No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or abandon you. – Joshua 1:5
As both a father and a pastor, there is this double-whammy coming this fall with school and church. Things were always doubled as we prepared as a family for the beginning of school, and had the work of figuring out what and how to do things as we prepared for the fall activities at church. Whether it was Sunday School, Bible studies, confirmation, men’s and women’s groups, fellowship times; there has always been an increased necessity for a futurist mindset as we got things underway. As a dad I live in a world with a senior who is trying to get her senior pictures done, apply to college, being recruited to swim, begin and finish school, find financial aid; plus an 8th grader who is trying to navigate a weird existence with a new way of doing school this year (Did I say that he is going into 8th grade??).
This fall we enter a new world as a church. An unknown world. A world that seemed to have been stolen from us in March, and now lies ahead of us in a way we have not seen nor possibly understand. All of you are in the same boat in one way, shape or form. As the world around us figures out the “Covid-life”, the church stands as a beacon of hope, with a God who is a Strong Tower into which we run; a Refuge amidst the storms of life; the Solid Rock on which we build our abodes. How that comes to us this fall will be what God gives to us. Doing what we can but knowing that we travel by God’s grace through this life. All of it is gift to us.
Preparing for this fall, I can’t help but think of life as it was for the Israelites in Joshua 1. They had been rescued out of slavery in Egypt by God through Moses. But Egypt was all they knew. Regardless of the circumstances, it had been 350 years of life in such a home for those who made the exodus out of Goshen, and it was “home” for these people of God. Now in Joshua there is a new generation, and the forty years of wandering in the desert was all they knew. Now they stand at the border of the land promised to Abraham 800 years previous, which none of them had ever seen, or maybe even heard of, and God has to speak to Joshua, to the people, and to us – “I will be with you, just as I was with Moses. I will not leave you or abandon you.”
Church, do you feel as though God is with you? He is. He has been with you in his word. He is with you as Christ, the Jesus of our Gospel. The one who came to us without asking as that baby born for us. As the one who preached and taught us of God’s mercy embodied in him. As we stand at the precipice of the unknown, know that God’s power and mercy is with you now, as it was before March 2020; as it was for your parents and grandparents 20, 30 or 100 years ago.
“I will not leave you or abandon you.” Wherever we find ourselves this fall, whatever church or life looks like, know that God is with you. Even in the harshest parts of life, even in our sins, God is present because he seeks us out in the worst of life that he might be the best for us. May God be your grace, your shield, your life this fall.
God’s peace and mercy be upon you.