Sermon June 19, 2016: Tenacious in the tension

Posted in Sermons
[Sarah Gautier]
  • Presenter: Sarah Gautier
  • Date: June 19, 2016
  • Location: Congregación León de Judá, Boston MA

Today's sermon is entitled “Tenacious in the tension”, I’m gonna be reading from Joshua chapter 3 verse 14 to 4:7. Something that I always encourage our young people to do in our worshipping services is to never allow these moments to be a monolog where God talks at you but allow this to be a dialog where you take notes and you interact with the Spirit of the Lord because that way you remember the things that God left in your heart when you heard it. Alright so are you ready? Let’s do this, alright, here we go.

So Joshua chapter 3 verse 14, and we are having on the screen, so here is this: “1 So when the people set out from their tents to pass over the Jordan with the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people, and as soon as those bearing the ark had come as far as the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the brink of the water (now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest), the waters coming down from above stood and rose up in a heap very far away, at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, and those flowing down toward the Sea of the Arabah, the Salt Sea, were completely cut off. And the people passed over opposite Jericho. Now the priests bearing the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan, and all Israel was passing over on dry ground until all the nation finished passing over the Jordan.”

“When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the LORD said to Joshua, take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, 3 and command them, saying, take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests' feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight. Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. And Joshua said to them, pass on before the ark of the LORD your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. 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, and when it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.”

Let’s pray: God we thank You so much for the moments that we shared as a community around Your Word, we thank You God for the fellowship of the saints Lord and God we commit ourselves to hearing from You, we ask God that You would open our eyes to see You more clearly today, open our ears to hear You more clearly today and open our hearts and minds to be sensitive to Your voice, we pray first and foremost Father that we honor You as Father and we pray that we honor fathers among us today, in Your Name we pray, amen.

So I came to Boston in 2008 to go to law school and law school was always a dream of mine, it was always something that I wanted to do, and so when I was accepted into North Eastern I was really excited, and I moved from Florida to Boston. And during my first semester in law school it was completely challenging.

One of the things about law school is that it immerses you into a very intensive learning program because they have to teach you a lot and prepare you a lot so you can work a lot, and so my first semester in law school I was excelling in all of my classes, I was studying hard but there was one class that I just could not understand and it was called civil procedure, and basically civil procedure is about how you bring a claim to the court, and for some reason I just could not understand civil procedure, and my professor kept telling us: don’t worry, the week before the exam you will be fine, you will understand.

And so at the end of the semester I gotta take the exam and I’m sitting there in front of my laptop getting ready to press start on my exam, and I say: God I still don’t understand, help me understand!

So I opened the exam and I could not understand anything but I began to read the narrative of the story that I had to take that exam on and I tried to spot the different issues that may perhaps be something that I should be talking about in the class, and four hours later I don’t know what I wrote or what I said but it was finished, and I had my suit case in the corner of the classroom, I was going home to Florida for christmas and I said: I’m ready to get out of here, and so one of the things about North Eastern law school is that they don’t give rates, it’s a part of you know, their cutting-edge teaching methods, but instead what they do is give you a paragraph as narrative about your performance in class which is great when you do well but not great when you don’t do well, and so since it is a narrative it takes a little more time for it to come out.

And so it was in the middle of february when I got my grades for the first semester, and I’ll never forget: I was standing on the corner of Rich Street and Harrison, it was a friday night and I was coming to serve middle schoolers in the I Wanna program, and I got a text from a friend that said: our grades have been posted! and so I went online on my phone to find out my grades and how I had done, and I read all of my classes: excellent! good, awesome! except for in civil procedure, oh my God!

I began to read the paragraph and I had received a marginal pass in the class which basically is the equivalent of a D, I had never gotten a D in my life! I never even got a C, even more they called me insufficient, they called me inadequate, and in the middle I started crying because here I was, I don’t have any family here, I have been in Boston for 6 months and I just wanna go home to Florida, I wanted to quit law school, give up on my dreams and so I called my dad because who am I gonna call?

So I’m crying on the corner of Rich Street and I told him: dad they called me marginal, they called me insufficient, and he couldn’t even understand what I was saying. And my parents know that every time I call I’m on the speaker phone so I know they are both hearing me, and my mom tells me my dad’s side of the story, and she tells me that as he was listening to me he was mumbling to her: I don’t know what she is saying, you gotta say something!

And so I’ll never forget in that moment my dad says to me: you are not quitting law school, you are not coming home to Florida and you have an assignment in Church don’t you have to be there to help with the middle schoolers? what are you doing dad! I couldn’t believe that he was saying that to me!

