Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Deut. 30:19b-20
In the reading for Sunday from Deuteronomy, Moses gives his farewell address. He’s gathered all the people of Israel around himself on the east side of the Jordan River, and he speaks at some length about their past – forty years in the wilderness – and then invites them to consider the future which God has in mind for them, across that river, in the Promised Land. Yet, the shape of that future is not clear; there are uncertainties, fears, even. Things will be different. After all, forty years of doing things one way might even feel like that’s the only way, like that’s the way “we’ve always done it.”
It’s time for us to cross the Jordan River, again. It seems to me that every generation of the church needs to cross the Jordan, and we’re no different. I’ve been thinking now for awhile about October 14th, 2020. It may seem a long way off, and, of course, tomorrow is promised to no one, but the future belongs to God, and so do we. Whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s, as St. Paul puts it in his letter to the Romans.
So, then, what about October, 2020? Well, I’m glad you asked. That will be two hundred years since The Rev. John West, Church of England, Church Missionary Society, arrived in the still somewhat rough Red River settlement, having come down from Hudson’s Bay via river and lake. We date this Cathedral Parish from his arrival.
How do we get to 2020? It is, after all, still six years and nine months away, and we have yet to pass this year’s budget! Well, we plan. We pray. We persist, as disciples of the crucified and risen one, Jesus Christ, to whom this Cathedral belongs, along with the whole church on earth. We choose.
Together we choose to move into the future trusting in God’s call; we have to cross the Jordan again or we wither and die in the wilderness of our own self-satisfaction. It’s important, vital, in fact, to celebrate the past, and to give thanks for God’s faithfulness through 194 years, but we can’t stop there. If there is to be a river crossing, if there is to be the promised land of a future for this community of faith we call St. John’s Anglican Cathedral, we must, absolutely must, look beyond ourselves, and follow Jesus wherever he leads us, even – get ready for it – if it’s off ‘the Island’ between Main and the River, between St. John’s Park and Kildonan Park.
Let’s start thinking together about that bicentenary – it will come more quickly than you think – and how best to celebrate and give thanks to God. Even more importantly than getting there, though, let’s think about the future into which God is calling all of us, a future of worship grounded in the presence of Christ, in Word and Sacrament, which then sends us out into service in Christ’s name! You see, God is already there, on the other side of the Jordan, on the other side of Main Street, on the other side of the world. Don’t you think it’s time we crossed too?
One place we can talk about our future together is at the Annual General Meeting. I hope you will come and join us next Sunday, February 23rd, at 1 p.m. in the John West Hall. First, after worship, we’ll share some food, and then we’ll get to work, with joy and thanksgiving for all that God has done in and through this community for almost two centuries, and also through us, and for all that God promises in Christ, a future rich and full to the brim with hope.
Thanks be to God!