Sackville United Church February 8, 2015 Mark 1: 29-39
We cross thresholds all the time in our lives. We go out the door from the privacy of our home into the public life of work and shopping and socializing.
At the end of our work or our school day, after the doctor’s appointment or the curling we cross back into the private space of our home again. We all cross thresholds daily. We hardly notice and in many cases that’s fine.
But there are other thresholds; thresholds that, if we cross them with consideration and intent and even reverence, will transform us; will bring us closer to our truest selves.
Our text from Mark this morning fairly bristles with thresholds. They are sticking out through the bag of the text like awkward twigs gathered up after a morning of gardening. But if we loose them from the bag they are a wondrous array of passages from one state of being to another. They are spilling out in front of us.
Here are six.
The first when Jesus and the disciples pass over the threshold of Simon and James. They simply go through the door.
The second when Jesus’ moves, by the touch of his hand into the realm of illness; to a woman exiled by fever
The third when Simon’s mother-in-law passes back from fever to wellness.
The fourth the doorway where the whole city shows it’s recognition of Jesus, himself a threshold to wholeness, and gather to be cured or to be exorcised or to satisfy their curiosity.
The fifth when Jesus leaves the company of other for solitude.
The sixth when he leaves the place where he is to go elsewhere, to go deeper into the meaning of who he is.
There are those I haven’t named. But six is enough.
Each one of these could be a sermon in itself. But for us I think the most formative movement through the text is to wonder what thresholds have in common; how we can recognize them; how we can honour them; how we can find courage to set foot on the other side.
Because surely we have recently been a people passing over thresholds. And we are at a threshold moment now.
Last week I told the Godly Play story of exile and return. I was illustrating a threshold. There was a time when God’s people were of one mind; that they could pray to God only in the temple. Then they were dragged across the desert, a long torturous liminal space until finally, not right away, but sometime after they arrived in Babylon, they crossed the threshold. On the other side they knew that God was not only present in the temple but everywhere. They did not have to go back to where they had been.
The threshold was not the desert. The long stinging journey was only a catalyst for destabilizing old patterns so that they might reach a new understanding of God and of themselves as God’s people. The threshold itself was the barrier set up across their understanding that kept God in one place only.
We have been a people passing over thresholds and we are on a threshold now. Two years ago I met this congregation on the road. Old things had been left behind, and it was hard. There was much anxiety; as is often the way in in-between or liminal space. The waiting; the preparation time in which we sometimes feel everything is out of control is not unusual around the crossing of threshold. We longed for concrete markers; we distracted ourselves by talking of them. Without fixed space to be in we worried terribly when old ways of being wobbled. We longed for our arrival in this new space. And we arrived, and we recognized our arrival and we celebrated.
Not only did we celebrate amongst ourselves but we invited others, the community; the Presbytery, the Conference. We welcomed people and I’m not sure we realize yet, how much hope there is for others in our coming to this place. We crossed a threshold and we said with our lives, you can do this too, not in the same way that we did but in a way that God will show you. I know well many of the quirks of this place but I am still celebrating our arrival here. I hope that you are too.
The thing about thresholds is that if you pause reverently before you cross them, if you don’t stumble mindlessly or heartlessly over them, they open you to know that you are more than you imagined you could be. Remember there are more than six thresholds in the Mark passage one opening into another.
And so it is no surprise that the threshold we crossed into this new space has spilled us into yet another liminal space, another place of in between in which we are called to an even deeper understanding of God and of ourselves as God’s people. This is the journey of discipleship.
I believe that the move to a new structure of governance, not even the structure itself, but the ways of understanding ourselves that it will open us to, is threshold. This is my answer to why we are shaping a new governance structure. Because I believe that this sacred space we occupy now is but a room on the journey; that we are called, having lived into courage and newness, over another threshold. And the threshold I believe is to leave the old building of our governance, which we not longer have the resources to maintain, to move into a brighter, more hospitable, structure that will invite the gifts of all and encourage leadership from the edges.
I don’t have all the answers for what this will look like or for where it will take us. But I believe that as congregations change shape we have a tremendous opportunity to understand God and ourselves as God’s people differently. I believe that in congregational life we no longer need to praise and reverence God only in more than one place; not only on Sunday; but within our very structures. I believe that a prayer and reading at the beginning of a Council meeting are no longer enough. I believe that when we came here to write prayers under the paint we were at the beginning of something very bold, very risky, very ancient and very new. I believe if we can cross this threshold we will be made new.
I know there are a thousand questions about how this might work and that might work; how this might fail and that might fall apart. And they are real questions. We will make mistakes. We will be frustrated. But what I want to give you today is the hope that this is more than just a small tweaking of what already has been. This is leaving an old building. It is crossing into a much different space, in which we will continue to be made new.
Though the details are not insignificant; they themselves are not the threshold, just as the desert was not the threshold. The threshold will come as we open ourselves to ask again what it means to be disciples; what it means to create spiritual community and find an even deeper answer. The rest will follow. Whether this new shape is effective or not will be less important than asking the question and following where it leads.
Threshold is not always the moment some thing is done; it is the moment the heart moves.
For the God who stands always on the thresholds of transformation, who wait with us to find our courage, who steadies us as our heart moves, who waits for us on the other side; we give thanks.