Eight (of Forty) Months
A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to preach at the Brookline Church of Christ not far from our home in Boston. Since arriving, we have worshiped several times with this welcoming church. We've always appreciated their simple worship and use of the lectionary calendar. The leadership knew from the beginning--even as we were in attendance weeks in a row throughout the fall--of our intention to start something across town. We found them immediately supportive. And since they hadn't seen us in a few weeks as we've been concentrating on making connections closer to home, they invited us back to give an update. We were happy to do so.
As I began to put together my thoughts to share, I read the lectionary scriptures appointed for that Sunday. I was amazed. God's timing was impeccable. One passage represented a core value that had been our reason for choosing the name "The Bridge" to represent our ministry. Another was one of my favorite parables that sums up the mode of ministry we most want to emulate.
On the other hand, I don't recall ever noticing the final scripture much before; yet that was the one that most fully connected with how we are coming to understand our time here to date.
I began this sermon recalling the way that God had called us to Boston. I told of how this journey for us began from a single conversation Lauryn and I had in the car returning home from a Christmas visit with family back in December of 2015. I shared that it had taken us sixteen months, until March of 2017, to discern the spiritual restlessness we had been feeling. That March is when we experienced this calling becoming clear: God was intending that we pick up everything and pursue church planting. From there it took us another sixteen months to "pack" for the trip, through of July of 2018. We had to figure out where we would move, what our work would emphasize, how we would tell the story of what God was calling us to and raise support, and then finally literally pack and move. As you know, we woke up August 1st to our new home. I shared with the congregation that Sunday morning that April 1st, the following day, would mark eight months living in Boston. I had not put it all together until preparing for that sermon. Doing the math, our journey amounted to 40 months in the making.
Now as you know, “40” is a pretty significant number in scripture. My sermon proposed that our 40 months might be compared to the 40-year journey of the Israelites. And it just so happened that one of the scriptures to reflect on for the day came from Joshua 5, telling the story of the arrival of the wandering Hebrew in the Promised Land. For those Hebrews (and us) this was a time of wandering and wondering, doubting and dreaming, a leaving behind and a looking ahead. There in Joshua 5, the people had crossed the Jordan river and found themselves now realizing what had been only anticipated by generations: they celebrated their arrival with the feast of Passover. Then the Bible says, the manna ceased and they ate of the fruit of the land.
What a beautiful thought. The Lord provided for their needs through their 40 year journey feeding them along the way with bread from heaven. But once they found themselves in the place of promise, the way God had been providing came to an end and they now experienced the benefits of the promise. Wow!
I can only suppose what our "manna" has been during our 40-month season. And I long for our entering into this next season when we find ourselves in the place of promise experiencing the benefits of the promise. May we be resolved as we approach another 40 months of work tilling the soil and planting seeds and maybe, just maybe, seeing some fruit of the land.