I was given a lovely gift by Mark & Gretchen Jordan, a brass compass held upright in a matching glass case. Instead of “North” the compass says “God” so as the compass hangs inside its case, the dial is always pointed towards God. Until he gave it to me, Mark didn’t know Joshua 1:9 was engraved on the back, “Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” This very Bible passage Mark carries on his person and from time to time he has reminded me of this phrase which helps me do things I didn’t think I had the courage or fortitude to do. This is a very important gift to me, one that I will keep within eyesight.
One of my first sermons at Saint John’s was based on the plumb line in which the prophet Amos had a vision. If you are unfamiliar with plumb lines, they are used by carpenters and engineers to get a true line and direction. One takes a string, attaches a rock at the bottom, and holds the line so the rock is off the ground. The plumb line thus shows you a straight line from which everything else can be measured and compared. Here’s the vision: “The Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line; he had a plumb line in his hand. The Lord said to me, ‘Amos, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘A plumb line.’ Then the Lord said, ‘See, I am setting a plumb line in the midst of my people Israel; I will never again pass them by.’” (Amos 7:8) During a time of confusion for Saint John’s, God gave us a plumb line that showed which way is up and a straight line against which to measure everything else. After the 8 am service that day, Mark loaned me his plumb line as a preaching tool for use at the 10 am service. Since he is a high-end finish carpenter, his plumb line is pretty fancy – a heavy duty line with a brass pointer at the bottom. Since then, Saint John’s has been fixed on a straight line pointing to God. I am thankful for the compass gift which, like the plumb line, reminds me of where I’ve been and can keep me pointed in the right direction in the future.
There is an eight-pointed fountain in the middle of the courtyard. Have you ever wondered about the shape, or tripped over the cement angles that are higher than the lawn? We had a drone on campus one day taking videos. Looking down on the fountain in those drone videos, I suddenly made sense of the shape. It’s a compass. Four points are north, south, east and west with the other four points showing northeast, southeast, southwest, and northwest. Since some of us arrived at Saint John’s from the northeast, some from the southeast, and others, like the Marshalls, arrived from the northwest, we are all represented on the fountain compass and are reminded that in Christ there is no north or south, no east or west.
Over the years, Mark and Gretchen have helped me find the appropriate direction. In fact, Mark’s motion to the Vestry brought me here. Their gift will stand as a symbol to remind me to be strong and courageous and to not be frightened because the Lord my God is with me wherever I go.