Summary: This sermon was preached as my first sermon in the pulpit of my most recent appointment. It deals with transition and the need to move forward into the future while treasuring the past.
“It’s Time to Cross the Jordan!”
Sunday, July 7th, 2002
Life is full of unexpected twists, of unforeseen bends in the road and of unwanted detours. Very seldom does life ever go just as we plan. No. Instead, our plans are rerouted. We are sent down a new road, one which we never chose to travel. We are forced to make turns that we never desired. Change. Transition. It’s a part of every day life. We are in a world of change.
Life is the process of dealing with change. The question that we must ask ourselves is how do we cope with those changes? How do we adjust to them? Do we greet them fearlessly with a smile looking for the opportunity, or do we remain planted in the old paradigm more comfortable with the way things were? Do we open ourselves up to new beginnings or do we refuse to stretch ourselves, to be a little uncomfortable at times and to step outside our own worlds and create new ones?
You as a church today are in the midst of change. A year ago you were content. You had a minister who you loved dearly and never thought that she would be leaving so soon. But today, life has occurred. Change was inevitable. And you’re standing on the brink of the future. You’re tottering on the edge of new opportunities. Ladies and gentlemen, today is a new day. This is a new beginning. And while it is an exciting beginning, I recognize that it is also a difficult beginning for many. For many of you, today is a painful day.
Our text today is a powerful depiction of the human experience. It’s a story of a people, much like yourselves, who lived in community with one another. They worshiped together. They worked together. They ate together. They lived together. And they celebrated one leader, a leader they greatly revered, one they greatly loved, and one they did not want to lose. You’ve probably heard the story before. It’s the story of the Israelite people and their leader, Moses. Moses, we’re told was a leader who was unequaled. Never again would there be anyone like him. And when Moses died the people grieved. They missed him. They didn’t want him to go. And they certainly didn’t want a new leader.
Can you relate to them? I know you can. I am honored today to be following a great pastor. Today I want to celebrate Rev. Jennifer Green with you. She is a godly leader. She brought you to new heights both as a church and for many of you as individuals. Never again, will there be one like her and I know that she will never be forgotten by you. God brought Pastor Jennifer to you for such a time as this. Her gifts and graces were needed and the fruits of her ministry are evident as I look around. Grieve her loss. Shed tears. Celebrate her ministry among you and also her new ministry in Lyndonville.
But be ready, because God has great things in store for us a church because of the work that your previous pastors have done here in this place. I want to share something with you. Four years ago I took my first appointment as the pastor of the Whitesville and Stannards United Methodist Churches, south of Wellsville. I was a student at Houghton College and was entering my senior year. Every day I drove through this community. And from the very beginning God began speaking to me about you. I used to stop at Ace’s for coffee in the morning on occasion and just listen to the people. Somewhere deep down inside I knew that you were in my future. Whenever I drove by this church I felt a tug. At the time I didn’t know what it was. But there was something pulling me toward you. And here’s what’s more exciting, my wife Erica will tell you that every since we came into the United Methodist Church, she has known we would be here. When we left the interview with the PPRC Erica said to me, “I’ve never felt more comfortable around a group of people. This is right.”
I want to tell you that I believe that our presence here is part of God’s plan. This is no accident. We’re here for a reason. Just as God chose Joshua to continue the leadership of the people of Israel and to lead them into the Promised Land, so God has given me the honor of being your leader, your pastor. And I believe that there is a promised land ahead! It’s ours for the taking. But in order to do so we must overcome a major challenge. Do you remember what it was that separated the people of Israel from the Promised Land? It was the Jordan River. As long as they were on this side of the Jordan River things were safe, they were comfortable. They could visit Mount Nebo, where Moses died, to remember him. But if they were to cross that River they would be in danger. Things would get frightening. There were giants in the land. The people were afraid.