“On the Threshold”

It was a great day of celebration for First United Methodist Church when we gathered for our Fifth Sunday Unified Worship and Covered Dish Luncheon on Sunday, March 31. Many of us have been looking forward to the day since we marked it on our calendars soon after the congregation was able to pay off our mortgage note in December and become officially debt free.

The anticipated celebration did not disappoint! Our worship was vibrant and meaningful, with great music and the ceremonial “note burning” and ritual Act of Dedication, something that many of us have never before had the opportunity to experience.

For a generation, FUMC has held some sort of capital debt, so this moment in our history is nothing short of monumental. Many of our members have no memory of a time at which we did not have a mortgage note of some kind.

Now that is all part of the past, which gives us the opportunity to imagine a different kind of future. We are, as I shared with the congregation in worship, on the threshold of something new—something that only God can imagine at this point.

What that means is that we have choices about how we will approach our ministries in the future. We can decide either to rest upon what we have accomplished or see this moment as an opportunity to do something new, different, and creative.

As part of my sermon preparation for March 31, I did a great deal of reading about the meaning of the word “threshold,” since I had chosen that as the guiding metaphor for my message. I wanted to be sure that I wasn’t misrepresenting its meaning and I was surprised to discover that the common knowledge I had accepted wasn’t the full story.

I had learned long ago that the reason the door entry was called a threshold was that it was built to keep in the straw or similar material that families typical used as flooring for their homes. What I learned is that although that was indeed a common practice during the time Modern English language was emerging, the true meaning of the term had more to do with the way wheat and other grains were “threshed” in order to remove the chaff. The full stalks of grain were typically beaten or literally stomped on, then the chaff removed by various methods. The term threshold was derived from the word that was used to describe the sound of stomping to break down the stalks of grain, the same sound that people typically made when they entered a home and stomped their feet to remove snow, mud, and the other debris their shoes and boots had accumulated while they were out.

You may recall that Jesus instructed his disciples to “shake the dust from their feet” if the message of the gospel didn’t take root in the places they went. Learning about the people of the Middle Ages stomping their feet at the threshold of their homes reminded me of those words. It makes me think that sometimes, those things that cling to us keep us from moving ahead unencumbered.

I believe that our congregation has an incredible opportunity in the years to come and that we must shake the dust off our feet in a way, leaving behind the memory of our debt and claiming the promise of new ministry! As we cross this threshold, may we accept both this new-found sense of freedom and the guidance of the Holy Spirit as God leads us into a new day.

Grace and peace, Pastor John