It’s taken thirteen years, but we’ve finally reached the river’s edge. But, we’re not quite ready to cross over to the other side. We still have some work to do before we’re ready to cross over. Some of us will go across the river sooner than others.
In the biblical story, God called Moses to lead the people to the river, but it was Joshua who took the people across the river. In a couple of weeks your interim minister, the Rev. Glen McIntyre, will assist you in preparing for that moment of crossing. These river crossings are more complicated than we like to think. There are a lot of logistical elements that need to be taken care of before you can successfully cross the river.
Our story will be a bit different from the biblical story. You see, in the biblical story Moses hands things off to Joshua, who will lead the people across the river, and then Moses heads off into the sunset never to be seen again. We’re going to rewrite the story a bit because I get to cross the river first and make a new life on the other side, while you get ready during the interim period to cross over and begin your life on the other side of the river. That won’t take place until God sends you your Joshua. No one here knows who that person is. But the day will come when the person whom God has called to this place will arrive and lead you to the other side of the river.
You might be wondering what is to come of me as I cross the river. Well, the Cornwalls are still figuring all of that out, but I have several irons in the fire. While we get to cross the river before you, when you join us on the other side, I won’t be your pastor. That responsibility will be in the hands of another whom God will call to this place. In the meantime, I’ll be praying and rooting for you.
Now, what does this have to do with Psalm 138? Besides it being the Psalm of the day in the lectionary, it offers a fitting way to begin this process of separation. It invites us to give thanks to God for God’s faithfulness and loving-kindness in the presence of gods, kings, and even our enemies. These references to gods, kings, and enemies lead scholars to think that this psalm was written during or shortly after the exile. It’s a reminder that God is faithful even when we are living in the midst of forces opposed to God’s realm. Yes, even when we find ourselves living on “foreign turf” we can know that God is present with us. Therefore, we can sing praises to God with grateful hearts.
This is true because, as the Psalmist declares, God will fulfill God’s purpose for us and because God’s steadfast love endures forever. The Hebrew word for love used here is hesed, which one interpreter defines as “free-flowing love that knows no bounds.”
Now, next Sunday I get to offer my final word from this pulpit, which Lance and Diana lovingly created. This morning, I want to take a moment to express my gratitude to God, whose steadfast love and faithfulness brought us here to Troy and has sustained us through the thirteen years we have part of this congregation. Like I’ve said before, I never thought I would be moving to Michigan before the search committee asked to interview me. Then again, I never thought I’d live in Kansas. You never know where God will take you. But, whether we’re in California, Oregon, or Michigan, God is present and faithful.
I give thanks for the opportunities we’ve had to invite scholars of note to the church as part of our Perry Gresham Lectures, which not only enriched our congregation but the larger community as well. We’ve ordained and commissioned and recognized the ministries of Rick, Susan, and Alex. Then there’s our move to become an Open and Affirming Congregation. That wasn’t an easy journey, but I believe that it has prepared this congregation well for the future.
For all of these things I can sing with a grateful heart: “All praise and thanks to God our Father and our Mother, to Christ and to the One who binds us to each other, the one eternal God, whom earth and heaven adore, for thus it was, is now, and shall be forevermore!” [CH 715]
Dr. Robert D. Cornwall, Pastor
Central Woodward Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
June 6, 2021