On the Edge…
Scripture: Joshua 3:7-17
Title: On the Edge…
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.
How many of you have some music playing in your mind as you go about your day and you change out the music, depending on what you are about to do – your own personal soundtrack if you will. I am not the only one, right? Sometimes, I play a little game: if my life was on a TV screen at this moment, what soundtrack would be playing in the background? For example, when I’m driving at night on the highway with the windows rolled down and I have a lot on my mind, I feel like Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight” should be playing as my personal background music! Yes, Miami Vice: Crockett and Tubbs. If you are a classical music lover like Gretchen Kuhrmann, you may imagine Beethoven’s Symphony #9 “Ode to Joy” as your soundtrack music when you are feeling pumped up because your concert went flawlessly without a hitch. If I am going into a situation where I need a little pumping up, I may imagine Alicia Key’s “This Girl is On Fire” playing in the background. (Actually, I might try that when I take the stage to speak to 1,000 teens at Montreat Youth Conference next year.) Seriously, don’t you think life would be so much better if we had soundtracks playing in the background?
Well, imagine this scene. The Hebrew people who lived as nomads in the wilderness for forty years was on the edge of entering into this new chapter of their life. Moses was their leader through the wilderness journey, but now Joshua was their leader, appointed by God. All that they have experienced and endured through the wilderness wandering will serve them well as they enter Canaan, and rebuild their life together as God’s people. They have come a long way, but they have not quiet reached the future yet. They are in this in-between place at the edge of their new beginning and at the edge of claiming their glory. They are on the edge of something new; they are on the edge of seeing God’s promises being fulfilled; they are on the edge of glory. If I could, I would have recommended Lady Gaga’s “The Edge of Glory” for such a moment as this.
“It’s time to feel the rush to push the dangerous
I’m gonna run right to, to the edge with you
Where we’ll both fall far in love
I’m on the edge of glory and I’m hangin’ on a moment of truth
Out on the edge of glory and I’m hangin’ on a moment with you.”
(Lady GaGa’s The Edge of Glory)
Except, before they can claim all that glory, they have to get through the Jordan River. Like the past generation who walked to the edge of the Red Sea and walked through it; now it is their turn to walk to the edge of the Jordan River, touch it, stand in it, and walk through it. The Jordan River may not have been physically “deep and wide” as the Red Sea, but symbolically it is just as “deep and wide” for this new generation of faithful.
The Jordan River is not an obstacle, it is an opportunity to claim the faith they inherited, and form it into their own. We all come to a place, where we have to take faithful steps at the edge of something old, stepping into the edge of something new.
I could not help but to make a connection with the author Phyllis Tickle’s book The Great Emergence: How Christianity is Changing and Why as we marked the 500th year in the Reformation movement last week. You see, Tickle observed that about every 500 years, the Christian Church goes through a revolution where there is “a period of upheaval followed by a period of settling down, then codification, and then upheaval again.” She stated “For western Christianity, the Protestant, or Great Reformation was about five hundred years ago. Five hundred before that you hit the Great Schism, when the church divided between east and west. Five hundred years earlier you have Pope Gregory the Great, who helped bring the church out of the dark ages. During these 500-year episodes the church has what Anglican Bishop Mark Dyer calls a giant rummage sale—it takes a look at its old stuff and decides to sell what it no longer needs. We are going through this kind of giant sale today.”
Tickle believes that we are experiencing that cycle right now, where we are re-examining our beliefs. What do we own? Why? Do we still need this? In this period of “Great Emergence,” Tickle believes, “People are looking for new and different encounters with God. The strength of Protestantism was its rationalism—it took religion to the head. But today people want religion that also touches their hearts. It’s not anti-intellectual; mind and reason are still very important. But people want more than just an intellectual challenge. They want something that moves them emotionally, as well. It is bringing the heart and the head together.” You don’t have to agree with her “every 500 year theory” to agree that people are looking for meaningful religious experiences that connects their hearts and heads together.
We want Fairfax Presbyterian Church to provide this kind of religious experience, where our faith connects intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually in our current context – in other words – holistically – to make a difference not only in our lives, but also in our community’s life, and in our future generation’s life.
64 years ago, faithful people felt a call to establish this congregation. We have our charter members Virginia and Jack Foster with us and we are grateful for their continued presence among us. Many of those members who dreamed up and planned the establishment of Fairfax Presbyterian Church are among the saints of the Church, looking down upon us as members of the great clouds of witnesses. They went to the edge of their Jordan River and stepped into it with faith.
25 years ago, yet another group of faithful members of Fairfax Presbyterian Church felt the call to expand this congregation. We have many members who witnessed that period of our church’s history with us. Chuck Partridge shared with us during the launching of our Capital Campaign for 2020 Vision that he remembered when the additions were made to the Church to build our Fellowship Hall. He testified that he responded in faithfulness to that call with the future generation in mind and how he will respond once again as we set a new vision for 2020. I was moved by his testimony, thinking about how we have been fed, nurtured, and built up by our past generations. Then, I got excited thinking how we are being called to participate in feeding, nurturing, expanding, deepening, and continuing the building up for the future generations of Christ’s followers here at FPC. We have a chance to make our inherited faith, our own. We are on the edge of our own Jordan River.
Faith means going up to the edge – getting your feet in the edge of water to see the whole river open up.
Faith means going up to the edge – refusing to believe only in what we see with our eyes, but see beyond the edge of this reality into the edge of a new reality.
Faith means going to the edge and then walking through it…marking the way with markers for us to remember what took place and sharing it with others to teach the future generations to follow you to the edges…
As we dream together and work together to continue to build upon the fine legacy of faith handed down to us, we can count on God’s promise to be with us. As God commanded Joshua to “be strong and courageous,” God commands us to “be strong and courageous” with our vision and mission of being a church, a house of prayer for all peoples. We can count on the Lord God to be with us, as God was with Moses through the Red Sea and with Joshua through the Jordan River. God delivered the Hebrew people from Egypt, held the waters of the Red Sea, accompanied them through the wilderness, provided daily manna, gave them protection and guidance, brought them to the edge of the Jordan River, made it into a single heap to allow people to cross the river into the Promise Land, gave them victory after victory to settle and bless them in the land flowing with milk and honey.
We are on the edge of something new, whether it is the next 500 years, the next phase or chapter of FPC . Here, we remember and honor the past, we celebrate he present, and we give thanks for the future to unfold in God’s perfect plan. Whatever edge we step into, whatever we call it, this next period unfolding before us, we can be assured that as we have been and as in the past , we will be in the future, in the company of God who sides with the vulnerable nomads wandering in the wilderness of life; God who hears the cries of the hungry and the desolate; God who welcomes and blesses the prodigal and the one who never left; God who took on human flesh to break bread with us and share cup of salvation with us, God of our ancestors and God of our future children – this God – steps into the edge with us – to make a way, when there is no way. Stand on the edge of this glory with our saints, my friends, and let us be bold and courageous, expecting great miracles along the way. Amen.