“God’s ways are not our ways,” we often say somewhat flippantly. But to what extent are we willing to live into that reality? How far “out there” are we willing to in our obedient to God? Are we willing to follow the Apostle Paul in being “fools for Christ” (1 Cor 4)? Will we risk public humiliation for the cause of Christ? Will we embrace the peculiar lifestyle Jesus calls us to?
Some events from the Bible are quite over the top and “out there”: Talking donkeys, barbecuing excrement, walking around naked for years, being fed by ravens, pulling coins out of a fish’s mouth, three nights in a fish’s belly, and so on. You start to wonder if perhaps we serve a creative God with a sense of humor!
One of my favorite moments of obedience to God’s absurdity is the fall of Jericho in Joshua 6. Can you imagine being a soldier in Joshua’s army the day they received their odd marching orders? “Alright boys, leave your weapons here, grab your trumpets and let’s march around the city for seven days straight. Don’t say a word, only let the trumpets be heard. Then on the seventh day we’ll march around seven times, blowing trumpets and then we’ll all scream really loud! And then the city will be ours.” Does this sound like an episode from Pee Wee’s Playhouse? I can hear Pee Wee’s voice in my head, saying, “Everybody screeeeeeam reeeeeeeal loud: Aaaaaaaaaah!” Here’s the story:
Then the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.” . . . .
The armed guard marched ahead of the priests who blew the trumpets, and the rear guard followed the ark. All this time the trumpets were sounding. But Joshua had commanded the army, “Do not give a war cry, do not raise your voices, do not say a word until the day I tell you to shout. Then shout!” So he had the ark of the LORD carried around the city, circling it once. Then the army returned to camp and spent the night there.
….They did this for six days.
On the seventh day, they got up at daybreak and marched around the city seven times in the same manner, except that on that day they circled the city seven times. The seventh time around, when the priests sounded the trumpet blast, Joshua commanded the army, “Shout! For the LORD has given you the city!
What a peculiar story! What a strange way to go about invading a city! Is there a lesson in here for us today?
Like the Israelites under Joshua’s leadership standing outside Jericho, so God has called Keri and I to raise up an army of Jesus followers to accomplish the task of “invading” the city of Mound with the love of Christ and starting MainStreet Covenant Church. Here’s how we applied this story to our mission to Mound and the lessons we took from it:
1. First, it is crucial to see that God has already secured the victory and ensured success in this mission. “See, I have already delivered Jericho into your hands.” Likewise, we believe that God has called us to plant this new church in Mound, and that God is going before us, opening doors, stirring in hearts, moving mountains and ensuring us success. If God is in it, we cannot fail. Do we believe that God is at work among us? If he’s not, and we’re depending merely on our human ingenuity and efforts, then I want nothing to do with this! Do we believe God has already given Mound into our hands?
2. Second, are we willing to step out and do some extraordinary things in public that may feel strange, make us uncomfortable, or draw the attention of scoffing onlookers? Imagine how silly the Israelite soldiers felt marching in circles! For example, we got up at 5am the other week to serve free coffee and muffins at the Mound Transit Center to folks waiting for the city bus. This felt weird, and many people were probably thinking, “What are these strange people doing here?” Are we willing to step out of our comfort zone and be odd for Jesus?
3. We believe God is calling us to march circles around Mound this spring and summer, blowing the trumpets of good deeds and serving others in love. Instead of seven days of marching, we’re planning seven different service opportunities and/or social gathering events this spring and summer. We want to be out and about in the city, in the public eye drawing curious looks and making people ask, “Who are these MainStreet people, and why are they doing these things?” This will be our season of blowing trumpets and making some noise for Jesus around Mound.
4. We need to remember that the presence of the Living God is among us, at the center of all we do. In the OT the presence of God was carried in the ark of the covenant, and notice that they followed the ark as they marched around the city? They quite literally, and visibly, carried the presence of God on their shoulders in the ark. Today, God’s Holy Spirit dwells among his people, in the hearts of each of us. This should both sober us and encourage us. God is among us, so let’s be bold in the power of the Spirit in the task ahead. Yet, let’s bow in amazement and conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel since we are Christ’s representatives and God’s ambassadors in Mound.
5. There will come a time to raise our voices and shout. For us, that means that a day is coming when we’ll officially launch this church and begin public worship services. But for now we should “not say word” and just focus on blowing the trumpets of love and good deeds in the name of Jesus. The time for raising our voices and shouting will come in due time.
So, are you ready to grab a trumpet and march circles around your city?