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Exodus 20:1-17
Who Will We Become?

A sermon first preached at the Fernie Ecumenical Shared Ministry, with participants from Kimberley Ecumenical Shared Ministry via Zoom. 


We got married in a hurry. 

Not the usual reasons, mind you. No bun in the oven, no child on the way. What we had was new love fireworks and that feeling of being at home. Even though we didn’t know what the future would hold, we knew early on we wanted to make a life together. 

She claims we met in the evening. I know it was the morning. Over the years, we’ve turned this disagreement into a bit of a schtick whenever someone asks “so, how did you two meet?” Her version places us with wine at a graduate student get-together. Mine after worship, sipping coffee in the chaplain’s office. 

Both versions have their merits. Each story has its appeal. But in the end, it doesn’t really matter which one is true. What matters is not how we met, but that we met. What matters is not where we met, but that we continued to meet, explore, remain curious, grow deeper in relationship, to choose to be for one another, year after year. 

When we made covenant with one another, we did so not knowing how it would all turn out. And yet, it was a commitment we gave ourselves to, come what may; a relationship between bodies that continues to evolve through good times and bad, through sickness, health, and all the rest.

When we met, we found common ground in community and personal journeys out of fundamentalist religion. 

Which–as a sidenote–is an incredibly vital ministry in this day and age. In places like Fernie. In places like Kimberley. In places like Rossland where I live. We need non-anxious Christian communities to whom hurting people can turn, where they can take time to heal and to discover life in loving community that the way of Jesus is not the way of power and control, but compassion and peace.

This is a potential I believe lies in congregations who commit themselves to discovering and living out of their particular joy. To respond to the needs of their neighbours. Maybe it’s religious trauma, perhaps loneliness, grief, or whatever might be true in your town. These are the places to which God invites us. But I’m getting a bit off topic. 

As we listened to this morning’s reading from Exodus, I found myself picturing this moment in my mind. This iconic moment when Charlton Heston descends the Mountain, two stone tablets in hand, enveloped in cloud, fire, and smoke, people trembling.

After Moses’ confrontation with Pharoah; after plague after plague after plague, after the people pack their things and enjoy one last meal; after the angel of death passes over and they flee by night; after they are chased by chariot and rider through parted seas. After an indescribable journey they arrive, safe on the other side. Finally. At last. Free to live as they wish. 

Moses bursts forth with song. Miriam begins to dance. 

With one big party, they emerge on the other side as a newly formed people, leaving behind the only life they have ever known. After all that they’ve been through, they’ve arrived–but now what? Where to from here? Reality sets in. There’s joy, and wonder, and God’s promise of a thriving future. It turns out “happily ever after” still requires work.

Late at night, they reminisce, swapping fish stories about the good old days. The fog of exodus blurs memory, conveniently editing out conflict, trial, and tribulation, making the present situation seem worse than it actually is.

Not that we would ever do that in church. 

Listing all they miss about Egypt, I find myself wondering what they’re pining for. Surely not back-breaking labour or children dying too soon? Perhaps it’s the predictability they missed. Their bodies set free, the peoples’ imaginations are still under lock and key.

Bringing us to God, Mount Sinai, and rules written in stone. 

Sometimes I gloss over these commandments, having heard them a thousand times. And yet, as I spent time with them this week, thinking of God’s liberating action in their lives, I’ve come to see them in a new light.

Two tablets to free captive hearts and minds.

God brings the people out of an empire worshiping power, wealth, and control. And while they may have been slaves, the slaveholder’s logic has seeped deep in their bones. God’s beloved image bearers have been tarnished by the ways of violence and broken relationships: murder, infidelity, theft, lying, cheating. No time to rest. Always striving for what’s next.

When I was a kid, it was my neighbour’s Nintendo I coveted. In church, it can be the large Sunday School in the church across town.

And yet, the covenant represented by these tablets provides God’s people with a framework that is meant, over time, to loosen the shackles of our captive imaginations. When we keep looking backwards through rose-colored glasses, God invites us to choose the forward path of freedom.

As they practice these ten best ways to live – though not easy, though they take time and practice, taking us through failure, confession, and forgiveness – they open up new practices, new imaginations, new possibilities. 


I was not born into slavery, and neither was my wife. But as with any relationship, there’s always something in our past that holds us back, even if there are other experiences preparing us for all that is to come. 

