Friday, March 29th
Throughout the year, the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ produces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for March 29th: Joshua 4:14-24, Psalm 32; and 2 Corinthians 5:6-15. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
At last year’s Conference Annual Meeting I heard a powerful sermon based on the decision to cross of the Jordan River. It pointed out that someone had to be the first one to step into the flooded Jordan River, someone had to have enough faith to trust God’s absurd promise that the waters would pile up and the people could cross safely. This story is of so much more importance than the question of whether it actually happened. It’s a teaching tool. It conveys the message of bravely choosing faith in God.
I think the portion of the story shared today is equally compelling. When the last Israelite steps out of the river bed, the waters rush back immediately. The natural, impassible barrier is restored. The people of Israel are now in someone else’s territory, land they wish to conquer for themselves, land that will be defended by the established local powers.
When they first approached the Promised Land from the south, the reports of the land’s inhabitants so frightened the Israelites they wanted to return to Egypt. Now 40 years later they enter from east. The south allowed for an escape route. Not the east once that Jordan River returned. So this becomes a story of commitment and trust. The people of Israel had to trust God fully. The had to believe without reservation in God’s promise. They were not afraid of being trapped helplessly by the Jordan.
It’s a commitment to take the first step into the flood waters, and it’s a commitment to stand on the other side as they return. Sometimes our faith will ask us to be so bold as to not worry about alternative plans. Sometimes our faith asks us to throw caution and plans to the wind and trust in God.
The Psalmist says it beautifully: “Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you [O Lord]; at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them. You are a hiding-place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. Selah”
The Hebrew word Selah’s definition is open to interpretation, but one reading is that it indicates a pause in the music, for the Psalms were the liturgical music of the Temple. The pause gave the listener the chance to ponder the importance of what had just been sung.
It is truly a gift to be able to trust in God no matter what we face, even the legendary “rush of mighty waters.” God can be our safe “hiding-place.” God will preserve. This fearless faith helps us as believers in disquieting times, but also to accomplish great things and to try new things in consequential times.
Lent is our chance to grow nearer to Christ, to find in Him the assurance we need. Use that security bravely. Cross our proverbial Jordan River and let us be ready to do what we need to do and what Jesus needs us to do.
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