A New Beginning
The new year is a time of beginnings. The old year has gone and a fresh new year awaits us all.
The beginning of a new year in many ways parallels the situation in which the children of Israel found themselves prior to crossing the Jordan River and entering the promised land. The Jordan River could be viewed as symbolic of the new year.
A few days before the historic crossing Joshua sent messengers through the camp giving the people instructions. The Israelites were told what they themselves were to do in preparation and also what the Lord would do. Those directives are just as true and useful today as we begin a new year as they were more than three-thousand years ago.
"And Joshua said to the people, `Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you.`" (Joshua 3:5) Sanctify is a very meaningful word. It conveys the idea of being selected, made pure and holy, to be made sacred, to consecrate or devote something. As it is used in the context of Joshua's words to Israel it means to separate or to set oneself apart.
The people were told to sanctify themselves. Now an object may be sanctified, such as the alter and various utensils of the tabernacle, but only a person may sanctify himself. We are called upon to separate or set ourselves apart. Such an act of consecration has both a negative and a positive side. Negatively we are to separate ourselves from sin and all that is unlike Christ. On the positive side we are to devote ourselves to become more like our Savior Jesus Christ. Neither of these acts is complete in a moment, but are to be a daily part of the Christian life. Aided by the Holy Spirit we are to continually sanctify ourselves.
There on the banks of the Jordan the people were told, "When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God being carried by the Levitical priests, then you shall set out from your place and follow it, that you may know the way you shall go, for you have not passed this way before." (Joshua 3:3,4) The instructions were very clear and simple. The ark of the covenant was to be carried before the people and they were to follow it.
Time and time again in Scripture we are advised to follow the Lord. Jesus called out to Peter, Andrew, James and John, "Follow me." Years later St. Peter writing to the churches said, "For this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps." (I Peter 2:21) We are to follow, but we are only willing and able to do so if we have first sanctified ourselves, i.e., set ourselves apart for the Lord.
Israel was to follow the ark of the covenant because they had "not passed this way before." Nor have we. The future stretches out before us and we need a dependable guide in this unknown land.
We have such a guide in the Lord. To Israel the ark of the covenant represented the very presence of God Himself. The ark went before the people; entering the Jordan first. The people followed. We are to follow Jesus "the pioneer and perfecter of our faith ." (Hebrews 12:2) Jesus has gone before us to show us the way through this uncharted land.
God also promised to do great deeds on behalf of His people. Joshua said, "Sanctify yourselves; for tomorrow the Lord will do wonders among you." (Joshua 3:5) The next day the Lord did just that. God divided the Jordan River as He had the Red Sea. God cleared the obstacles out of their way and gave them victory at Jericho and throughout the land. But first the people had to sanctify themselves and follow.
A new year awaits each of us. It is as if we were on the banks of the Jordan with the children of Israel looking across at a new chapter in our lives. We haven't passed this way before, but we have the promise of God's Word that if we sanctify ourselves and follow the Lord He will lead us and do wonders among us this new year.
By Rev. F. M. Levi
In anticipation of forming a new parish St. Andrew's ran an ad in a local paper in the northwestern suburbs. The ad stated the position of the Reformed Episcopal Church regarding sexuality. The Chicago Tribune picked up on this and sent a reporter and photographer to St. Andrew's to do an article on the church. The Tribune article was well done and gave us free advertising which covered the entire Chicago area. We had good response from the ad which resulted in a meeting with interested people at the home of Joe Taylor in Lake Zurich. We are presently looking for a place to hold services on Saturday evenings.
In October a group from St. Andrew's took a class on producing a television program at Comcast the cable TV company. Those who completed the course for certification were: Mike Acke, Elaine Spencer, Paul & Amy Christenson, and Frank & Patty Levi. We have been taping Sunday services in preparation for getting a program on local cable stations in the area. Once we get on the air St. Andrew's will have greater visibility.
Missionary of The Month