Rivers of Hope
Rivers of Hope
“Crossing over Jordan” is an image that shows up in a lot of old African American spiritual songs. The reference is to the Jordan River in Israel and there’s a connection to the Israelites crossing over the Jordan into the promised land. In the songs, the Jordan River then becomes a symbol of crossing over into God’s promises in heaven. It was a hopeful symbol for those in slavery that the next life would be better, that they would find freedom in heaven. Some historians also think that the Jordan River could have been code language for the Ohio river and if slaves could cross over it they would find literal freedom in the North. So the Jordan became a symbol of hope for both this world and the next.
As we come to the end of our summer series on rivers in the Bible, we visit the very last river in the Scripture that we find in the Book of Revelation. This is the River of Life that John sees in his heavenly vision. Like the Jordan River of the African American spiritual songs, the image of the River of Life has been a symbol of hope, especially for those who have been oppressed.
Along with other churches from across our nation we remember this Sunday the beginning of slavery in our country in August 1619 in Virginia 400 years ago. The effect of this legacy of slavery still lingers with us today. As we have seen in the news the last several years, racial tensions continue to flare up causing brokenness and violence in many communities across our nation.
Are there ways that we as a country can be honest about our past while looking ahead towards a more just future? Are there spiritual tools that we as Christians can bring to bear to help find healing? Could our ancient liturgical traditions of confession and repentance be a part of the process of bringing about racial reconciliation? Can that heavenly river in Revelation be a vision that draws us forward towards a place and time when all will gather at its shores and find hope around the tree of life?
-Pastor Erik Goehner