This fall, Jack’s sermons have followed the Israelites’ from slavery, through the wilderness, and into the Promised Land. This has been especially meaningful for me as a worship planner. As I research songs that are based on these scriptures, I am struck by the number of songs that use these Old Testament stories, reimagining them through New Testament eyes. Case in point, this week’s image of the Israelites crossing the Jordan River is used over and over again in hymns, like this verse from “Guide Me, O My Great Redeemer”:
When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Bid my anxious fears subside.
Death of death, and hell’s destruction,
Land me safe on Canaan’s side.
Many hymn writers recast Jordan and the promised land as passing from death into eternal life, like these 1787 lyrics by Samuel Stennett:
On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand,
And cast a wishful eye
To Canaan’s fair and happy land,
Where my possessions lie.
All o’er those wide extended plains,
Shines one eternal day.
There God, the Son forever reigns,
And scatters night away.
Psalm 107, the lectionary Psalm for Sunday, echoes the theme of being saved from slavery and wandering, delivered into God’s promised rest. Lest you think that only dead hymnwriters and living worship nerds take these scriptures to heart, I encourage you to read my friend David’s latest update from the drug rehab house he runs: http://tierranuevadavid.wordpress.com/2014/10/24/that-night-i-had-nobody-to-call/. In it, he tells the story of Shane, who wandered the streets of Seattle looking for his next high, until God rescued him. Shane now claims Psalm 107 for his own:
Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out!
Tell others he has redeemed you from your enemies.
For he has gathered the exiles from many lands, from east and west, from north and south.
Some wandered in the wilderness, lost and homeless.
Hungry and thirsty, they nearly died.
“Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he rescued them from their distress.
He led them straight to safety, to a city where they could live. (verses 2-7 from the New Living Translation)
My hope is that we will all learn the stories of God’s people in scripture, allowing them to work deep into our being, until they become our own stories.