A workshop at Central Woodward Christian Church, September 28, 2019. The workshop will begin at 10 AM and conclude at 1:30. Below is a description of the event, including the schedule for the day. The workshop is funded by a grant from the Lilly Endowment Clergy Renewal Programs at Christian Theological Seminary. There is no cost for this event.  Please RSVP, however, to prepare for lunch and any materials at office@centralwoodward.org.


Rivers are made of water. Water is a vital commodity in the Mediterranean basin.
Many areas in the Mediterranean world are semi-arid, and desert, if often not far away. With water, life flourishes. Without water, life is under threat. Water destroys when it is wild and out of control—as in flood. Water nourishes and promotes growth as when spring rains come. A parched body is often consumed by nothing but thirst. Fresh water refreshes and opens the self to see and participate in the wider world. Without water, things get dirty and sometimes clogged up and non-functional. Water cleanses and restores. Water, especially in the form of rivers, often marks boundaries—sometimes just differences in location, but sometimes different possibilities for life, and even death.

Such physical associations give water in the Bible a special symbolic power. The absence of water can lead to an arid landscape which threatens individuals and communities. Water out of control can indicate destruction. The presence of water can represent the possibility of life, not just continued existence but life marked by growth and fruitfulness and fulfilling God’s purposes
The language of water often touches the deepest reaches of the self and some of the most important considerations for community. The Gospels and Letters evoke the full range of water associations in references to rivers and other forms of water.

Crossing a river—or crossing another body of water—is often a dramatic moment. Biblical texts that refer to water crossings often represent dramatic possibilities not just for a change of geographical location but for significant changes in possibilities for life. Staying on one side of the water offers limited possibilities while crossing the boundary offers much more potential for individuals, households, and communities.

This workshop will explore several passages from the Gospels and Letters in which river crossings (or water crossings) play a significant role. These passages offer us choices: to stay on one side of the water with diminished opportunities or to cross the water boundary into a world of larger possibilities, though sometimes possibilities that come with an edge of danger.
In worship on Sunday morning, the text for the message will be “Crossing the Final River” coming from Revelation 22:1-5. The sermon will deal with possibilities of the life that lies beyond death.


(September 28, 2019)

  • 10:00 Welcome, Prayer, Introductions
    •  Overview of the day
    • A little overview of water symbolism in the Ancient Near Eastern World.
  • 10:15 At the River Jordan: immersion practiced by John and the immersion of Jesus (Luke 3:1-22; compare Mark 1:1-11; Matthew 3:1-17)
  • 10:45 At the Sea of Galilee: calling the first disciples (Luke 5:1-11; compare Mark 1:16-20; Matthew 4:18-22)
  • 11:00 Crossing the Sea of Galilee: Jesus comes to the disciples in a storm (Matthew 14:22-23; compare Mark 6:45-52; John 6:16-21)
  • 11: 30 On the wilderness road from Jerusalem to Gaza: Philip immerses an Ethiopian who was not able to have children (Acts 8:26-40)
  • 12:00 Lunch
  • 12:30 On the Mediterranean in a storm: Paul and the great shipwreck (Acts 27:33-28:1; in the context of Acts 27:1-28:16, with attention to Acts 28:17-30)
  • 1:00 In the water with Christ: immersion as death, burial, and resurrection (Romans 6:1-14)
  • 1:30 Benediction: drinking a cup of water, and sprinkling a little water on participants.

SUNDAY (September 29, 2019)

(10:30 AM)

In worship on Sunday morning, the text for the message will be “Crossing the Final River” coming from Revelation 22:1-5. The sermon will deal with possibilities of the life that lies beyond death.


Ron Allen taught preaching and Gospels and Letters at Christian Theological Seminary from 1982 to 2019. Prior to that, he and his spouse, the Reverend Linda McKiernan-Allen, were co-ministers of First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Grand Island, Nebraska. He loves leading Bible studies in congregations.

He has published more than 40 books, most recently: I Will Tell You the Mystery: A Commentary on Preaching from the Book of Revelation (2019). Three of his books are widely used in small group studies in congregations: A Faith of Your Own: Naming What You Really Believe, Reading the New Testament for the First Time, and The Life of Jesus for Today. He was an editor for the pioneering Preaching God’s Transforming Justice: A Commentary on the Lectionary, which comments on every reading in the lectionary and introduces 22 new Holy Days for Justice (e.g. , Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Peace in the Home, Yom haShoa, Gifts of Sexuality and Gender, Sojourner Truth Day). With O. Wesley Allen, Jr., he urges thinking of preaching as conversation, as for example, in Allen and Allen, The Sermon Without End: A Conversational Approach to Preaching.

Allen and his spouse have five young adult children: Canaan, Genesis, Moriah, Barek, and Sabbath, as well as five grandchildren. He and his family spent summers teaching in Zambia and Jamaica. He has also traveled in Israel, India, South Korea, Belize, England, Ireland, New Zealand, Aruba, Canada, the countries surrounding the Baltic, as well as Mexico, Spain, the Canary Islands, Uruguay, Argentina, Greece, Italy, Croatia, and Antarctica.