June 25, 2023
• Rev. Mindie Moore
Thresholds Week 4 // June 25, 2023
Over Thresholds into Opportunity
It’s our final week of our Thresholds series. And over the past several weeks, we have been looking at Scriptures and stories that have challenged us to make some kind of move- maybe a mental shift, maybe a change in habits, maybe embracing some kind of call that God has for us.
And in any kind of move or shift, the truth is we are going to have to make some choices. If you were here week 1, we talked about these proverbial doors and what it takes to walk through them. And it can be challenging! There are so many things that get in the way of actually making a move and stepping over a threshold. And when we find ourselves in that place, unsure, not quite ready, not knowing what to do next, we can be tempted to just walk away from the whole thing.
But if this series has taught us anything, it’s that God wants something bigger for us than that. God wants something for us that might mean taking a risk. Or trying something new. Sometimes God is there holding the door open, just waiting for what will happen when we finally walk through.
And so today as we look at these challenges, I want to fully acknowledge that some of these, while they’re going to be summarized nice and neatly on a slide on the screen...some of these are really big. Some of these things that stop us from crossing thresholds might even seem impossible! And I’m not
here today to downplay or minimize just how hard some of these things are.
But my hope for you and me today as we close this series, is that AS big and complicated and challenging and impossible as these things might be...that we could leave this place today with just a little bit more confidence that God is bigger.
So let’s pray as we go into the message today.
You know, one of my least desirable habits as a leader and a human is one that I have carried with me ever since I was a kid. It has shown up in my schoolwork, my housework, and even my actual work! And while this habit isn’t something I’m super PROUD of, I know I’m not alone because research tells me that I share it with 20% of the general population.
I am a habitual procrastinator.
Who are my procrastinators in here?
And I think sometimes procrastination gets painted in a really bad light. Even this research I was looking at, one of the articles was talking about laziness. And I’m sure that CAN be part of it, but another maybe even more significant thing that procrastinators have in common?
We want to be ready, we want to get the thing right...so we don’t do it!
And seriously, I see this come up in the most predictable ways. One recent and perfectly illustrative example happened about a year ago, when I was writing my final set of ordination papers. Pastor Eric and his family let me use their house to have a quiet place to write while they were out of town on vacation. And while they were gone, they just asked me to do one thing- it was the middle of summer, so they wanted me to water their garden and other plants.
Friends. You have never seen someone SO INVESTED in the outdoor plants of a home where they did not live! I mean, career-shaping work was on the line, but tending to those plants was of the HIGHEST priority each morning. And yes, they were all alive when they returned from vacation.
But that’s what we do sometimes- we've got something SO important in front of us...and we put it off. We put it off because we want to get it right, we want it to be good or successful, we just want to be READY for whatever that new, important thing is.
And as we talk about crossing thresholds, going to new places that God has for us, whether you are a procrastinator or not- the belief that we’re just not ready, that we don’t have everything we need to make it work...that can be a HUGE barrier to entry.
I mean, when was the last time you had this thought when you had to make some kind of change? You thought: I should apply for that promotion- but I haven’t been here long enough. I
should talk to that new person at church, but it’s only my 5th Sunday. I could go volunteer at the community garden, but I’ve killed all my houseplants!
There are so many reason we don’t think we’re ready. And because We really live in a world where we put a lot of emphasis on being prepared and having credentials we can be lulled into this false belief that something is always missing in us and if we could just find that thing, THEN we’d be ready for what God has for us.
But here’s the uncomfortable truth- (SLIDE) God often opens doors before we’re ready to walk through them.
And here’s the biggest secret- there’s no such thing as ready! No matter WHAT we do- we could always do more! And it’s that mindset that can have us looking at God, holding a door open for us, and say- could you just come back in a few years when I’ve got my life together?
That’s been a temptation for people for a long time. We see it in the Scripture we’re reading today. What we’re reading here is a letter to a church- now you may or may not know, but in the book of Revelation, before we get to all the apocalyptic stuff, there are actually these letters to churches. Churches that were looking at the world around them and saying, what are we even doing here? We’re not qualified for this, we’re not ready to handle this level of chaos much less step into something new.
And this section of Revelation 3 is written to the church in a place called Philadelphia. And even though this church is surrounded by chaos and idolatry and all sorts of stuff that is not great...somehow they stay faithful. They love Jesus and they love each other and John, who’s writing this, says “I KNOW you don’t think you’ve got what it takes to make it out here. I know that you don’t have power or authority, but you’ve got something bigger. You don’t have to wait until you’ve acquired those things or the situation improves. You may not be ready...but God is.”
