As rivers go, the Jordan River is not that impressive. It is only 80 miles in length, but the water that flows through those 80 miles is central to the biblical story of faith. It was through the water of the Jordan River that Joshua led the Hebrew people into their new identity as God’s chosen people. If you will recall, the story of Joshua leading the Hebrew people through the Jordan River into the Promised Land is found in the third chapter of the book of Joshua as 40 years of wandering in the wilderness had come to an end. The reason this time of wandering started in the first place is because the former Hebrew slaves whom Moses had led out of Egypt through the water of the Red Sea had rejected the responsibility of living into the new reality of their calling as God’s chosen people as they looked back with favor on their time as slaves in Egypt.
Now, almost 1,000 years later, it is by the water of the Jordan River that John the Baptist is calling the Hebrew people to live in their identity as God’s chosen people as they behold Jesus, the Lamb of God. To appreciate today’s scripture verses in the Gospel of John, it is important to review these earlier verses found in the first chapter of the Gospel of John:
There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world. He was in the world and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gae power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.
It was by the water of the Jordan River that John the Baptist shared the vision of new life that is made possible through the Lamb of God, but you do not have to be present physically at the Jordan River in order to live in the vision of life to which John bore witness.
Bob Childress grew up on Buffalo Mountain near the Peaks of Otter in Bedford, Virginia during the days of the depression. The identity of the mountain lifestyle in which he grew up was noted for moonshine, fighting, knives, and guns. One day he was playing cards in the blacksmith shop with six friends when one of them hit his head with a whiskey bottle. Hours later, when Bob regained consciousness, he was alone in the dark as his friends had left him. His head throbbed and his hair was sticky with blood, but he reported that it was his heart that was suffering the most. He asked himself why there wasn’t even one of his friends who cared whether he had lived or died as he remembered the lines on a tombstone that he used to recite as a joke:
Beneath this stone John Anderson lies, nobody laughed and nobody cries
And where he’s going or how he fares, nobody knows and nobody cares
Bob Childress said he understood the message that was being communicated on this tombstone as he felt alone. Time and again he saw men kill each other. His cousin and he would take out their pistols and dare men to shoot them – hoping sometimes that they would. Once a man pulled out his gun and held it in both hands as he aimed and fired at Bob no less than 10 feet away. Bob wondered why he felt no pain. When he realized that the man was so drunk that he could not shoot straight, Bob cried.
Then, one day, after playing cards and drinking for hours, Bob found himself six miles from home outside a little church. He was never quite sure how he got there as he went into the sanctuary and sat down. It was a Methodist Church and there was a revival. He also said he did not remember all that happened during the service, but when an invitation to follow Jesus was extended to the worshipers something inside of Bob urged him to go forward to the communion rail. As he knelt at the rail, he felt no sudden revelation, only a sense of peace and, for the first time in his life, it seemed that he rested.
I would submit to you that Bob Childress had arrived at the Jordan River as the identity of his life began to be defined by the Lamb of God and the biblical story of faith.
In the years that followed, Bob Childress became a Presbyterian minister for the people of Buffalo Mountain whose lives were defined by moonshine, guns, knives, and fighting as he shared the peace that he experienced in that revival service. His ministry and his life was identified by this calling that defined his ministry; “each one of us is tending the little patch of ground God lends to us.” Whether that patch of ground be:
- through the water of the Jordan River when Joshua led the former slaves into a new identity as God’s chosen people
- by the water of the Jordan River as John invited God’s chosen people to behold the Lamb of God
- by the water of faith that flows through us as we tend the patch of ground known as Fort Hill United Methodist Church as we behold the Lamb of God.
The Lamb of God
by Pastor Marc Brown
January 14, 2024
Accompanying Scriptures: John 1:29-34
Fort Hill United Methodist Church
Order of Worship for January 14, 2024
Scripture Lesson John 1:29-34
The Good News “The Lamb of God”
Music “I Saw a River Flowing” by Benjamin Brody
Closing Music “Brother James’ Air” by Penny Rodriguez