Crossing the Jordan...
The following sermon was preached by Jean Pagliaro, LSTC M.Div. student, in Augustana Chapel at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago on Thursday, March 15, 2007.
What if you were there, what if you were crossing the Jordan? What would it have been like? How did people act? Was there laughter? Shouts of joy? Silent prayers of thanks? Tears? We know that many "crossed in haste," but were there some that slowly made their way across? Did kids splash each other on the way?
Can you imagine being there? After so many years of wandering and uncertainty? What holy moments those must have been.
I wonder what words could have been said…and maybe that's why, instead of using words to describe the experience, Joshua tells the people to pick up stones. To use those to symbolize a moment where maybe no words could have sufficed. And then the stones become something more than just stones, they become twelve symbols of God's faithfulness.
Do you have stones, tangible things that remind you of God's continued faithfulness? And if nothing comes to mind, what would you pick to symbolize your version of God's presence?
One friend I know has a worn-out Bible with duct tape holding the pages together; another friend has a rosary that's about 6-feet long with beads the size of baseballs!
For me, it is this hideous orange cat. I think it's the ugliest piece of ceramic I've ever seen!
One of the parishioners at my internship congregation gave it to me. Every year the church holds a rummage sale, and this person was on a mission to deliver to my office the most eccentric "treasures" he could find. This was the worst of it. As I packed up my office my last day of internship, I threw away most of the other "treasures," but I couldn't part with this cat.
This cat is my stone, it symbolizes a time, a year actually, in my faith journey where I experienced God's faithfulness in the people of that congregation—in the weekly worship services, in hospital visits, building projects, Sunday school programs, and Tuesday morning quilting groups.
And like Joshua told the people to tell their children about the stones, so too do we tell about the stones. We're in the very business of telling the story of God's faithfulness! Our professors teach, research and write books so that the story continues. We as students study, read, write papers, exegete, go through field education requirements and candidacy; we worry, laugh, cry, go to Jimmy's…we get degrees, we're assigned, commissioned, ordained so we can keep those stones and stories alive in our world!
And those twelve stones that came from the Jordan speak to us now, on March 15, 2007. We are all crossing over into new experiences. For some of us it may be CPE or internship or first call. We may be facing new uncertainties or fears about what's ahead.
Just as God faithfully led the Israelites through the wilderness, so too does God lead us.
Whether we cross the river joyous, fearful, silent, with tears, angry…grace through Jesus Christ always accompanies us on the journey, and grace meets us on the other side.
And sometimes we need stones to remind us of that.
Sometimes stones are bread and wine…the cross…ashes… friends…or ugly orange cats.
And so as we're given stones of God's faithfulness and grace, how will you tell others what God has done? What will your stones say?