But here is what I wanted to talk about, that when we are in the tension and the reality is that we are always going to be in some tension between God’s promises and their fulfillment, God has declared many things over you and over your families but it doesn’t necessarily means that you are going to see those things in thirty minutes, but here is the big idea I wanted to convey: the tension is not an invitation to be tense but it’s an invitation to be tenacious and yeah, when you are tenacious you are doing that, you are staying in the fight, you are not allowing the tension to stress you out but you are allowing the tension to strengthen you to stay firm.

And so in our story we see three different principles that I want to talk about and something very interesting about this particular story is that the israelites are on the brink of the Jordan river, they have been wandering for forty years in the wilderness, they were thirsty for water and here they are in the brink of the Jordan river, and Moses had told these people that they were going to go into this land and possess the promise of God.

But what is fascinating about the word possess in the original hebrew language is that that word means to dispossess in order to possess, and so in order to possess the Word of God sometimes we have to dispossess something that is on our promise, and so for the people of Israel standing at the brink of the Jordan river they had to dispossess that river in order to get to the promise, and so here is the first principle: stay firm in the tension.

I wanna talk to fathers for just a moment, I wanna talk to you about the role of a father. In our story we see right at the beginning it talks about the priests that were carrying the ark of the covenant before the people, and so in our family structure fathers play that priestly role, they play that role of setting the expectations of God for our family, for our home, there was a reason I called my dad and not my mom in that moment on the corner, I needed to hear the voice of the priest.

And so here we see in the story how the priests stand before the people carrying the ark of the covenant, and the ark of the covenant you will reckon it contains the ten commandments, it contains Aaron’s staff, it was this reminder of the people not only of the Presence of God but of His Power, and as fathers you all play this role, you carry the ark of the covenant, you carry it before your families.

And not only that but you carry and you hold the Presence of God in the midst of your families, and that is your role, and not only you have a certain role but you have certain responsibilities that come along with that role. And it says at the end of verse 15, it says: the feet of the priests carrying the ark were dipped in the brink of the river, and I love that image because it’s the feet of our fathers that lead us.

And I think about, you know, the little parenthesis it says in verse 15, it says: now the Jordan river overflows all it’s banks throughout the time of the harvest. You know that parenthesis is not just there just as an afterthought because in the spring time the Jordan river would swell from aproximately three to ten feet and it would end up being ninety to a hundred feet wide so think about that for a moment. You and your family are standing in the brink of your promise but in front of you is an impossible barrier, but see here the role of the priests, the priests dipped their feet on the water, and when it seemed impossible for anything to happen they dipped their feet into the water, and I think about these fathers through all the times of rivers that you have to dip your feet into.

You gotta go to the parent orientation before they start on that school, you gotta do some investigation about that soccer team to be if he is going to be a good soccer player, you don’t want one kid at one school and another kid in another school and you are driving back and forth all over the city to get them, to pick them up to bring them to the other place, Arnold God bless you, you are the example of a priest, you are a beautiful father.

And so you are constantly having to dip your feet into the Jordan river on behalf of your kids and doing the impossible things for them, and that’s part of your responsibility, and that’s part of your honor that we celebrate today.

And so not only do the priests have the responsibiity of dipping their feet into the Jordan river but check out the reaction that they had, it says that the priests carrying the ark of the covenant stood firmly on dry ground in the midst of the Jordan river. Now, how is this possible? but this is the faith of a father, a father that sees through the impossible but knows that through Christ all things are possible.

And so we see you standing firm in the middle of that Jordan river, and this was my dad when I called them: you are not coming home, you are staying in Boston, go and serve! this is the faith of a father and that is the kind of reaction that we want our fathers to have, and you stand firm for us! and today we all should honor how you stay firm.

And so here is another group of people that we want to honor today, we want to honor graduates, and you know, graduation for me is such a family thing because it’s not just you who graduated but it’s also your parents that in there with you, it’s your sisters and brothers who had put up with you, and we are in the season of graduations today, and you know it’s interesting that because your fathers stood in the tension you were over to pass over to the promise.

And so the second principle that we see in the story, the first one was standing in the tension, but we also have to pull from the tension. And so in Joshua chapter 4 verse 3 it says: “Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan”. I think what is so beautiful about this image is that we see the different roles of people in the people of Israel.

The priests stood firm but the leaders were able to pull out the stones from the river, and so graduates: that’s what you have been doing in this graduation season. Graduation is a symbolic moment in your life because you pass over into a new era, when they call your name and you walk forward through that ledge, and they hand you that diploma, and then they make you go up that ledge you literally pass over, and your new potential is unlocked, it’s a new beginning but it’s a new beginning that comes with responsibility.

