The following is a reflection on Joshua 3:7-17, the Hebrew Bible lesson appointed for October 30th, 2011 according to the New Revised Common Lectionary. (Proper 26, Year A) On this site there is also
• a reflection on the Gospel Lesson for the same day, and
• a version of the Prayers of the People, based on the lessons of the day.
The miraculous crossing of the River Jordan is one of those texts that gets forgotten, and is, quite frankly, overshadowed by the miraculous crossing of the Red Sea. Perhaps if Cecil B. DeMille had filmed just one more scene…
In one sense, it’s a bookend. As the Exodus began with the crossing of the Red Sea, the Exodus ends with the crossing of the River Jordan.
And, in this sense, it’s a critical part of the story of the Exodus, because, it’s the end of the story. The chapter of Israel’s history that began with Moses, and the plagues, and Pharaoh’s army drowning in the Sea…comes to a close.
The crossing of Jordan puts some level of closure on a forty year, nation-altering, and nation-forming event.
And, as such, I believe that one could look at it as one of the two events which encapsulates the Exodus—the wilderness journey—between those two bodies of water.
…But, it can also be looked at in a different way…
It’s not just an ending. It’s also a new beginning.
As the crossing of the Red Sea was a new beginning for the children of Israel, the crossing of Jordan is the prelude to a totally new chapter in the history of God’s People.
As the Red Sea washed away the identity of Israel as a nation of slaves, Jordan’s waters washes away their identity as homeless wanderers.
Crossing the Red Sea, God was shown as a God who liberates. Crossing Jordan, God is shown as a God who provides—and provides richly. Both of those aspects are so important to the character of God.
Forged out of their experience in the wilderness, the Israelites receive a new beginning. A new crossing. A new mighty act of God where the chaos of the waters are harnessed.
In life, and in ministry, we can always find bookends which mark momentous occasions. Occasions of birth and death, comings and goings, loss and gain, grief and joy. And, we can also find events which don’t just encapsulate, but which propel us forward.
Our baptisms – the moments when we step through Jordan’s waters, the waters which Jesus was baptized in—are moments of such newness. Where God does a new work in us, and we are propelled forward. Where God gives us a fresh new chapter to write, live, and begin the journey of marking our new, and freshly washed, identity as a child of God.