“Spiritually, if we want to change our reservation in eternity, we have to modify our behavior to get in line with God’s plan,” said the Rev. Teresa L. Fry Brown at the 9:15 a.m. Thursday morning worship service in the Amphitheater. Her sermon title was “Time to Move,” and the Scripture reading was Deuteronomy 1:6-8.
The world has been moving, active and changing since creation but “too many of us sit down and rest on our laurels, thinking that we have already done what God planned for us to do,” she said.
One way to move is to be physically active. U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics show that the country spent $1.46 trillion on food, beverages and eating in restaurants, hundreds of millions on gyms, classes, Fitbits and 5Ks, and millions on weight loss programs and no-exercise-needed programs.
“Who took away recess and decided that gym teachers were no longer necessary?” Fry Brown asked.
Another way we move is to change residences. She quoted the lyrics of “Movin’ On Up,” theme song to the TV show “The Jeffersons.”
“Well we’re movin’ on up/ To the east side/ To a deluxe apartment in the sky/ Movin’ on up/ To the east side/ We finally got a piece of the pie.”
In Deuteronomy, Moses was in the last weeks of his life. He had led the people from making bricks without straw to survival of the plagues, out of slavery and into the wilderness, to a mountaintop vision while the people threw a party for a golden calf. Self-destruction was the order of the day, and a whole generation was punished.
“They got caught up in ‘I can’t,’ ‘They won’t let me,’ and they failed to teach their children the cost of liberation,” Fry Brown said.
Instead of moving into the land that God had promised their ancestors, “they camped on the border of blessing, the lip of liminality. They were living in the past, existing in the wasteland and second-guessing God. They were stuck on what used to be and not to what God wanted now.”
She continued to say they could “almost taste freedom, touch liberation, smell self-determination — but they hesitated.” They allowed doubt to seep in and lived in desperation, disbelief and with deflated dreams. They were mumbling about going along to get along, and they were petrified by politics.
But Moses reminded the Israelites of God’s plan and they had to “move when God says move.” The crux, she said, is in Verse 6: you have stayed around this mountain long enough — it is time to make your dreams a reality.
“If you don’t want to work up a sweat for God, you end up stuck, stifled, stagnated and idle,” she said. “I have preached that God promised us a future of hope. Get up and move; salvation is dynamic.”
Some people stay in one place so long, they don’t know how to move, she said, but “God has already given you the land, God has already given you the present; open it up.” Some people get used to waiting to be rescued, dreaming the dreams of the past and not their own dreams.
“God says now is the time to stop talking, it is time to act,” Fry Brown said. “God commands us to start moving, so pack light so you can travel. Turn off the internal GPS because God has already given you directions to the homeland of your soul. With no vision, dreams, hope and passion, our spiritual muscles will atrophy, our communities will decay and we will die.”
It is 2017 and “I know you are tired; you did the work but you are not dead yet,” Fry Brown said.
“Moses was 120 when he gave this speech,” she said. “If you are 120, my hat is off to you. You can rest, but the rest of us have no excuse. We have been ignoring the signs too long, foreclosing on our own future for too long, been in an individual and collective wilderness too long; we have talked but done nothing for too long.”
When you are ready to move, God will stand with you.
“You have everything you need to work for change and even if no one else shows up, you can make the change,” she said. “We serve a powerful God and if we trust God he will turn xenophobia into zeal, withdrawal into watchfulness, violence into vision, resistance into redemption.”
Fry Brown continued going up the alphabet showing that God could turn problems into solutions.
“He can turn elitism into equality, chaos into calm and apathy into action,” she said.
The congregation applauded.
“We have to resolve together that it is time to be God’s righteously indignant people,” she said. “God is always with us. He has already given you the land; it is time for you to move.”
Deacon Ed McCarthy presided. Vicki Carter read the Scripture. She is in her third year as director of the Chautauqua Scholarship Program sponsored by the International Order of The King’s Daughters and Sons. At the beginning of her career, she was one of the first women to conduct on Broadway. Recently, Vicki was honored by induction to the University of Southern Mississippi Alumni Hall of Fame and was one of the Charter Nominees for the Mississippi Musicians Hall of Fame. The Motet Choir, under the direction of Jared Jacobsen, organist and coordinator of worship and sacred music, sang “Be still, my soul,” by Percy W. Whitlock. Barbara Hois, flute, Rebecca Scarnati, oboe, Debbie Grohman, clarinet and Willie LaFavor, piano, played “Larry Kramer’s Play” by Sean Michael Salamon and “Trio with piano” by L. Mayeur for the prelude. The Jackson-Carnahan Memorial Chaplaincy and the Harold F. Reed Sr. Chaplaincy provide support for this week’s services.