We met in September, started dating in February, and were engaged by June. With little time before our Thanksgiving wedding, there wasn’t time to agonize over details. It would be small, simple, casual. Us. What we hadn’t accounted for was the conflict that would follow. 

It wasn’t long after we upended a cup of coffee on the church musician’s precious organ that tension spilled over in our families too. This was all happening too fast, they said. Who is this person anyway? Are you sure? Hurtful things said. Reminders spoken: Don’t forget who you are! 

Wounded and confused, we went to see our priest to go over the service. Walking into the room, he saw the ashen look on our faces. He sat us down, offering fresh black coffee and asked, “So. How are you doing?”

The story spread like an ever-expanding puddle atop a valuable and beloved musical instrument. Pouring out our hearts, he let silence linger. In all the doing, time simply to be. And then, when we said all we could say, he shared pastoral counsel that’s remained with me ever since. 

“Remember,” he said, “in this covenant, you’re choosing for each other. Not just once, but every day. I won’t tell you how to solve this problem, except to say that what you need to consider right now is how you will be for one another in this.

Everything that’s come before–your family, your experience–has led to you weaving your separate lives into one. You’ve chosen to become something new, together.

I know this hasn’t been easy, and I’m not promising it always will be, but this moment presents an opportunity to figure out who you are together. You get to choose what you’ve already chosen–who are you for? 

It’s stuck with me all these years because this is always the choice. No matter where we’ve come from, what we’ve done, we have the opportunity to figure out who we are. To choose to become the people we will become. 

These words are not only about marriage, and they don’t have to have something to do with exodus from slavery. As a church, the choice is always one of choosing to be for God, for one another, and the world God loves. There are plenty of situations where when we choose something new, we also have to choose to leave something behind. Friendship. Relationship. Ecumenical Shared Ministry. The list goes on. 

Will we choose to be for God? Will we choose to be for one another? Will we choose to be for our neighbours in all that they face, and in so doing, live into God’s dream for the world?

Fifty or sixty years ago, the church was pretty comfortable with its power and position in society. As that centrality has eroded, we are slowly coming to realise that for the church to have any authority again, it will be through the foolishness of self-giving love. The foolishness of the cross.

We have been formed by particular expectations of what it is to be the church. These expectations included an assumption of power and control. And now we live in a world that is altogether different. We have old practices to relearn and new practices to take up for the first time. And in it all, God is calling us to choose - to choose to be for one another. 

To thrive as a Christian Community in this age is not first and foremost about full pews and impressive buildings–outward signs of power and influence. To thrive as a Christian community is to live in the way of the God who enters the muck and filth of everyday life. We abide with God in prayer. We abide with our neighbours, bearing one anothers’ burdens. Together, with God’s help, we are called to become the answer to the cries and needs of the world right outside our door. 

So much of my role these days is working with congregations like yours in discerning:

What might our ministry look like now, in this time and place?

And we always start with one simple question:

What is one thing I need to know about your congregation to understand it? What brings you great delight?

From there, we take time to explore the ways your delight connects with the deepest cries and needs in the surrounding community. I’m looking forward, in the days  ahead, to journeying with you through these things.

But for now, I’m so grateful to be here with you to celebrate the coming together of Christ Church Anglican and Fernie Knox United in this Ecumenical Shared Ministry.

I want you to remember: the stories you tell of your separate histories, they’re important. They tell you where you’ve come from. They’re an important part of who you are, where you’ve been. 

But in this moment, and going forward, it will be even more important to tell the stories of all the times you chose to be for one another, how you’re choosing to be for one another in this ministry you share, again, and again, and again. 

When Ericka and I covenanted our lives together, little did we know what would lie ahead. You really never do. Her apartment? Mine? Eventually we found a place, and we furnished it together, helping both of us feel at home, not shoehorning one life into another, but creating life anew. Our last name? That took us about a year to sort out. There have been plenty of conversations along the way. There will be so many more. 

But what I’m realising, seventeen years in, is that each conversation comes back to that first choice.

Each situation different, each choice the same. How will you choose to be for one another?

In this moment. And this one. And this one too. 

And so, dear friends, as you move forward in this ministry God has called you into, a ministry you share, my prayer is that you continue to choose, through all that God brings your way, to be for the God of new beginnings. My prayer is that you choose to be for one another.

My prayer, beloved in Christ, is that in your life together, you will choose to be for the flourishing and thriving of your neighbours in this community where God has placed you, where God has called you, and is calling you to serve.