It was a bright, blue and very hot Pentecost Sunday morning in Fort Walton Beach, FL when I returned to the "Stash" of seven churches down around First Ave. which I had recently discovered. I had intended to visit the Methodist congregation and there it was ~ the very first edifice as I turned up from Hwy. 98.
The parking was filled, and a courteous usher guided me into an overflow slot across the street. I was cordially greeted and the parishioners whom I sat among quickly welcomed me. Before I knew it I was handing out campaign cards and people were wishing me "Good Luck" in the fight to put God Back In America!
This being the beginning of their Summer Season, everyone was urged to dress casually (though there were a number of suits apparent) and there was a combined service featuring both contemporary and traditional elements. (Listen to the video below for the Contemporary start). But the traditionalists were clearly in charge and that was all the "Contemporary" I recall. Moreover the kid who introduced the song apologized to the large congregation for "the repetitive" style of their rendition!
It was an "AH-men" environment in beautiful stained-glass surroundings. There were female acolytes present. A collection was taken. The organ music was awesome. (Look at the gigantic pipes behind the choir in the photo below). A cordial "Meet 'n Greet" ensued at one point; but there was no Communion today. A large, enthusiastic congregation joined powerfully in the various hymns.
Afterward, As I stood outside, a gentleman from the nearby Catholic church walked by and complemented the beautiful stone exterior. I agree!
THE MESSAGE: "A Big Pile of Rocks."
(Senior Pastor Rev. Michael Sigler preached on Joshua 4:1-7)
At the outset Pastor Mike reviewed the situation in which the Jewish exiles found themselves at the time of Moses. The Jews were in The Sinai approaching Canaan. Moses sent out 12 men to reconnoiter the land. Joshua was one of only two of the spies to return with a positive report. The other 10 men were very negative about the challenges perceived and unfortunately Godís People departed from their "Walk of Faith", believed the naysayers, declined the challenge and wondered in the desert for another generation until Moses died and God raised up Joshua to lead them.
The Jews thus finally approached the Promised Land. But the Jordan river was at flood stage and there was no way to cross. God commanded the Prophets to lead the way with the Ark of The Covenant and enter the water. He told them that as their feet touched the water, it would part.
And sure enough, so it was. God did a mighty work and His people crossed the Jordan.
There has been much secular speculation as to how this was achieved. Some say there was an earthquake that triggered the parting of the waves. In any event God performed the miracle.
Then God issued unusual instructions: He told Joshua to command twelve men (one from each tribe) to return to the river and have each one of them pick up a large stone, carry it back to the encampment and use all the stones to build a great memorial which they would use to remind later generations of the Jordan Miracle.
Why should we care?
Well, we must all be about building our own memorials.
Whenever God transforms our journey, we should build a memorial that we can return to, gain power from, and use to build up our faith for the challenges ahead. Every church and believer should from time to time return to such memorials to remind them of Godís past faithfulness, so as to strengthen us for future tasks and journeys.
So collect your memorial stones. (Here pastor reminisced about some of his own memorial stones from the past relating to his conversion and call to ministry). We need the strength we gain from reflecting on those instances when God spoke clearly to us. Those are our memorials. But often we must walk by faith alone; and it is then that our memorials strengthen us.
So gather your memorial stones and keep them in your lives. This church altar is in a real sense a memorial stone to many parishioners through the marriages, baptisms, salvations and ministries that have occurred here. (Pastor then reflected on some recent financial challenges for the church in regard to its building debt during the recession: Miraculously a half million dollars had been pledged by parishioners, themselves in financial crisis. He said: "Thatís one of our memorial stones").
Therefore treasure your own memorial stones. But do not be deflected from your purpose by too much retrospection. You need to move on to The ĎPromised Land.í "Either youíre green and growing or over-ripe and dying." Be careful of Tradition (good) c/f Traditionalism (bad). The first is the living faith of the dying; the latter the dying faith of the living!
Do not let our memorial stones and traditionalism hold you back. Those stones could have trapped Godís people on the banks of the river Jordan. But they moved on to the Lordís destination. Do not remain in a prison cell. Use your memorial stones as a launching pad and move forward. Like a plant: Root yourself in Godís Values, grow on His foundation stones, and unfold your destiny while remembering, in faith, Godís past support as evidence of His future assistance.
Pd. Pol. Adv., paid for and approved by Dr. Bill Escoffery,
Candidate for U.S. Senate from Florida.
Copyright © 2010 by William Escoffery III. All