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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, October 27, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Joshua 3:7–17

The Lord said to Joshua, “This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, so that they may know that I will be with you as I was with Moses. You are the one who shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, ‘When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’” Joshua then said to the Israelites, “Draw near and hear the words of the Lord your God.” Joshua said, “By this you shall know that among you is the living God who without fail will drive out from before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites: the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is going to pass before you into the Jordan. So now select twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. When the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan flowing from above shall be cut off; they shall stand in a single heap.”

When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front of the people. Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing toward the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan. (NRSV)

As I read and reread this passage, I found myself unsure where to begin. The parting of waters seems to bookend a chapter of the story of the people of Israel. In Exodus, the parting of the Red Sea marks the end of captivity and a defense against what lay behind them. Here, it signifies entry into a new land, a new creation, a new beginning. Another sign of God’s power in the lives of the people is the closing and opening of chapters in our lives.

What might this story of the parting of waters signify for today? We seem to be in a wilderness of sorts. Trying to move away from our troubled and troubling past and toward the promised land that Dr. King, John Lewis, and others spoke of so eloquently. As the people of God readied themselves to enter the promised land, God told Joshua to call leaders from the tribes of Israel to action; to bear the ark and to create the path to the promised land.

Are we readying ourselves for that moment when we hear our own call to action? Leaders are out there. They are speaking. They are calling us to action. We stand gathered on the bank of a flooded riverbank. When will the waters part so we can move forward? What should we to do? Where should we turn? To whom should we listen? Changing systemic issues is daunting. It feels impossible, yet it is what we are called to do.

I teach teachers for a living. They are young, idealistic, and ambitious. They want to change the world. They want to make a difference. As they move through the program of study, they discover that this is a tall order. They can become a bit jaded as they discover the many ways that the educational system has failed. I offer them advice that was once offered to me: “Don’t change the world. Change yourself as you need to. Have an impact on those near you. They will have an impact on those near them and so on. That is how we change a world. One person, one student, one relationship at a time.”

God of new beginnings, help me to be still, to know you are God, and to look for those openings in the waters of life where I can learn about and engage others. Help me to be the eyes and ears, the hands and feet of Christ in the world so that the world and your people might become what you desire us to be. Amen.

Written by Rob Sinclair, Member of Fourth Presbyterian Church

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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