My sisters and brothers, I stand before you this morning as we embrace the new year to remind you that, despite the stings in life, it is still worth it to play the game–despite the hurts of 2020 and the coldness of heart on display across our nation, punctuated by protest, pandemic and provocations that elicited great joy and pain. It is still worth playing the great game of life. Paul reminds us that the race is not given to the swift or to the strong but to those who endure until the end.
And I believe this morning God just sent me here to give you the playbook to survive another year of the pandemic in 2021 and encourage you to stay in the game. I know the adversary is plotting against you, but stay in the game. I know someone can testify that the joy I have, the world didn’t give me and the world can’t take away. Even when 500,000 loved ones have lost the fight to COVID-19, something inside of me keeps telling me to stay in the game.
The proposition that we must push forward when all around us seems uncertain is enough to cause you to reconsider whether you are on the right track. Yet, I remind you that even in the midst of transition, God gives us a playbook. Deuteronomy 31:6 tells us that there was a great leader, in spiritual terms perhaps the greatest leader up until Jesus, who found himself at the door of his crossing over. A crossing over from head shepherd to a member of the flock.
Moses, God’s prophet and priest, is directed to appoint another to lead the people to the promised land. God tells Moses that there will be a peaceful transition of power, for his time is up and he will not see the dream that he dreamed for God’s people come into full manifestation, but Joshua will.
In this moment, Moses shows us that true leadership is not only how we lead while in power but also how you pass the baton. That’s a message for all of us: This game that you are playing in life did not begin with you, and it will not end with you, because the Convener of the game spoke you into existence.
Shakespeare quips, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”
Moses makes the transition because God said the first play in the playbook is for Moses and Joshua to “be strong and courageous.”
In 2021, as we navigate another year of pandemic, you must live your life with the affirmation, “I am strong and courageous.” I am strong and courageous because God has called me to this moment. And if God has called you to this moment, then you ought not be afraid.
Yes, I know everything did not go as planned. During 2020, I had to postpone my wedding and sit with too many families who had to tell their loved ones goodbye from a distance. People like Helen Liley (who lost her husband), Deacon Joan Anderson, Rev. Michael Ray-Matthews and countless others. Yet, I am reminded that Moses never saw the promised land, but God still calls him from the mountaintop and directs his path until Moses breathes his last.
Be strong and courageous, for greater is he that is in me than he that is in the world. Be strong and courageous, because we have this hope within our souls, and it’s brighter than the perfect day. God has given us his spirit and he wants the world to hear it. Be strong and courageous, because I know who holds tomorrow.
My sisters and brothers, we claim in this nation that we are one nation under God, but I am not sure we believe it, because our actions show that we do not believe that God is still speaking in our time. That’s why the deception of Make America Great Again can cause an insurrection–because we would rather go back to the chains that we know than trust the Lord to walk among us and speak life and light to our nation.
God reminds us that it may get bad, but be strong and courageous, for I am giving you the land of promise, therefore you have no reason to fear. A Black preacher from Morehouse and a Jewish man were elected to the Senate from the red clay of Georgia to remind us that joy comes in the morning. Can I get a witness?
Coronavirus took our livelihoods and loved ones, but in each of our lives it reminded us that the greatest gifts of all are life itself and the ability to love. Can I get a witness?
They paraded white privilege and rage in a terrorist scheme upon the Capitol while the nation was facing a pandemic and recession, but in 1933 FDR faced a similar situation with an even more divided world and struck a New Deal for the nation. Someone said, I’ve seen you work for others, and I want you to work for me. Can I get a witness?
Do not be afraid of them, for the Lord your God is with you and has left a cloud of witnesses.
Black Lives Matter–that’s a statement, a testimony and a witness. Our blood being stolen and spilled is the greatest sin of this nation, yet our faith, dreams and votes keep saving the nation from utter destruction. Can I get a witness?
I hear the witness to glory ask, “If God be for you, then who can stand against you?”
I know there are giants in the land this morning: giants of inferiority, racism, classim, poverty, exploitation, consumerism, comparative mindsets, economic collapse. But God is with you.
So, walk together children, Don’t get weary. Talk together children, don’t you get weary. There’s a great camp-meeting in the promised land.
God is with you. You will be victorious in 2021 because you know the plays to run to get to the promised land. In that land of promise it does not matter what zip code you were born in because you have strength and courage within.
In that land, dreams deferred do die, but because God is with you and faith is in you.
Stay in the game, you will be victorious. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid, for the Lord your God goes with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.