Scripture: Deuteronomy 31:6 – “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
The Sunday before New Year’s, I sat with my father engaging in one of our typical bonding activities – watching football on the television. Two playoff competitive teams were playing under the cloak of night and snow.
One team, the Green Bay Packers, was from the land of the frozen tundra and the other was not so much, but they were Titans. While taking in the competition on the ole gridiron, I commented to my daddy that it hurts to be hit while playing in the snow. To which my dad replied, “Yes but they are tough and will play the game.”
My sisters and brothers, as we embrace the new year, I want to remind you that despite the stings in life, it is still worth it to play the game. In spite of the hurts of 2020 and the coldness of heart put on display across our nation – punctuated by protest, pandemic and provocations – 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.
The game of life has its ups and downs, but one of the most precarious moments of life where it seems like we ought to give up, is when transitions or page turning happens in our life and society. The very proposition that we must push forward, when all around seems uncertain, is enough to cause you to reconsider if you are on the right track.
Yet, even in the midst of transition, God gives us a playbook. Deuteronomy 31:6 tells us that there was a great leader who found himself at the door of his crossing over from head shepherd to a member of the flock, from being the bottom line to one who simply held the line.
Moses, God’s prophet and priest, is directed to appoint another to lead the people to the promise 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 had for God’s people come into full manifestation, but Joshua will.
It is in this moment that Moses shows us that true leadership is not only how lead while in power, but also how you pass the baton and set up the one who will come after you for success. That’s a message for all of us, to be reminded 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 you and Joshua to “Be strong and courageous.”
The hope is that in 2021 you live your life with the affirmation that “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. Moses never saw the promise land, but God still calls him from the mountain top and directs his path all the way until he breathes his last.
Be strong and courageous, for greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world. God has given us His spirit and He wants the world to hear it. All of our doubts are passed away.
Moses can move out of leadership and pass the baton to another generation to fulfill the dream. After 80 years of seeking God and leading God’s people, Moses knows that if God said it, then I can depend on it.
My sisters and brothers, we claim in this country 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 rather go back to the chains that we know than trust the Lord to walk among us and speak life and light to the nation.
God tells Moses that when you crossover and lay down the mantle of leadership, the people will be trifling. The people will worship other gods and begin to believe deception and do the works of iniquity. God said, “It is going to get so bad that they are going to think that the prosperity that they are enjoying came by their hand and not by My word, so I am going to fall back and let them be overtaken and overrun.”
In other words, “I am going to let the chicken come home to roost and let the demons exercise themselves among them. Yet Moses, I will leave a witness. Tell Joshua, I will leave a witness. Be strong and courageous for I am giving you the land of promise therefore you have no reason to fear. But when fear comes, consult my witness.”
That’s the second play in the playbook. When you see giants in the land, consult the witness of God. God gave Moses a song and God gave America a hymn – “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”
A Black preacher from Morehouse and Jewish man were elected from the red clay of GA to remind us that joy comes in the morning. Coronavirus took our livelihood and loved ones, but in each of our lives, it reminded us that the greatest gifts of all is life itself and the ability to love.
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 walked into a similar situation with a more divided world, but a New Deal was struck 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 witness. Our blood being stolen and spilled is the greatest sin of this nation and yet our faith, dreams and votes keep saving the nation from utter destruction.
God says your first play in 2021 is to be strong and courageous, the second is to call on and remember the witness, but the play that will remind you that you will win is my promise that you already have possession of the promise land because “He will never leave you nor forsake 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 and talk together children, don’t get weary. God is with you. You will be victorious in 2021 because you know the plays to run to get to the promised land.
Walk together children and don’t you get weary, Jesus will talk with you all the way to the promised land.
Stay in the game, you will be victorious. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you.
The Rev. Edward Anderson is the pastor of McCarty Memorial Christian Church in the West Adams district of Los Angeles.