Our theme for January is Thresholds. Literally, a threshold is that part of a doorway you step over. Thresholds represent moving from one space to another. We can move indoors to outdoors or the other way around. Or we can move from one room to another. We cross thresholds all the time. Like moving from being a toddler who is driven to daycare and suddenly becoming a kindergarten student who takes the bus… (without mom or mommy). Crossing thresholds is about becoming what you have yet to be. Sometimes thresholds are a million moments of small steps. Sometimes a threshold is one big leap into the unwritten.
The three big crossing experiences for most people are birth, marriage, and death. Yet there are many other thresholds we cross. Some we acknowledge as we step over with great celebration. Some we don’t even notice. We let them pass by without any acknowledgement at all. Perhaps to do so would be to live in sacred time….
January is the perfect month to talk about thresholds, and about why they matter.
We have just entered a new year. I noticed this past week that young children wonder why adults often make such a big deal about a New Year! Why do we stay up late to watch the clock go from 11:59 pm to 12 am? It is not just time and the start of a new year that are foreign concepts to young children.
Why do older than toddler folks make such a big deal about the turning of the year?
Is it because we need to see it the ball drop, the tick-tock passing of time for the new year to be real?
Is it because we need to try again?… because we need a restart button? Do we somehow know how important it is to get another chance, another opportunity… in order to step into what is to be?
Thresholds that we choose to cross can mark our development, the stages of life that appear before us that we have accepted, the rooms we have stepped out of and the ones we have stepped into….
It is clear to me that the big thresholds in our lives help us mark our movement from one place (one developmental space) to another.
Most of us know the date, even the time, when we were born. Most of us will have someone acknowledge the date, and perhaps the time, when we die. Many of us know when we were married. Some of us know when a marriage ended, and perhaps when another one began.
There are many thresholds that one can clearly see coming, and we can ready ourselves for the moment. We see it coming and we also know we are about to be on the other side. Sometimes it is with mixed emotions, with dread and joy, with fear and excitement, that we accept the invitation to cross over into what will be.
Maybe there were some of you who didn’t want 2019 to end?
It did, though, and here we are in 2020. It is the first time in 101 years that the decade and the year match. Not since 1919 and not again until 2121 will this occur. I’m not sure what to make of that, yet. What I do know is that whether you are a resolution maker or not, the turn of a new year offers an invitation to commit.
Many of us take up that invitation: we commit to do some things differently, to eat or drink differently, to take care of our bodies differently, to lose the holiday weight.
There is a newish UU minister I follow on Facebook. I had a small part in helping the congregation she now serves be ready and open for her ministry. This colleague of mine posts a lot of messages on Facebook. Reading her posts are like having a window open where I am able to see how it is going for her and for the congregation she serves.
On New Year’s she posted, “If your New Year Resolution is losing weight, you are literally and figuratively thinking too small. I believe you can think of something bigger and better. ♡”
She signed this post with a heart shape.
I know from her previous posts that she joined a workout program for the first time ever several months ago, and she is committed to not losing weight necessarily, but getting in better shape physically. So, I don’t think she is saying that doesn’t count.
What I do think she is saying is that we ought to consider getting in better shape, spiritually; that we can do more about shaping up the world than we have been doing. That we can be more fierce, more imaginative, more resistant to hate and violence and greed.
Think big. I believe you can. Think of something bigger and better than what you have previously made your new year’s resolution about. What can you let go of? What can you leave in 2019 that will truly free you to be in 2020?
If you were to do that, if you were to free yourself of something best left behind; if you were to take up her challenge—what big, bold thing would you resolve to commit to?
I want to encourage you to think of something bigger and better than you ever have before. You won’t have a year like this for a long, long time… as 2121 is a long time from now.
You know, it doesn’t matter at all if we are larger or smaller in body size, if our neighbors are going without adequate food, or clean water, or air to breathe. It doesn’t matter if we think we are going forward, if the world around us is going backwards.
It doesn’t matter who we blame. It matters what vision we cast and how we live this next moment.
I offer this from another colleague, the Rev. Gretchen Haley:
Cast your vision here
in the middle of the hardest moment
the turning of the new year
the new century—
this life with so much worth saving,
this fragile faith—
For the children born
now, into the world as it is
with the threat of war and whole continents burning
still, while the memory lingers
of holidays chaotic
into this day,
offer the vision you’ve
tried to talk yourself down from,
your wildest dream,
your audacious aims,
the beauty that whispers to you
to follow, and build, and become
For this world coming undone
by distraction, and greed
and fear—this world
divided by made-up borders
and all that needs forgiveness—
Here, stir up your steadfast hope
your resolute clarity of what remains possible
with your dreaming
All paths to the future
are born in this courage
of imagination—this willingness
to shed, to salvage, to
to be this blessing
for each other to be this blessed.