How to Cross the River

Fr. Tom Simmons, All Saints Day, 11-5-2017, P26,  Joshua 1:1-9 and 3:9-17

Have you heard the latest news about the Hivites? 

That’s right, the Hivites…Name doesn’t ring a bell?  No?

Ok, how about the Perizzites?  They’ve been in the news recently, right?  No?

Ok, then the Girgashites, surely you know what they’ve been up to of late…No?

Ok then, how about the Israelites?  Ah!  Now that name rings a bell!  Finally! 

In fact, they sent fighter-bombers on an airstrike into Syria on Wednesday. 

So why do we remember the Israelites, but not the Hivites, Perizzites and Girgashites? 

Our passage from Joshua this morning tells why. 

Written probably 3500 years ago, it describes the most audatious undertaking in history.

Let’s join Israel at the river bank. 

They’ve come down from Mount Pisgah, where we saw them last week getting a great view of the promised land. 

They’ve walked in the desert for 40 years…. and here’s where it gets hard.

They’ve got to CROSS that swollen river to conquer the land! 

There’s fortified cities, guarded by armies with armor and chariots, and advanced metallurgy.

How will these desert-dwelling goat-herds,

this bunch of country bumpkins,

this ragtag army with its newbie general

…ever be able to displace such a people?

How will they even get across the river???

God tells us how to cross the river and claim the land with two incredibly audacious ideas:

1) By living OUT the Creator’s story and

2) By living IN the Creator’s presence.

Audacious Idea Number One: Live OUT in the Creator’s story, in the scroll of the Torah. 

God told Joshua in v 8 “This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful.”

Lay hold of the Scroll!  This is Israel’s Gospel. 

the story of the Creator God making the world,

judging the evil men do,

disclosing his heart and mind,

defining their relationship

shaping their identity as a holy nation,

raising them up as a city on a hill at the cross-roads of the ancient world,

displaying to all the other nations, with their dank little deities, the sheer beauty of serving the true and living God.  

“So Joshua, lay hold of the Scroll.  Meditate on it.  Carry it everywhere…in your heart.” 

Because there’s lots of competing narratives. 

God is weaning them from the old Egyptian story, and inoculating them against the Canaanites stories they’ll meet in the land. 

What counter-narratives are vying for our heart and mind TODAY?

God’s word gives God’s people incredible audacity to beat impossible odds.

What does that look like in YOUR life?

Audacious Idea Number Two: Live IN the Creator’s presence, symbolized by the Ark of the Covenant

The Ark was a piece of furniture, covered in gold, in the Temple that represented God’s throne. 

Typically it was hidden behind heavy veils in the Holy of Holies, seen only by the High Priest on the Day of Atonement.  

So they only brought it out for special moments…like this one. 

For these trembling country bumpkins, having the Ark in front was a big deal.  Very reassuring. 

With the Levites marching ahead with the Ark they knew God was leading them forward into the intimidating unknown.

And it gets measurable results too!  Just look at that river flee God’s presence!

The Creator’s power and purpose empowering them Israel was able to take step audaciously across the river and into the Land to fulfill the promise of God. 

What does Gods presence look like in your life?

Hivites are gone and Israel remains because of these two audacious ideas. 

They were Living OUT God’s story, and Living IN God’s presence.

They stepped into the river. 

è What’s this look like for us?  We do the same every Sunday, but even more audacious!

What does that look like for us? 

Moses went up Pisga to show Israel the Land, but Jesus went up Mount Carmel to show disciples the crossroads of the ancient world.

Moses said, “That land was given to Abraham. Go get it.”

Jesus said, “All things have been given to me.  Go get it.”

We cross thru the waters of baptism – like Israel – into new life on the other side!

Take the Story of my life and death and resurrection to every person on earth!

Baptize them into it. 

That’s an even more gob-smackingly audacious undertaking than Israel’s. 

Joshua led a nation. Jesus started with 12 guys. That’s audacious !

And he gives us some pretty audacious stuff to pull it off. 

First audacious idea: Joshua’s scroll is our Bible.

