Sunday we gathered to experience the next chapter of The Story. We marched seven times around the worship center symbolizing our participation with the Israelites as they conquered Jericho.
I encourage the church to neither take these battle stories as our stamp of approval for every kind of war our nation might make on other nations, nor to try and “clean up God” as some scholars have done by claiming these texts were not from inspiration but inventions of the Jews and God was invoked to justify their atrocities. Instead, I encourage us–as my grandmother and the Beatles say–to “let it be.” Let the text say what it says and live in the tension of God’s grace on a prostitute named Rahab and his justice for Jericho and also the Israelite Achan and his family. Rahab harbored illegal aliens and was blessed for it, and Achan stole from the spoils–a Babylonian robe and gold and silver–of Jericho when God’s command was to destroy everyone and everything. “Let it be” means to let the story be and don’t rush to try and fix the violence or make God into our image or to fit into the shape of our sensibilities.
But on this day we were marching in honor and to uphold God’s gold standard. We had a “standard”–a gold banner on a T bar–and a few dozen volunteers marched around the perimeter of the worship center, sometimes chanting spontaneously, as people who like Joshua believe that God’s word is truth and we must obey it. For we discovered more than a warrior, Joshua is featured as one who obeys and leads Israel to obey what God says. And God keeps his word. If God keeps his word, so we should be people who keep his word.
But we don’t keep our word. I stand as an example of a person who has failed to keep his word many times, failed to obey. But God does not fail to keep his covenant. He is faithful. We walked with the gold standard not of our faithfulness–for we are a stiff-necked people like Israel (Deuteronomy 9:5-6)–but of God’s faithfulness.
We walked with a second banner–a purple one symbolizing our covenant with God–with this I encouraged all who want the walls of their hearts to come down. Pride. Shame. Self-centeredness. Walls of depression, sin, fear. We are people who obey, and so we walked with a second standard of the covenant we are to obey.
Seven times around our auditorium is about one mile. When some of the people started, they did not realize this. One man had to take a break and others helped him along. Another said he was honored to “do this for the Lord” . . . he said he was beaten and left for dead ten years ago and doctors said he would never walk again. Today he walked in honor of a faithful God.
As we completed the last circuit (the church walls did not crash in but many hearts did), we walked together to the table of the Lord and shared communion together as people of the word of God and his faithfulness who are broken and beautifully redeemed.
It was a beautiful day together with the body of Christ. We’d love to have you be with us in the coming weeks.
We are telling the story together in many ways. Many have walked, read scripture, told stories of how The Story is impacting them and changing their lives, many are preaching in my place. James Lawrence preached and others will be preaching in coming weeks, including Jeff McIlroy, Jon Hart, Marvin Phillips, Tim Herbel, Lance Newsom. Jo Morton and the Breaking Free Ladies class will also share their experiences of how the Breaking Free class is intersecting with The Story.