Look, so often we aren’t ready, but God is. And this Scripture is super clear. It says, “GOD IS HOLDING AN OPEN DOOR THAT NO ONE IS ABLE TO SHUT.” It’s not up to the people, it’s not up to their abilities or readiness, this one is on God and that is GOOD NEWS for them and for us.
And I hope, if you’re in a place where you’ve been wanting to walk through a door, where you’ve been wanting to take the next step, but you’re holding back because you’ve got to check a few more boxes or get better at something, I hope you can hear that today and just let some pressure off. God doesn’t need you to be better or some improved version of yourself. God’s not waiting on that. And you don’t have to either.
Now, maybe you ARE ready, that’s not so much the thing holding you back, but you’re thinking- how do I know what the right door even is? I mean, look, we’ve got 4 up here! How can you be sure that the door that seems open is the one worth
walking through? If we’re going to go through the door, (SLIDE) we have to overcome the fear that we might be opening the wrong door.
And that’s the major risk with a threshold. You take a new step, you start leaning into a new idea...and you might be wrong. And that fear of being wrong, especially when we are trying so hard to follow God can be such a sticking point for us. The stakes feel really high. It’s not easy to just let go of what MIGHT happen and keep moving.
It’s not easy- but it’s the only way we make any kind of progress.
I think this church in Revelation is a good example of this- they are praised for the fact that they’re just living their lives and being faithful. They don’t know if they’re doing it right, in fact most of the world is telling them they’re doing it wrong for following Jesus!
But the encouragement John has for them here is just to keep going. Get it wrong, walk through the door, but don’t let the fear of what might or might not happen stop you from acting in faith.
And you know why this is so powerful? Because even if we’re ready, even if we make all the right choices- there's still so much we can’t control. And like it or not- sometimes even the most perfect doors get shut in our faces. We don’t know why, we wouldn’t have made that choice-it just happens. And I don’t
want to for one moment minimize how painful that can be. I know, I’ve been there- a closed door, especially a closed door to a big dream or something that you’ve invested a lot of time and energy into, especially when you’ve been talking to Jesus about it...that can be a real crisis moment. We can see the closed door as the end of the story.
But the thing about how I’ve seen God work, again and again is that (SLIDE) sometimes a door has to close for another one to open. And it’s not always obvious at first; it can feel like a big disappointment sometimes. But so often, it’s when that first, ideal door gets shut, that God really shows up in the unexpected new door.
It makes me think about Martin Luther King Junior at the START of his ministry. And we don’t talk about that part of his life very often- we know him as this Civil Rights Leader and super notable pastor. But it didn’t start like that. In fact, when he graduated from Boston School of Theology he was looking for a church job and narrowed it down to two: First Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN and Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, AL. And he REALLY wanted to go to Chattanooga. This church in Montgomery was a DISTANT second because the one in TN was very well-known and it would have been an awesome launchpad for his career as a pastor.
But as bizarre as it is to think about now, now that we know his whole story- Martin Luther King JR didn’t get that job. He was
rejected by the church in Chattanooga! They chose a different pastor who was a better fit.
And so he kept walking through the doors that God was providing and in that moment it was a church in Montgomery AL. This church (SLIDE)- that I happened to visit on a Civil Rights Pilgrimage last year. A church that so MANY visit now as part of these kinds of trip. A church that wasn’t anything special but became the epicenter of something world-changing. Because just a few months after MLK got there, to a place he hadn’t wanted to go or wouldn’t have chose for himself, Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on the bus, was arrested, and the Black church formed a response with MLK as the leader.
You know, it matters that we keep going not only because it’s an act of faithfulness but because we usually can’t even begin to dream about what God is going to do with those doors that God has held open.
There’s a story in the book of Acts where Paul has an experience like this. He is so sure about where he wants to go and what he wants to do and God leads him to something different. Listen to this: (SLIDE)
Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia...They tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them
to...During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. (Acts 16: 6-10)
Did you catch what happened here with Paul’s motivation? It shifts- he's had plans, he knows what doors he wants to have opened for him and his ministry and after all these setbacks, he has this dream. And when he encounters this man in Macedonia, it all starts to make sense. It all starts to make sense that those doors, those opportunities- they were never about him! It’s about showing up for someone else.
Have you experienced that kind of shift before? Have you ever had a moment where you realized- oh...this door isn’t really about me at all. (SLIDE) God opens doors for us that benefit others.
Transition into Betty’s video
What’s holding you back from the new opportunity God might have for you? Write that down, and pray over that thing this week.
There are a lot of reasons to KEEP up from walking over thresholds- but there is so much God can do with our lives if we will.
LAND: What’s the opportunity you’re walking into?