In Joshua’s day very few people had the Scroll…to have it they needed to memorize it.

But here on the 500th anniversary of the Reformation and the Gutenberg Bible we get to have our own personal Bible we can carry around and open at any time. 

It’s a phone app!  I’ll bet Joshua wishes he had one of those!

Here’s what that looks like for us, from our Simple Ancient Disciplines. 

See number two. 

“Learning Holy Scripture, participating attentively in the Liturgy of the Word on Sunday, as well as weekly small group and daily personal Bible study.”

How many of you want to step forward to do audacious things with God?

We need to be deep in the Word.

Best way to start is join a Bible study.

We’ve got two we are starting this winter.  Talk to me if interested.

Second audacious idea: Israel’s Ark is our Heart

God’s presence took a HUGE step closer on Pentecost.  The Spirit hopped off the Ark into the heart of every believer. 

Like we say in Baptism: “You are sealed with the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ’s own forever.”

And every Sunday we pray for the descent of the Spirit in the Eucharist. Listen for it.

Just as Jesus received the Spirit in baptism, and heard the voice of God saying, “This is my son, in whom I am well pleased…”

We have the same voice echoing in our souls to empower and encourage and transform.

That is the basis of our audacity.

In the noisy world we inhabit, filled with chattering voices

Our identity isn’t based on education or appearance or wealth or achievement or political affiliation. 

It’s based in Living IN the Creator’s presence.  Israel’s Ark is our heart.

Do you want to do audacious things with God?

Make time to cultivate that intimacy by Living the Gospel, see Disciplines 3 and 4

“Worshipping weekly, joining together with God’s people in God’s presence to offer Father Son and Hoy Spirit all the glory, awe and love they inspire in us.”

“Praying Daily, developing habits of leading a God-centered life, rather than one that is self-centered; walking with Jesus and abiding in his love.”


Every Sunday we gather:

to hear the word, to synchronize our lives with God’s Story

to be filled anew with God’s presence.

Then we are sent out to do the work God has given us to do.

When you walk out those doors, imagine yourselves crossing the river like Israel into the world Jesus is claiming for himself.

After all, Jesus did say, “The meek shall inherit the earth.”


*Do you have a plan for spiritual growth? 

The Simple Ancient Disciplines

As followers of Jesus Christ we grow into the people God made us to be by learning, living and sharing the Gospel.   Here’s how we define that at St Peter’s:

We learn the Gospel by:

  • Living in Christian community, allowing oneself to be cared for and accountable and to grow through relational “friction” with others.
  • Learning Holy Scripture, participating attentively in the Liturgy of the Word on Sunday, as well as weekly small group and daily personal Bible study.

We live the Gospel by:

  • Worshipping weekly, joining together with God’s people in God’s presence to offer Father Son and Holy Spirit all the glory, awe and love they inspire in us. 
  • Praying daily, developing habits of leading a God-centered life, rather than one that is self-centered; walking with Jesus and abiding in his love.
  • Giving sacrificially, working toward, or exceeding the tithe (10% of income), to build up the Church and advance its work for the good of others.

We share the Gospel by:

  • Working in ministry, taking responsibility to use our spiritual gifts to tangibly serve other people in our congregation and in mission outside of the church.
  • Sharing our faith, giving credible witness to Jesus Christ as we have each experienced him; attracting others to a deepening relationship with Jesus. 

Doing these disciplines will change your life.  These activities tap us into God’s grace.  This is the life of “discipleship”, in which Jesus mentors us and helps us reorder our lives around God’s purpose.   so we can experience more and more of the healing, peace and wholeness Jesus promised.

It takes time, about 7-8 hours a week, to grow steadily in spiritual maturity.  Here’s an approximate breakdown:

  • 2-3 hours on Sunday in liturgy, learning and fellowship,
  • 2 hours divided into 20 minutes/day for personal prayer and Bible reading,
  • 1.5 hours for small group fellowship, study and prayer,
  • 1.5 hours serving others in ministry.



Login Form

Staff login for website