Those of you who are baseball fans probably know the significance of the number 42. It was the uniform number for Jackie Robinson, the first baseball player to break Major League Baseball’s color barrier that segregated the sport for more than 50 years. To remember this event, each year, Major League Baseball has a date where every player wears the number 42, and not their own name and number on the back of their jersey.
There are numbers in Scripture that are equally powerful. I think of the numbers 7, 10 and 12. But the number that seems most prominent to me in Scripture is the number 40. The Great Flood for Noah and his family that symbolized God’s judgment on a sinful people lasted 40 days and 40 nights (Genesis 7:12). Moses endured a fast of 40 days and nights in his time with the Lord as he received the Ten Commandments (Exodus 34:27-28). Israel spent 40 years in the Wilderness in preparation for their entrance into the Promised Land, literally turning over the generation of those adults who left Egypt to a new generation(Joshua 5:6).
In the New Testament, Jesus went from his baptism to be led into the wilderness by the Spirit for a time of fasting and temptation by the devil for 40 days and forty nights (Matthew 4:1-3). Finally in the Easter Season, we recall that there are 40 days between Easter Resurrection and the Ascension.
That is why I found it a wonderful opportunity to choose 40 as part of Grace’s new address, 40 North Main, Hatfield, as we attempted to better reflect the area where people arrive and leave the church. We could have chose any number between 30 and 100, but I felt it had to be 40.
You see, 40 is a number that signals both Biblical journey and our journey in recent years as a congregation. In the Bible, 40 designates a time of trial and testing. God’s people with God at their side, move with a period of 40 from one faith chapter to another. It can be a very hard time and we are never the same at the end of the 40 from the beginning of the 40.
Grace has known such a faithful journey from the devastating fire on December 31, 2011, to several pastoral transitions, a time for considering where God was leading us for the future, and faithfully choosing to move forward– all with the help of God. Grace has gone through a Biblical kind of 40 and today we are not the same as we were. I serve in the second year as the settled pastor of this wonderful congregation. We are getting ready to break the ground for a new and renovated facility to for the sake of the Gospel for generations to come. But there has been many trials. There has been loss. Some mourn the ending of what had been and regret we can not return to a former day. Others are looking ahead with eager and faithful anticipation.
One of my favorite prayers is found in our worship book’s Evening Prayer service. I believe it describes the people of Grace, Hatfield at this time. I invite you to pray it with me. O God, you have called your servants to ventures of which we cannot see the ending, by paths as yet untrodden, through perils unknown. Give us faith to go out with good courage, not knowing where we go, but only that your hand is leading us and your love supporting us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Together in Ministry,
+ Pastor Dave Lutcher