Sunday mornings. When I mentioned the parallel between “I am” in the Bible and “I am” in the meditation practice that had been given to us that day, I was surprised at how many people, even people who considered themselves Christian, couldn’t see similar themes, concepts, stories, untranslatable words, etc between the sacred text assigned to our class and the Bible. Tracking the similarities between the Bhagavadh Gita and the Bible ended up being my final project. It was a huge paper, which I summed up with a Godly Play story that I felt explained the word “Namaste” for me.
Crossing the threshold from a theologically trained person into the yoga world deepened both of those experiences for me. Much like Moses and stepping over the threshold, close enough to see the bush and need to remove his shoes, removing my shoes and stepping onto my yoga mat is like stepping onto the same ground that Moses did. It’s threshold theology at it’s finest.
I learned about Threshold Theology when I studied Godly Play. In a traditional Godly Play classroom, a Doorperson greets each child and helps them to “get ready” to enter the holy place. Usually with a handshake and the question “are you ready?” if the child answers no, then the doorperson and the child and sometimes the parent work together to help the child figure out what they need to do to be attentive, engaged, and most importantly feeling calm. The idea behind this is that when the child enters the space, they are supposed to experience God. Feeling calm and valued, children step over the threshold and into a place where questions with many answers, creativity, sacred stories and self-acceptance are encouraged and community is built through a simple communal meal and a blessing. Then they go out into the world, ready, because they have encountered God in that space, specifically designed for them.
Have you ever noticed a threshold before? Have you ever hesitated before entering a place? Maybe someone carried you over a threshold, or perhaps it was a hip-check? Thresholds mark the beginning of one place and the ending of another. There is a distinct difference between one place and the other: inside or outside, my room or the common area of the house, employees only or the rest of the store, private or public.
What is the threshold for a scared place? Moses obviously didn’t know or he would have taken off his sandals. When we go into someone’s home, we take off our shoes as a sign of respect for their home. There’s also a difference between entering through the front door verses the kitchen door. Are you a guest or are you family? Is there a difference? What does your home say about you? What does our spiritual home say about us? How do we know that this place is Holy? And what does it say about our understanding of God? I have to admit, this is by far the widest range of theological belief I’ve encountered in a congregation. How are we saying that about ourselves? How are we saying that in here is different from out there? How are we saying that we are different from the Lion’s Club, the Freemasons, or any other group that does charitable work? How are we different from other churches?
If we aren’t able to say how we’re different from all of the other groups, organizations and churches, then how will anyone ever know they might want to step over our threshold and into this life we call sacred? How will people know that our understanding of God includes unconditional Love, celebration of diversity, creation, creativity, justice, community and so much more?
I dream of a day when people will come into view of St. Luke’s and know instantly that these are the things that we value, and by the time they step over the threshold, they’ll know they are home. I dream that people will meet you good folks going about their daily lives and they’ll be interested to come to this place that is so life-giving for themselves, and when they cross the threshold into the physical building, they will feel so warmly welcomed that they will know instantly that they are home, that this place is Holy and holy can look like home.
I’ve been asked a few times since I’ve been here to describe my ministry, and I think most folks by now could easily answer, my ministry is Love. But it shouldn’t be my ministry that draws people to come here, it should be yours. As much as my ministry is about Love, it’s also about empowering congregations to find their own ministry, so it’s authentic and real and grows as the people change and grow. It’s sort of like a mime trapped in a box. The mime only thinks they are trapped in the box. Once someone opens that invisible door, the mime is free to step out. Or in. Church is the same, let’s open those invisible doors, so people on the inside feel free to go out and talk about their sacred experience here, and so that people on the inside don’t necessarily have to see the door in order to come in. Amen.
Hymn Soil of God, You and I MV 174
Minute for Mission
Because your generosity, crossing the threshold into the sacred that is St. Luke’s is a friendly and welcome experience for many. With your continued generosity, we can make this a sacred and safe place for everyone who crosses the threshold.
Offertory For the Gift of Creation VU 538
May these gifts, those given through PAR and our commitment to give be seen as the gifts they truly are. Amen.
Communion Hymn All Who Hunger VU 460
Passing the Peace During the Passing of the Peace, consent is a must. You should not feel guilty if you are unable to receive someone’s gift of peace, nor should you feel guilty if your gift of peace is not received. Please be aware of body language and the variety of needs in regards to personal space.
(Liturgy adapted from Celebrate God’s Presence)
“As we come to this table,
we are reminded that this is not the table of this congregation [or pastoral charge]; nor is it the table of The United Church of Canada, or any particular denomination. It is the table of Jesus Christ, the family feast of the whole people of God. All who seek to be nourished and sustained in the journey of faith
and long to live justly and in peace with their neighbour, are welcome here. Let us eat and drink together for our strengthening in the faith, and for the sake of the world.
“May God be with us.
God is here among us.
Let us open our hearts to God.
We open them to God and to one another.
Let us give thanks to God.
It is good to give thanks and praise.
“Eternal God, Maker of heaven and earth, we join with all your people to give you thanks and praise. You formed the universe in your wisdom and created all things by your grace. We praise you for all your good gifts: the witness of saints and prophets; the work of faithful women and men; this earth in all its blessing and promise; and this bread, once scattered, now brought together and made one. In the hope that your people may be brought together from the ends of the earth into your reign of justice and compassion, we gather with those of every time and every place
to give you praise and glory:
“Holy, holy, holy God,
Power of life and love!
Heaven and earth are full of your glory!
Hosanna through the ages!
Blest is the One who comes to bring your justice to earth!
“We do what Jesus did the night before he died. He took bread, gave thanks, broke the bread, and gave it to his friends, and said, “Take, eat; remember me.”
Then he took the cup, and said,
“Take, drink; remember.”
“We remember Jesus’ integrity unto death.
We remember the hope of resurrection.
We remember the promise of compassion and justice.
“Praise be to God, the Source of love!
Praise be to Christ, Love incarnate!
Praise be to the Spirit, Love’s power!
Praise be to God!
Let’s pray together the prayer of Jesus.
During the Prayer of Jesus, you are invited to use the translation and language of your choice. A variety of translations and expressions of the Prayer of Jesus (also known as The Lord’s Prayer) can be found in Voices United pages 916-927.
The bread of tomorrow. The cup of new life.
may your gifts of love transform and enliven us that we may live lives of thanksgiving. May your presence among us provoke such longing for your realm, that we will never be satisfied until the whole earth knows your justice, your peace, and your love.
In Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.
Commissioning & Benediction
Musical Blessing May the Blessing of God Go Before You VU 962