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01/21/2018

Joshua 3            Glory Days:  “Time to Unpack”            1/21/2018                                     

Boardman UMC                               Rev. Jerry W. Krueger

Early in my ministry, I had a seasoned pastor as mentor, who gave me some sound advice.  “Jerry whenever you move to a new church, be sure first thing to put up pictures in your parsonage. Make it feel like home. Don’t act as if it is just a stop for a year, or 2 or 5.  Settle in, really unpack.”

Jimmy Wayne never knew his father. His mom was in jail more than out. At age 12 his mom was out of jail, and took up with an unsavory character, and Jimmy and his mom and the troublemaker boyfriend, cruised Florida avoiding the cops, living out of the back of an Oldsmobile Delta 88. After drifting around for a year, Jimmy was dumped in the parking lot of the Pensacola bus station. Mom and her boyfriend drove away.

No home, no provision, no future. Cast aside, abandoned like he didn’t matter.

One day Jimmy walked through a neighborhood, and saw a man working in a garage wood shop, and Jimmy asked if there was any work for him.

The man, Russell, showed Jimmy the lawn mower, demonstrated how to work it, said “cut the grass, and I’ll pay you $20.”  Jimmy came back weekly, mowed and got paid $20. About the 4th time Jimmy came by, Russel and his wife Bea asked Jimmy where he lived. And Jimmy lied, thinking no family would want a homeless kid around. When he finally admitted to Bea that he had no home, Bea and Russell glanced at each other, and took Jimmy in. It was like heaven to Jimmy. He took a bath and got clean, had clean clothes, had his own bedroom with a bathroom, and Russell and Bea invited him to live there.  Jimmy watched TV with the family, ate meals with the family, but Jimmy’s plastic bag of clothes and meager belongings, sat on the floor of his room for week. Why? Because Jimmy was ready to grab his bag when Russel and Bea kicked him out.

Jimmy was in the house, but not “IN” the house. He was with the family, but did not trust that he was a part of the family. Russell persuaded Jimmy to unpack, to live with them, and to let the couple care for this homeless boy.  Our Father in heaven is convincing many of us to do the same thing.

Maybe you question your place in God’s family. Or you fear God’s rejection. What if God changes his mind? Girlfriends rejects us. Boyfriends do. Employers can terminate us. Coaches can bench us. Some parents give birth to a child and then abandon them. So, people can ask, “Is it even safe to unpack my bags?”

God answered that question at the cross.  When Jesus died, the vote of heaven was cast in your favor and mine. God in heaven proclaims to those who profess him, “You are my child, and the covenant will never change.”

Promised Land people believe this. They know Jesus was serious when he said, “MY children shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:28

Joshua’s followers did something similar. Looking not to a cross on a hill, but to a river. The Jordan River.  

Most of the year the Jordan was 30 or 40 feet wide, and 6 feet deep. But during the harvest season, the river was a mile wide. A turbulent, churning , rushing, violent  maelstrom of  nature’s powerful force, fueled by the added volume of water pouring into the Jordan from the melting snows of Mt. Hermon.

God wanted each of the 2 million Hebrews to cross into Canaan. Men, women, children, old, young, the infirm. So the Hebrew’s camp by the river for three days, watching the copper colored raging river, churn along, and never receding. Three days to worry, to wonder, and speculate, HOW DO WE CROSS?

On the third day, officers go through camp saying, “Today when you see the Ark of the Covenant, follow the priests carrying it.” The Ark of the Covenant is a rectangular box that held 3 items.  Unspoiled heavenly manna from the time in exile, Aaron’s walking stick, and the precious stone tablet with the 10 commandments.

Two gold cherubim (angels) adorned the top of the ark, with their wings facing inward, and in the space between, was the mercy seat where God sat.

12 priests, one from each tribe, process through camp on the way to the Jordan River carrying the Ark. The people watched in silent anticipation of what would happen next.  The priests make their way slowly down to the riverbank and as the scripture says, “the feet of the priests who bore the ark dipped into the edge of the water.” (Joshua 3:15)  The priests didn’t run full speed into the river, they were a bit tentative, but still trusting God.

As their toes touched the water, the flow of water stopped 30 miles upriver in the town of Adam, beside the city of Zaretan. The water piled up making a huge water wall. This 30 mile wide space allows 2 million people to cross the river bed on dry land. No muddy sandals or soaking wet hems of cloaks. Dry land they crossed over on. And all Israel’s men, women, old, young, feeble, forceful, believers and doubters, the faithful, and those who murmured. All crossed over on dry ground.                                                                               

God did for them what they could not do for themselves. Imagine the scene when all had crossed to the western side of the river and the river began to flow again?   “We did it! Can you believe it? God did this! A miracle!”

The Hebrew people were assured in the river crossing that God was with them. As they looked back at the east side of the Jordan where they had come from, and knew God had done this for them.  And they had every right to celebrate. And so do we!

Our assurance comes as we stand at the finished work of Christ, and look back at the cross.   Are you convinced of this? This assurance?

Remember, the Hebrews could have crossed over 40 years earlier. The previous generation had experienced a miracle as grand as the Jordan River being dry and water free for a 30 mile swath. The earlier Hebrews had crossed the Red Sea. But the difference between the 1st and 2nd crossings, were that Joshua’s generation had paid attention. The Jordan River crossing convinced them, that God was with them.

People of God, we need to be settled about God’s faithfulness. Let the cross of Christ convince you that you are deeply loved.  Life has lots of unanswered questions, but our salvation through Jesus Christ should not be one of them.

Look at you. There is no mud on your sandals, no water on your robe. There is no sin on your record, no guilt attached to your name. God did not spare his own Son, but gave him for all of us. (Romans 8:32.)

Romans 8: 35-39 proclaims, Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long;    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Jordan River is behind you, and the Promised Land, Canaan is before you. A new season awaits you.

Jimmy Wayne took his place in a new family, got an education, and has found a career as a successful country music singer and songwriter.  His best days began when he unpacked his bags, yours will too,

In Jesus holy name, Amen.