Crossing over and abiding

Icon of Joshua by St. Isaac of Syria Skete

Icon of Joshua by St. Isaac of Syria Skete

Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to your ancestors to give them …. I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:6,9)

In this morning’s Old Testament lesson, Joshua is preparing to lead the people of Israel across the River Jordan into the Promised Land. God tells Joshua to “be strong and courageous” and reassures him that he will be with him.

Similarly, in the Gospel reading appointed for today, Jesus is speaking to the disciples at the Last Supper as he prepares to “cross over” through his death on the cross.

“As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you,” Jesus says; “abide in my love” (John 15:9). Jesus reassures the disciples in much the same way as God had reassured Joshua.

We, too, can receive God’s reassurance and a sense of his abiding presence in our lives — by doing just what Joshua and the disciples did.

God says to Joshua: “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” (Joshua 1:8).

“This is my commandment,” says Jesus to the disciples, “that you love one another as I have loved you … I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father” (John 15:12,15). We read in the book of Acts that the disciples did just what Jesus told them to.

Their abiding love, their joy at having “crossed over” with Jesus into new life, was visible to the Roman society in which the church began to grow. Tertullian (c. 200 AD) wrote about Roman society and how they saw the early Christians: “‘Look,’ they say, ‘how they love one another’ (for they themselves hate one another); ‘and how they are ready to die for each other’ (for they themselves are readier to kill each other)” (Apology 39.7).

Cross over (with God’s help) into the new life Christ has pioneered, and abide in friendship with him.

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