Steppin’ Out in Faith

 

Pastor Jim Kniseley presented this sermon at Resurrection on Sunday, July 23, 2006.  The text is Joshua 3 and 4, the account of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land.

 

Dear Friends in Christ,

 

Many of us are about to enter the Promised Land of Vacation Bible Camp.  Tomorrow is the start, ready or not, for the time we have the privilege of retelling the great stories of faith from the Bible to our children. 

 

I am thankful that this congregation has been blessed with folks who bring such creativity and enthusiasm and contagious faith in presenting our annual summer vacation bible camps. I know it’s hard work, but the benefits to children and their families and our church are truly worth it all.

 

I think back to my own wonderful experience at Vacation Bible School when I was the age of our children. Many adults here have a similar memory.  Some of the songs and stories are with me to this day.  I even have the Bible I used in first, second and third grades.  I also have a shield I made in the 4th grade at VBS.  It is the shield for the apostle John, showing a chalice and a snake, to show that he was poisoned, to silence him from telling the good news of Jesus.  What I remember to this day is that all the followers of Jesus were willing to give their lives and risk dying in order to serve Him.

 

This week we will be presenting 5 great stories from the Bible, all having something to do with “water.”  Susan Cheatham selected each of these stories because they show the power of faith in trusting God.

 

Today I want all of you to join me in remembering one of the heroes of faith, Joshua.  His story is recounted in the Old Testament Book of Joshua, the 6th book of the Bible. 

 

Joshua is the leader who followed Moses.  Moses had led the people out of slavery in Egypt, and they could have gone into the Promised Land almost immediately.  But their grumbling and lack of trust in God’s promises made God decide that they were not ready yet.  He let them wander in the wilderness for 40 years, refining them and getting them ready.

 

The Jordan River was important for the people of Israel.  They saw it as the barrier they had to cross, the dividing point between their desert wandering and the rich, fertile land promised to them by God. 

 

 

The Jordan River represented something else too.  The Canaanites occupied the land and they were worshippers of Baal.  Baal was the god of water, rain, storms, wind, thunder and lightning.  When the people of Israel came to the Jordan, it was deep and flowing swiftly.  When Joshua told them that the only way to enter the Promised Land was for them to walk into the River because God had told him to say this, the people saw this as a contest of power between God and gods of the Canaanites.

 

Back in Egypt, the parents and grandparents of these Israelites were scared enough when they had to cross the Red Sea.  But Moses lifted the staff and the Lord caused the waters to part and then they walked through the Sea to the other side.  On this occasion, the waters were still deep and flowing.  Perhaps you remember the scene, the priests were carrying the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol for God’s presence in their midst.  This gold covered wood box contained the tablets of the 10 commandments.  The Bible emphasizes that the waters did not stop until the priests stepped into the river.  Then they walked to the middle of the river and stopped, while the people all crossed safely on dry land to the other side.

 

Our children this week will learn these stories at their own level of understanding. As children mature into youth and adulthood, the goal of all Bible Study is to get us to apply the wisdom of scripture to our own lives.  So I ask of you today, what are some of the barriers we allow to exist between us and the calling God has given us to fulfill?  The Bible says we all have a call from the Lord upon our lives.  How about in your own life right now?  How about in the life of our congregation?

 

In each of the Bible stories this week, we will learn that doubts and fears were a constant temptation for Bible heroes.  Some came from within themselves, others came from folks about them.  “I fear that God will not really take care of us…I fear being rejected by others who will think I am foolish…I am uncertain if this is really what God wants…I fear that we will fail…”

 

It is a good thing that we have a patient God.  God waits until we are ready to listen and trust him above all things. 

 

I believe that who we believe God is strongly influences how much we trust Him in our daily lives.  If we believe He loves us, it’ll be easier to trust Him.  If we believe He is powerful enough to help us during the ranging storms of life, it is easier to turn to Him for help.

 

 

 

 

 

 

On this Celtic Sunday at Resurrection, we have to remember St. Patrick.  I have no doubt that some of Patrick’s inspiration came from reading the story of Joshua.  We know much of Patrick’s experience from his writings.  He was kidnapped while still a youth in Britain and sold as a slave in Ireland.  He worked there for 7 years and came to faith in Christ.  He escaped and went back home and knew through his visions that Christ was calling him to be a priest and bishop and knew he would take the gospel to the people in Ireland.  When a person is captured by a vision from the Lord, you better watch out.  They seem to have a power than no one on earth can stop.  Patrick challenged the power of the druid gods of Ireland, he tirelessly converted folks to the Christian faith, he withstood the jealousy of the church leaders in Britain who wanted to remove him, and he gave all the credit to the Lord.

 

In Joshua 4 you will read about something else the Lord commanded of the people before the Jordan River again began flowing.  While the priests were still in the middle of the riverbed, a man from each of the 12 tribes was to walk back into the river and get a stone.  These stones were to be set up as a monument and reminder of what God had done for his people in letting them cross into the Promised Land.  These stones represented the 12 tribes of Israel.  Future generations could remember what great miracle occurred at the Jordan River when parents re-told this story to their children.

 

Today we do not have those stones to tell the story of the mighty acts of God.  God uses us to tell and retell his story.  I thank God today for those in our midst that are stepping up to the privilege of telling and retelling the stories of faith from the Bible to our children.

 

Thanks be to God.

 

Amen.