Back to School:  A Bible Study for Asbury's Worship
(August 29)
by Rev. Lee Johnson

august 29, 2021


This Sunday we bless the backpacks. The blessing is a way of asking God to journey through the school year with children, teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, and parents. I live across from an elementary school located on a busy Kansas City intersection. So, to the list of blessings, I offer up the crossing guard. She, too, needs the blessings of God’s presence. This week I watched her work to help children and parents cross the street. On Monday, the first day of school, I was outside watering and talked with a mother and daughter as they approached the intersection. It was the daughter’s first day of school, ever. The crossing guard led them both safely across the street. I wondered how difficult it was for the mother to leave her daughter at the school door. All week, I watched the same crossing guard help countless others cross the street. What an important task, to help others safely across a busy and dangerous intersection. She should be blessed, too!  Do you remember your first day of school?  Who helped you prepare for the day? If you were offering a prayer of blessing for the year, what would you include in the prayer? Where does God’s presence need to be especially known?


In the Old Testament, the Jordan River divides the “promised land” from the “wilderness.” The river will need to be crossed before the Hebrew people enter the land promised by God. For 40 years, Moses led the Hebrew people in the wilderness. In Joshua 1.1-9, it’s time to cross the river and move into the new land. Moses knew the task of leading his people safely across would not fall upon him. For 40 years and then some, Joshua assisted Moses. Now, with Moses’ death, God turns to Joshua. He will be the one to lead them safely across. When the day arrives, God, aware Joshua is “frightened” by the task, enters into the moment. “Just as I was with Moses,” says God to Joshua, “I will be with you.” Then, God blesses Joshua with the words, “Be strong and courageous,” not just once, but three times. With the blessing of God’s presence, Joshua prepares to lead the Hebrew people across the river.  Read Joshua 1.1-9. What do you make of this story? Why would God tell Joshua to "be strong and courageous,” not once but three times? What difference do you think it made for God to bless Joshua with his presence?


I’m thinking both the mother and daughter needed some “strong and courageous” words last Monday before crossing the intersection into the newness of the school year. If I was offering a prayer of blessing, I would choose to bless the mother and daughter with God’s words to Joshua: be strong and courageous, God is with you on this very day dressed as a school crossing guard. Of course, the crossing guard needs that same blessing, and at least three times over. What an awesome task. Really, who knows what this school year will bring? The “Delta Variant,” especially for those under 12 in an elementary school, is frightening at best.  Be strong and courageous.  And, be safe!  Mask up, everyone.  About those multiple blessings in Joshua 1.1-9, some in our Wesleyan tradition acknowledge a “second blessing” from God which helps the believer cross over into perfection. I tend to believe God’s blessings are limitless. Each and every day, we cross over into something new, some days more frightening than others. The assurance of God’s presence can be a blessing.  Look for the school crossing guard!  God will send others to help you.  How have you experienced the blessing of God’s presence?  What’s the next intersection ahead for you?   


Joshua 1: 1-9


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"Be strong and courageous, for God is with you."


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