Sunday’s Scripture ~ Joshua 1:1-9
This Sunday at Reeves we begin our Stewardship Series – the theme is “The Year of the Joshua Prayer.” Each Sunday throughout this series we will focus on a different aspect of the United Methodist membership vow:
As members of this congregation will you faithfully participate in its ministries by your prayers, your presence, your gifts, your service, and your witness?
We begin this week with prayer and center on our theme of “The Year of the Joshua Prayer” by studying the opening passage of Joshua. I imagine (thanks to Cecil B. DeMille) Joshua standing on a hillside and gazing into a valley – the threshold of the Promised Land. But he doesn’t have to wait any longer – no more wandering, no more hoping, no more delay. He and the people of Israel have arrived. God’s words are true. They are delivered. Now “be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
I think throughout our lives we have “progressive promised lands” – as in we hope for one and then when we achieve it we hope for the next. I think my first progressive promised land was the transition from a bike with training wheels to a good ole two-wheeler – nothing holding me back. Other PPLs along my way:
- from reading chapter-less books to chapter books (and now sometimes I wish this trend would reverse!?!)
- from elementary school to middle school
- from middle school to high school
- to turning 16!!!
- to turning 18!!!
- from high school to college
- to turning 21!!! (wait…there’s stuff after you turn 21??? I learned that too)
- to marrying my best friend and true love Andrew
- from college to graduate school
- from graduate school to commissioning as a provisional elder in The UMC
- from commissioning to my first appointment
- to ordination as a full connection elder in The UMC…
That last one – ordination as an elder in full connection has been my promised land since really my commissioning in 2010. I worked toward it. I served toward it. I prayed toward it. And this time last year I submitted my application…and November of last year I was told that my journey would continue, but not yet as a full connection elder.
I felt like my promised land had been snatched away. I felt like I had been told to go wander in the wilderness for another year. I was on the mountain. I could see into the Promised Land, if only I could walk down the valley…
Instead I had other places to walk. I walked steep hills of self-reflection. I wandered towards glassy seas of mirrors and took very long and very hard looks. First I saw only what I didn’t want to see, what I didn’t want to acknowledge. And after a while God helped me see beyond – to the beauty, to the transformation, to the benefit of the additional time in the wilderness.
The longer I serve in full-time ministry the more I am convinced of the movements and stirrings of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit led me in discerning this passage for selection for week one of Reeves’ Stewardship Series. The Spirit led me in setting Reeves’ Stewardship month as September. And as it happens, this Sunday we will begin the stewardship series studying this passage from Joshua, and I will submit my application a second time for consideration as an elder in full connection.
I am headed back up the mountain. I am gazing down the valley towards the promised land. I am hopeful, but hope is not my only strategy. I have served, prayed, wept, worked, and celebrated along the way. I have shared this year with family, friends, and colleagues that have supported me, screamed with me, dried my tears, and cheered me onward. I am so thankful for you.
I believe I am ready. I believe I am prepared. And I believe that if I have to walk in the wilderness another year, then God will lead me back to this valley in promised time.
Prayer: “On Jordan’s stormy bands I stand and cast a wishful eye to Canaan’s fair and happy land, where my possessions lie. When I shall reach that happy place, I’ll be forever blest, for I shall see my Father’s face, and in his bosom rest. I am bound for the promised land, I am bound for the promised land; oh, who will come and go with me? I am bound for the promised land.”* Amen.
*”On Jordan’s Stormy Banks I Stand,” The United Methodist Hymnal, 724.