And so Joshua tells them: take the stones from the river, I want you to take those and I want you to make a pillar, and you see the pillars in our lives come from the places where a father stood firm, and so we can never lose sight of that.

When you cross over the Bible says: take something with you as a reminder, pull something out of the tension. I think we often allow the moments of tension to pull us apart because they stress us out, they make us feel anxious, but here Joshua is reminding us: don’t be pulled apart by the tension, pull something out from the tension.

And he asks this really powerful question in verse 6, it says: when your children ask you in a time to come: what do these stones mean to you? I think it’s such a powerful question because when we walk through these moments of tension, when we experience these moments that seem absolutely impossible, I hated geometry when I was young I thought I was never going to pass but I made it through, but when you are in it you just don’t think it’s possible for you to get through.

So when you grab the stones from that river it gives you an opportunity to share with people what the stones mean to you, what does that experience of tension mean to you? now that you are at the other side. And this brings us to the third and last principle and it’s: set up with reminders of the tension, set up reminders. We are forgetful people, this is why on your iPhone you have a little thing that is reminders so you don’t forget stuff and we were just like that, we needed reminders.

And so he says to them in chapter 4:19, it says: the people came out of the Jordan on the tenth day on the first month and they came at Gilgal. Now Gilgal is an interesting place because the name Gilgal is actually a play of words, and it comes from the word Galal which means that you are rolling away something from yourself onto another. So when the Lord brought them out of the Jordan river He wants them to remember that I rolled you out of that river and all of your fears and all of your anxieties you trusted in Me so I brought you out to the other side, and so that word Gilgal means commitment literally.

And so we see in Psalm 37 verse 25 it says: Commit your way to the Lord, trust your way and He will act, and so when they get to Gilgal it’s a reminder of God’s commitment to them and their commitment to God, and this is exactly what has happened in our lives because our fathers have stood in the tension, it’s about a father that has committed his way to the Lord and because he has committed his way to the Lord because he rolled over his burdens, his fears of the impossible, you were able to pass over to the other side.

And graduates this is the same thing that has happened to you, you have also committed your ways to the Lord in order to get to the other side, you thought you wouldn’t graduate and you did it! and it’s because of that dependence on God, that commitment to God.

And so it says here in verse 24 chapter 4, it says: And I want you to put these pillars up so that all people of earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, and you may fear the Lord your God forever, and as we walk according to His ways His hand protects us in all of our ways.

And so in this tension between God’s promises and their fulfillment we must be tenacious, we must hold on to the right ways of God and we must remember the ways that we have already gone through, and today we honor our fathers who have stood in tension, and regardless of your family’s situation, regardless if you haven’t had a father in your life, but you know what? it was the priest who stood and we have a High Priest in Jesus who has been standing firm for us since the beginning of time, and He will continue to stand firm for you in the tension.

And so as we move from one place to another place, to another place there’s always going to be tension but we gotta stand firm in the tension, we gotta pull from the tension and then we’ve gotta set up reminders of what God did in the tension, the tension is not an invitation to be tense but it’s an invitation to be tenacious.

And so if you graduated, yeah if you graduated from high school or you graduated college, a technical program of any kind we wanna invite you to come forward, come forward with your families if you graduated, if anyone graduated, if you had any victory these days, have you had any graduations so far? yes it seems so, you graduated from something, come on, come on in front, and so today something we want to do for you we have a memorial stone for each one of the graduates.

And here’s what I want to encourage you to remember about those memorial stones, God has brought you through it for something greater and there were people who stood firm for you, there was a Lord that stood firm for you and He brought you out to the other side, and He only did that to unlock a new level of your potential, and so with those stones I want you to remember that He pulled you through it and the promised land is ahead.

So let’s stand, let’s pray for our brothers and sisters. So let’s just extend our hands towards these graduates: Father we thank You so much for this Father’s day, we honor You as our God and as our Father, Jesus we honor You as our High Priest and we thank You for standing firm, thank You because You stood firm in tension and God bless each one of these graduates, God we thank You for the victory that we celebrate today, the victory that is in Christ and only in Him and we celebrate that the promised land is ahead, thank You Father for Your gracefulness, we bless every father in this house today, we honor them for how they have stood for us, we pray for them to receive a double portion of Your strength, of Your wisdom and Your blessing in their lives, we thank You God for all these things and we praise Your Name, amen, amen.

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