3/3/2017 4:41:30 PM
When the whole nation had finished crossing the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, 2 “Choose twelve men from among the people, one from each tribe, 3 and tell them to take up twelve stones from the middle of the Jordan from right where the priests stood and to carry them over with you and put them down at the place where you stay tonight.”
4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had appointed from the Israelites, one from each tribe, 5 and said to them, “Go over before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan. Each of you is to take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the Israelites, 6 to serve as a sign among you. In the future, when your children ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 tell them that the flow of the Jordan was cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. These stones are to be a memorial to the people of Israel forever.”
What a miracle! “It is a miracle”, said former Pastor, Paul Ibisch, “that First Evangelical Lutheran Church is here today”. Pastor Ibisch was invited to speak for the first of four anniversary services to be held at First Lutheran in La Crescent in this our 75th year. Pastor Ibisch served First Lutheran from 1995 to 2009.
Preaching from Joshua 4:1-7, Pastor Ibisch compared the existence of this congregation with that of the Israelites crossing over the Jordan River into the Promised Land. What a miracle! It was a miracle in itself that the Israelites were even on the border of that land. It was a miracle that they were chosen to be God’s people, to be brought out of Egypt, to be guided through the wilderness, to be entering into the land of God’s promise, let alone to cross the raging flood waters of the Jordan River on that day.
Yet God shows his people once again that he was fulfilling his promises. He was keeping his Word, even though his people failed in sin, again and again. And so on that day, God miraculously stopped the waters of the Jordan River so that his people would pass into the Promised Land on dry ground.
What a great reminder it is to us that we are the people of God, and the fact that First Evangelical Lutheran Church exists, is all a miracle of God. It was God who chose us through the gift of faith given us in Holy Baptism, crediting to our account Jesus’ righteousness won for us in his perfect life and death on the cross. The fact that a group of believers would come together to share their resources to proclaim the Gospel is a miracle of God. The fact that the congregation still exists today has nothing to do with the people, who fall short in sin, but has everything to do with God and his grace and providence.
So the congregation takes time in this year to remember. And that is exactly what God wanted the Israelites to do, to remember. The Lord God had the men of each tribe take stones from the dry river bed through which they crossed and set up a memorial, a pile of rocks to remember the grace of God. In the future, when anyone passed that area, they would remember the miracle and grace of God. It would be an ongoing memorial.
So too, the members of First Lutheran could remember the grace of God as they come to worship or Sunday school or Bible Class in a building that is also made of stones. But the church and the ministry isn’t about a building, but about the stones that make up the church, that is Jesus Christ the cornerstone, and his people. The Apostle Peter declared, As you come to him, the living Stone (Jesus)—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
(1 Peter 2:4-6,9)
Believers are the “living stones” and the reminder that we are alive in Christ. We are the reminder of God’s grace in Jesus to a sinful world. We are a reminder of the vitally important responsibility to share, to declare the praises of God who called us out of darkness into the light of life in Jesus.
This, the members of First Lutheran, will continue to remember and share throughout this 75th Anniversary year, and forever in the existence of the congregation filled with “living stones”. Keep Christ First!
Pastor Chris Christenson
First Evangelical Lutheran Church