Blackmon: You Have to Get Your Feet Wet (with VIDEO)
By Tiffany Vail
Associate Conference Minister for Communications
On the eve of the historic vote on whether three conferences should unite to join as one, The Rev. Traci Blackmon preached on how faith in God is what makes bold steps into the unknown possible.
"It is always challenging to move from one place to another, always frightening to let go of what has been to walk into what will be," Blackmon said, drawing on Scripture to tell the story of Joshua leading the Israelites across the Jordan River, following the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant.
"And the Bible said as soon as the souls of their feet rested in the waters of the Jordan, the water stopped flowing, and the people crossed over the Jordan just as those before them had crossed the Red Sea," she said. "What is particularly significant is the role of the priests ... they can only fulfill their sacred task if they are prepared to step in the water and get their feet wet."
"It takes faith to follow God’s leading in our lives, especially when there are obstacles in our way," she said. "Like the Israelites we are called to step out on to the water even when we cannot see how we’re going to make it across."
Blackmon, UCC Executive Minister of Justice & Local Church Ministries, went on to explain the other steps needed before taking such a plunge: waiting for God (the Israelites camped for three days by the Jordan before crossing), watching for God (Joshua's instructions were to follow the ark, representing the presence of God) and honor God by sanctifying yourselves.
"Planning is the easy part of any change. Preparing is the challenge," she said. "Preparing ourselves spiritually and emotionally is the challenge. We must sanctify ourselves. What are the spiritual disciplines you engage in when you are facing change? Do you pray, or do you just protest? Do you fast, or are you just fearful? Do you go before God with your concern, or do you just gossip with one another? The text says sanctify yourself and then follow God."
The journey into the unknown is never easy, she said.
"I hear the spirit saying in this text – I can trust God to handle all the obstacles when I’m acting in God’s will. I may not have all the answers and it may not all be easy but I can trust that I will not drown if I keep my eyes on the ark," she said. "If we can have our way, we would probably like God to pluck us up and set us down on the other side. But that’s not how this works, see, God does not rescue us or save us from the circumstances of our life. Instead, God goes through those circumstances with us. And for every promised land there is a river that must be crossed, and our ability to make it from the wilderness to the promised land lies in our willingness to cross the Jordan."
"There are no bridges across the Jordan," she said. "There are no boats there to take us over. There is no way around the river. The only way is through. How long have you been looking at the obstacles between you and all God has for you? How long have you been standing, afraid to get your feet wet?"
And there is one final step when faced with a difficult journey, Blackmon said.
"That is that you must expect God to show up," she said. "I'm glad to be part of a denomination that expected God to show up. You cannot have a motto that God is Still Speaking unless you are expecting God to say something. We expect God to show up."
At the end of her sermon, Blackmon made it clear she was not for or against the Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island conferences uniting.
"I don't know what you will decide tomorrow, and in many ways, i don't care," she said. "I don't get a vote and I don't have an opinion. I'm just glad you are daring enough to camp out by the river. And I don't have any doubts that God will show up."