Afghanistan & Rahab

Rahab’s family has lived in Israel ever since.

For she hid the messengers whom Joshua sent to spy out Jericho. Joshua 6:25

From time to time over the years an issue has arisen in a congregation or in the larger society and I have wondered about what needs to be said. There are some choices available.

  • Maybe just let it pass
  • Maybe an article for the congregation (like this one)
  • Maybe a call for Prayer – an acknowledgment and prayer at the very beginning of the service, inclusion in a prayer during a service, or setting up a 24-hour Prayer Vigil.
  • Maybe mention in an announcement as a service of worship begins, or in a sermon; perhaps even changing the whole sermon to address the issue.

I have only rarely chosen the latter move – to change a sermon completely: in large part because I have found that the text chosen for the day (often months in advance) has at least one element already in it that in a remarkable way fits the occasion. In fact, I cannot begin to tell you how often I have experienced this type of “coincidence.”

This past Sunday, for example, our text was from Joshua 1. There’s no question – I knew that at some time in late August I would be sharing with the congregation my decision to retire in September 2022, and that Joshua 1 contained one of my favorite stories about transition. In my own ministry, I have followed many beloved pastors, and the story of Joshua following in the steps of Moses has been one I have turned to time and time again for God’s help. Further, since the Book of Joshua is very much the conclusion and sequel to Deuteronomy (the summer series theme) it seemed reasonable to turn in this direction. The timing was good, though maybe with my help, not miraculous!!

However, what WAS miraculous, at least to me, was my re-thinking and re-reading some other parts of the story of Joshua, and remembering the story that I shared with the children on Sunday – the story of Joshua, Jericho, two spies and Rahab their “local” helper.

Why miraculous? Well, because of the similarity of Rahab’s plight with the plight of Afghans who have worked for the United States over the past decades. Read the story for yourself in Joshua Ch.2 and Ch. 6. The two spies promised Rahab that for her enormous help, she and her family would be kept safe from harm when Jericho fell to the Israelites – and Joshua made sure that their promise was kept.

I know that the situation with both Afghans and Americans in Afghanistan has been weighing heavily on many people’s minds and hearts in these days, as it has on mine and Currie’s. For us, there is an additional personal element: two years ago when we visited our mission partners in Jordan, our translator, Basel, was an Iraqi Christian who had worked for the United States military in Iraq.  Basel loved the United States. He and his family were safe, but were stuck in Jordan with health issues that could not be addressed, and as with other refugees in Jordan, not allowed to work.

So, yes, this is a critical moment for prayer in both the world and the church. And for an article. And for a message from the Scripture, for both children and adults.  Re-read Joshua 1 – and 2 – and 6.

So glad to be your pastor,

P.S. Do pray for all refugees as well at this time, and for our capital campaign mission partners especially at the Marka Church in Amman, Jordan, still working with Syrian refugees and Iraqi Christian refugees. My friend, Basel, the Iraqi translator for the US military, is also pictured below.