Getting Your Feet Wet
Joshua 4:1-7 November 3, 2019
Rev. David J. Clark
I would like for you to think today about your legacy. Your legacy is the mark you leave on this world that lives on even after you die. We all leave a legacy–our families and friends and colleagues are impacted by us. They remember. You will probably pop up in their dreams from time-to-time. They’ll say, “I want their good nature, their enthusiasm, their values to live on in the way I live my life.” It’s also possible to leave a negative legacy. “I don’t want to make their mistakes to be my mistakes, too.”
We can be intentional about leaving a positive legacy, some good for others to build on, to make their lives better. I know when we light these candles and remember the people we’ve lost and the positive impact they made in the world we have been left an incredible legacy of what it means to be a decent human, motivated by faith, inspired to love. We lost some of the folks who represent the best of what makes Bayshore Church such a special place. And when we light candles, we think about the people in our lives who have left a legacy to us personally. People who taught us about the kind of people we want to be.
I think about my grandfather and how I want to be a grandfather like he was to me, gentle, wise, accepting. I think about my brother and carrying on a legacy of working for justice. Who do you think of? All Saints is a day we think about who has left their marks on us and the legacies we’d like to leave for others.
Obstacles to the Promise
In the scriptures, there is this great transition from the desert in Egypt. After Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt, they spent 40 years wandering around the desert. I learned that in the Old Testament when they say 40 years, it was a shorthand way of saying a generation. Lifespans were not what they are now.
Moses had recently died, and Joshua had been named the new leader. It was now time for the people to finally enter the PROMISED LAND–a land of abundance, a land flowing with milk and honey. A place where they could settle in have homes families, security. It was all just on the other side of the Jordan River. A whole generation who had learned to trust God for water and manna to eat every day in the wilderness, wandering around with no permanent dwellings would settle in, plant crops, build towns. Everything they ever dreamed about was just on the other side of that river; all they had to do was cross it and claim the promise.
But they found the Jordan at its flood stage, menacing in its speed and dangerous for what it concealed. The jungle-like growth covered by the rapid current left Israel flatfooted. The river was impassible. Getting tens of thousands of people across a body of water posed a problem, a familiar problem. Their mothers and fathers had seen this sort of thing before. When the people escaped from slavery in Egypt into the wilderness, they needed a miraculous parting of the sea. Now to get out of the wilderness, they needed another miracle.
Joshua gathered priests from each of the 12 tribes (or families) and hand them carry the Ark of the Covenant and step into the river. Once they stepped into the river the water piled up and left a path for them to pass on dry land, just as the waters had parted before. The key is that they had to take a step of faith first and then the amazing stuff occurred.
That’s the way it works. Sometimes we don’t realize and absorb all of God’s power for our lives because we find reasons not to take our step of faith. We wait for the waters to part, everything to be easy, longing for that sure thing. And when we are too passive, never taking a step of faith, we never reach our potential, our promises.
When is the last time you risked something, took a real step out in faith? Has it been a while? Are you getting too lackadaisical, waiting for God, or someone else, to line up an easy path for you or are you boldly stepping forward, getting your feet wet?
A Memorial to the Power of God
After everybody crossed the river, Joshua instructed twelve priests to go back to the middle of the river and each of them pick up a stone and carry it on their shoulders to the other side. They piled up the river rocks as a memorial to the awesome power of God. As they came into their blessings, they wanted a physical reminder that it was God’s power that got them where they are. They wanted their children to know, about how great their God was. They piled those rocks so that when kids asked, “Why is there a pile of rocks over there?” They could teach their children, a new generation where to look for their power and how to take a step in faith.
Being part of this church, a building that a previous generation built is here to remind us of God’s power. They didn’t have the money to do it. It was a struggle, it took time, a mortgage. But they took the step because they believed in God, in the power of God to transform life, to help people, to be a positive influence in the community. So, they sacrificed and left us three amazing properties—this campus, the Isolda McDonald Youth Center and Skyforest.
Every generation of faith is called to leave a legacy, their pile of rocks–a tribute to the power of God for the next generation. Every generation needs to make the investment to build or refurbish a church. When the children ask, “What is that building with the colored glass and the tower with the green cap on it?” There will be an answer about faith, people who experienced the awesome power of God.
Our Church’s Legacy
And now the torch has been passed to us. And we are called as a congregation to get our feet wet. We have this great legacy of faith to build upon. Of course, we can’t just do everything the way it was done in the past. In our cars, the windshield is this big and the rearview mirror is this big. Yes, we have a great past but we need to be a church with a big windshield looking ahead. How can we enlarge and expand upon what we’ve inherited? How do we leverage everything we have inherited to make things richer, more engaging for a new generation?
I don’t know exactly what it looks like. But I know as a congregation we are at once of those crucible moments we are called to step forward in faith into the future God has for us. All week I’ve been hearing about all the kids who were in worship last week. It’s a glimpse, a foretaste of what is possible. Reaching a new generation is as needed as ever but harder than any time before. People aren’t going to church. Church attendance is down in all categories across the country. Some churches, however, are finding ways to innovate, take risks, grow. Study after study says that churches in decline are those that live out of fear and get too inwardly focused and the churches that thrive focus on reaching out and being forces for good for their communities,
We are at an opportune moment when we can re-evaluate some things. As a congregational church we figure things out together and we’ll gather after worship to begin the conversation. We have been handed an incredible legacy of helping people on their spiritual journeys through vibrant worship, inspiring music, top-notch educational programs, strong bonds of friendship, service to our community and showing that people don’t all have to believe exactly the same things to find acceptance.
As I wrote this I kept thinking about Springsteen’s line, “Mister I ain’t a boy, no I’m a man and I believe in a promised land.”
I believe in a promised land for this church. For our generation. A time of flourishing, of reaching out and transforming lives and impacting our community as a force for good. I even got my feet wet, filled out a pledge card and signed a long-term mortgage here. God didn’t bring us this far for us to recede. This is our time. This is our Jordan River moment, a time to get our feet wet, to make sacrifices for what we believe in, to leave a legacy that lets the next generation know something of the power of God that is available to them to help them get to that place where they really want to go and walk in the promised land. It’s the legacy we are called upon to leave. What may look like a mere pile of stones to some is something all together different with eyes to see. Those with faith eyes see it as a tribute to the power of God at work in their lives.