“All In” – Rev. Caitlan Gartland

October 6, 2019
Deuteronomy 5:1-21, 6:4-9


“All In”


It seems that everywhere we turn, someone is asking us to be “all in.” We need to be all in at work so that our career can take off and we can be hugely successful. We need to be all in for our children, doing all that we can to provide every opportunity for them to succeed. We need to be all in on our health, buying into the latest fad diet or exercise program. We need to be all in for our high school sports team, our travel team, our A.P. and honors classes, our church commitments, and our part-time jobs.


What we might find is that it’s nearly impossible to be “all in” on all of the things that we want to be or that people expect us to be. We are made to feel like everything and everyone are deserving of our full commitment, of all our time and energy. In poker, going all in is a gamble; you either win the hand or lose everything in a flash.


When Moses gathers the Israelites together, they are standing on the edge of the Promised Land. He recounts all that their parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles had been through, all that God had done for them. He reminds them that the commandments, the guidelines offered many years ago are meant also for them today. And it’s time for them to decide – will they go all in? Or will they be like their ancestors, who struggled to make a full commitment to a life in relationship with God?


As they enter this new land, this place where they will be free and safe and their needs will be met, a place that their family members longed to see and experience themselves, will they remember who brought them there and why? Will they love the God who has kept covenant with them, the God who keeps promises? Will they love God with everything that they have, in all that they think and say and do?


Will they remember the commandments and hold them close, allowing them to guide their relationships with God and with one another? Will God’s words penetrate their hearts, deeply and forcefully? Will they recite the stories Moses has told them to their children and grand-children and great-grand-children, with the intention of keeping their story alive and the relationship with God intact? Will they think about and talk about God’s teachings endlessly, allowing God’s word to be part of their conversations and interactions each day?


Will they wrap God’s commands around their hands, so that everything they do is done in faithfulness? Will everything that they touch reflect God’s character? Will they secure all that Moses has said to their foreheads as a symbol of who and whose they are? Will they wear God’s word as a reminder of all that they’ve been through and all that God has promised to them? Will others see God through them?


Will they write God’s words in every place they enter – doorways, gates and fences, homes, work places? As they come and go, moving through the different areas of their lives, will they look up and see the truth that guides them as they go?


That’s a lot to think about. A lot to live up to. And yet, this is what Moses is laying out before them as they gaze out over the Promised Land. God has fulfilled a promise. God is all in, absolutely committed to loving and caring for them. Are they?


You should know that Moses wasn’t just talking to those Israelites he led out of Egypt or their descendants on the cusp of the Promised Land. This word, this invitation, is put forth to you and I. We too find ourselves standing before the Lord, alive here today, hearing God’s word to us. We are part of this story of God’s people, wandering out of slavery, through the wilderness, and into the Promised Land.


Will we love God with every ounce of our being? Will we pour our heart and soul and all of our energy into putting God first in our lives? Will we allow God’s word and guidelines to influence our hearts – how we love, how we act, how we speak to and interact with one another?


Will we read and pray over God’s word? Will we talk about it with God and with others in ways that are loving and relationship building, rather than in ways that divide and judge and demean others? Will we teach others about God, especially our children? Will we wrestle with them about what the Scriptures mean and how they apply to us or will we rely on someone standing in a pulpit or leading a Sunday school class to do that? And will we read and talk about God’s word outside of Sunday morning worship and evening Bible study?


Will the word of God lead our hands to do what is good – to serve others, to build bridges, to tear down walls? Will we carry God’s word wherever we go, allowing it to guide all that we do? Will we walk through this world as if there is a symbol on our foreheads, denoting the God we believe in and follow? Will we be proud, yet humble, to tell the world that we belong to and serve the one God?


And will we remember and practice all of this, no matter where we go? As we leave our homes and enter work spaces, churches, sporting events, PTA meetings, sleepovers, committee meetings, and restaurants?


Will we love God? Are we all in?


Today, all around the world, Christians are breaking bread. People in every corner of the earth are coming to the Lord’s table to experience and walk in God’s love. This table reminds us of a God who is all in, who loves us without reservation and wants nothing more than to be in meaningful relationships with us. This table, the Lord’s table, is a reminder that we have received the most powerful and transformative gift. A gift which calls for a response.


We’ve got to be all in.


As Christians, we hear Moses’ words and are reminded that when we keep our love of God as a priority, when our living is focused on and rooted in God’s love, we will be expressing our obedience to God.


Now, we know firsthand that loving God is not the easiest thing to do. The Israelites and even Moses knew this. Sometimes we love other things more than we love God. We hold the words of others more closely to our hearts and allow those words, whether harmful or helpful, to influence us. Sometimes we balk at talking about our faith with others, fail to tell the stories of God and God’s people to our children. Our hands are bound to what serves our needs best. The emblem on our forehead? It represents a political party or money or our perfectly curated online profile. The message we see as we walk out the door is “Every person for themselves” or “Return evil for evil” or “Money buys happiness” or “You can sleep when you’re dead.”


It’s hard to be all in. It’s hard to be all in for God.


And yet, that is the deep joy and chief purpose of our lives – striving to love God in all that we do, in every facet of our lives. To seek God before all things, to serve God in all things, to love God above all things. This is what the journey in the Promised Land and in this life is all about. So, let’s go. All in?