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Lenten Devotional – March 28, 2019

By: Dianne Russell

Readings: Joshua 4:1-13; 2 Corinthians 4:16 – 5:5; Psalm 32

The Jordan River at flood stage – overflowing its banks, powerful current, swirling eddies, dangerous velocity

Our lives and times at flood stage – overflowing issues & worries, powerful forces of hate & injustice, swirling eddies of racism & us/them, dangerous velocity of information & demands & urgency

In the midst of the River Jordan, Joshua leads the people of Israel to cross into the land of promise. And according to the previous chapter, they crossed not when the River was a trickle, but at flood stage. This crossing seems related to our daily efforts to navigate the fast-flowing current of today’s news, and our commitments to family, work, and caring for the world. How can this be possible?

The repeated phrase in the Joshua story is the middle of the Jordan. After they (we?) safely cross, they were asked to go back to the middle of a raging river still held back by Yaweh’s power.

And, despite the mystical phrase in 2 Corinthians 4:18 — So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal – the people of Israel needed a tangible way to see and remember the power of God. From Joshua 4:5-7: Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the LORD.

12 stones set on the river bank. 12 stones to remember. A connection to traversing that middle of a powerful river at flood stage. What signs and tangible things help anchor us to God’s promises of love and healing, and to God’s power to transform the danger?

There are simple things that help me remember and feel more anchored in God’s love – candles, sunlight and moonlight, the bread and the cup, maybe even the many rocks I’ve collected. And yet, it’s really the people–all across my history who are also on the journey–that help me navigate in the middle of the fast-moving river. I was recently reminded of this as I’ve reconnected with some significant people from my early 20s who helped me to know and to stand in God’s love. And, I give thanks for all of you in the Luther Place family who are part of that now. We go into the middle together.

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