[Each Thursday morning I attend the Morning Office in Seibels Chapel of Trinity Cathedral here in Columbia, South Carolina.  The Office is officiated by a dear friend.  Mr friend is a cleric who knows the Bible so well he can practically quote it to you verse by verse.  That is not surprising as he has come to the Episcopal Church through conversion from the ordained ministry of the Southern Baptist tradition.  This morning he actually gave a homily on the passage from Joshua quoted below.  I wish I had a copy to reproduce for you but I don’t.

After the Office my friend and I matriculated to our favorite coffee shop and talked Bible. Somewhere in the midst of the discussion I argued that we need to teach people that the Bible is really a liturgical book and that it cannot be properly understood apart from its liturgical traditions.  My friend nodded and winked but I could tell he felt that learning the whole story of each book was more important and that study should be the priority.  So my firend and I are somewhat like the Episcopal Church in microcosm.  He is a self professed evangelical (in the sense that Luther and Calvin would have defined that term) and I remain very much the Anglo-Catholic.  Unlike many discussions in the Episcopal Chruch ours remain very cordial and I can tell he is trying to understand my thinking as I try very hard to understand his.  That is the way it is supposed to work.  We should be encouraged and enriched by diverse viewpoints and not moved to violence over every disagreement.

Thanks to the good offices of the Reverend Emily Hylden and the Living Chruch Foundation I can reproduce for you today’s edition of the Daily Devotional which contained a wonderful homily by Lindsey Melden on the Joshua lesson  which underscores my point about the Bible and liturgy: So what do these stones mean to you?]


These Stones
Daily Devotional • July 14
By Lindsey Melden
I did not grow up in the Anglican tradition. My parents came to faith in a small evangelical community, and even though they left that community soon after I was born (and never since found a church they loved as much), they raised me in mostly nondenominational congregations. Though the buildings changed, the message was mostly the same. The bedrock of these communities was Bible teaching, God’s salvation by grace, and learning to live and love like Jesus.

Those foundational beliefs formed me. I have a rich understanding and knowledge of the Bible (13 years of Christian school education didn’t hurt either), I never doubted my status as beloved of God, and I love Jesus.

The thing that really drew me to the Episcopal Church, though, is the tradition. The prayers, the calendar, the building, the candles, the sacraments — all the sights and smells that were eschewed by the churches of my youth because they were “dry rituals” were suddenly vivid and very much alive.

My deepest longing is to settle more and more into these traditions; to have my hands and feet move through these rhythms year after year until it feels like breathing, until the pages of my prayer book are worn and soft as silk; until the words of a hymn spring to my lips at the first few notes; until my knees bend and my eyes close and my lips form “Alleluia” with as much ease and familiarity as they stir a mixing bowl, or kneel to pull weeds in my garden.

And when my children ask, “What do these stones mean to you?” I will have an answer: so we remember what God has done.

Joshua 3:14-4:7

When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front of the people. 15Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, 16the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing toward the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the Lord stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan.

4:1When the entire nation had finished crossing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua: 2“Select twelve men from the people, one from each tribe, 3and command them, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the middle of the Jordan, from the place where the priests’ feet stood, carry them over with you, and lay them down in the place where you camp tonight.’” 4Then Joshua summoned the twelve men from the Israelites, whom he had appointed, one from each tribe. 5Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, one for each of the tribes of the Israelites, 6so that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ 7then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off in front of the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it crossed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the Israelites a memorial forever.”

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