"Milestones" - Message from the Pastor, May 2019
This month marks the college graduation of my twin daughters.
Of course, we will all be there to cheer them on and celebrate this major milestone in life. This will be three of my four daughters who have now finished college – woo hoo! Just recently, a former member sent a note with several photos of my girls when they were about eight years old. Of course, these pictures took me for a quick trip down memory lane. Sometimes that seems long ago and far away, while at other times it seems like yesterday.
How do we mark these milestones in life such as college graduation? The family comes together; cards and gifts are given; we take lots of pictures; we go out to a nice restaurant for dinner – things like that. But when the caps and gowns and graduation hoods are hung up and put away, then what? Side note: Speaking of graduation hoods, did you know that brown is the color for the arts, the major that both of my daughters are getting their degrees in? Hmm… one would think arts people would come up with a more creative color. Anyway… We move on to the next chapter in life, which hopefully means finding gainful employment!
I think back to God’s people of old after they were delivered from slavery in Egypt, had passed through forty years of wandering in the wilderness, and then were led by Joshua to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land. What a milestone that was! Read for yourself in Joshua 4 (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=joshua+4&version=ESV). Nothing here about caps and gowns, hoods and diplomas, but another milestone was put into place at the Lord’s direction. Remember that God had caused the Jordan to stop flowing when the feet of the priests carrying the ark of the covenant stepped into the river. After God’s people had crossed over the Jordan on dry ground, the Lord God commanded Joshua to instruct the people to take twelve stones out of the Jordan River and place them in the middle of the river where the priests’ feet had stood. But why? As God revealed to Joshua, these stones in the midst of the river was to be a visible reminder to them: “When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord” (Joshua 4:6b-7a). That pile of stones in the middle of the river was to serve as a teachable moment for the next generation, sharing with them all that the Lord God had done for his people.
What are the faith milestones and teachable moments in our lives today? How are we conveying our faith in all that the Lord God has done for us so that the next generation may hear and understand? If something as ordinary as stones in a river could tell of God’s wondrous works of old, then surely we can find faith connections with things like caps and gowns, hoods and diplomas (just to name a few) that will point people to God’s great love for us. Our post-modern culture is very good at compartmentalizing life into various segments: my home life, my work life, my social life, my church life. But the Word of God makes clear that there is really only one life, and it all comes from and belongs to God: “Know that the Lord, he is God! It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (Psalm 100:3). In Jesus, who came that we may have life and have it abundantly (John 10:10), it is the ordinary, everyday events of life right in front of us that are crying out for faith connections. These are the milestones that, by God’s grace, become living memorials which will bless future generations.
Part of joining Jesus on his mission is recognizing these faith connections that are part of daily life. The truth is that Jesus is already out there ahead of us in the world in our homes and neighborhoods, in our work and social lives. Jesus invites us to see our lives through his own mission eyes. Truth is, we are often so busy with so much on our to-do list that we simply do not see the doors that Jesus is opening for us in our relationships. So maybe the first step here is just to allow ourselves some much-needed margin in life; slow down and breathe; take time to enjoy the people whom God has placed in our lives. See where this leads. Who knows? There may well be faith milestones ahead that we would never have imagined; milestones not made not from stone, but from human hearts who, like Israel of old, sing: “For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations” (Psalm 100:5).