God’s promise to his people during times of uncertainty
Then Joshua said to the people,
for tomorrow the Lord
will do wonders among you.”
It has been six months since that alarming declaration in March that we need to quarantine due to COVID-19, a virus that would come to change our daily way of interacting with each other. Our worship has changed due to physical distancing, use of masks and no singing. Times have certainly changed. Often, we hear lamented “we have not been through this before.” The circumstances of the Israelites described in Joshua 3 were different than our present situation. However, they, like us, found themselves at a crossroad of change. They were at the Jordan river and they needed to cross. They had been wandering in the dessert for 40 years, Moses their beloved leader was dead and now they were entering into new territory. What were they to do?
Over the last six months we have been asking the same question. The Corona Virus pandemic, the upheaval in our society as we are confronted with the divisiveness of racism, protests, looting, rioting and capturing of police officers and others mistreating black and brown bodies on the news and social media have certainly influenced how we have been experiencing this time. Our journey through this wilderness of chaos, though only six months, feels more like the 40 years that the Israelites wandered in search of the promise land. But the Israelites had hope. God had seen them through their journey and God was preparing them for this moment. Joshua told the Israelites on the eve before that crossing ““Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.” (Joshua 3:5)
Amid our changes, we too have experienced hope. Our hope has been in the tenacity of you, these beautiful congregations that compromise this partnership of servants committed to being God’s hands for the work that God has invited us into. We continue to do our ministries of providing diapers; feeding those in need via supporting foodbanks, handing out prepacked meals and offering pizza parties to those we cannot fellowship with in person. We extended or began new ministries such as our Zoom 3pm services, on-line bible studies, 3pm fellowship hour, and on-line Taizé service. We have cared for each other through phone calls, weekly meetings with our awesome administrative staff who continue to be our frontline face to the community, as well as monthly meetings with the president of councils and the PLUM board. Joshua’s message from God to the Israelites those many years ago, also remains God’s message to us today. Embedded in that message is a command and a promise. The command is to sanctify ourselves. In other words, we should prepare ourselves, engage in acts of worship, prayer and sacrifice for others. Those acts of sacrifice may come through a desire to do more as we learn of the social injustices and inequities that our brothers and sisters are facing.
These past six months have felt like our time of sanctifying ourselves. I for one do not know what God is up to. I, like you, have been sitting in this space of wondering, discerning and listening. To be clear, there is no specific step by step process of what the right way is to sanctify ourselves, but the Israelites understood that meant entering into a posture of openness, readiness and thankfulness for what God was doing and about to do. That takes us to the second part of the message, the promise: for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.
Oh, to experience that wonder. This past month I had the opportunity to go on a hike in the Allegheny Forest. The trail was called Minister Valley (the significance of that is another story 😊). I came across this spectacular sight – trees growing on top of boulders. I paused in awe, breathless, what a majestic sight. Both unexpected and unusual to me. After all, shouldn’t trees be rooted in the ground? But before me God was doing a new thing. A wonderous thing. As I looked closer, I noticed that the symbiotic relationship between trees and rock shifted. They started out with the rock supporting the trees. But as the trees grew and their roots branched out and became anchored in the soil beneath the rocks, then the branches of the roots began to secure the rocks in place so they would not move due to erosion. They had established a new way of co-existing. All throughout our hike we found this amazing demonstration of God. No, I do not know what God is up to during this season we find ourselves in. But I know whatever it is, the same God who created a new pattern of co-existing between trees and rocks also in engaged in a transformative experience for us. So, let us continue to sanctify ourselves, with eyes, ears and hearts open to the wonder God is doing and will do among us.
On behalf of the PLUM Pastoral Team
Pittsburgh Lutheran United Ministries (PLUM), 405 Kennedy Avenue, Duquesne, PA 15110 412-466-7773