Last Sunday I did something I very rarely do. I preached another preacher’s sermon. The sermon, “the Jordan River” was adapted from a sermon preached by J.W. McGarvey back in 1893! When I read that sermon, I was so moved by it that I just knew I had to try to preach it myself. I’m sure I did not do it justice, but I found the material fascinating, memorable and extremely encouraging. Toward the end of that sermon, I made the point that one of the reasons that the Jordan River is famous is because of the association it has in the minds of believers regarding death and crossing over into the promised land. Metaphorically, we cross over the Jordan when our period of earthly, “desert wanderings” is finished, and we are ready to move into that sweet home of eternal comfort and bliss.
When I preached that sermon, I knew the time was short for our dear sister, Melba Deitrick. The wife of Don Deitrick, one of our elders, sister Melba has been struggling physically for quite a few months, and the time of her departure was at hand. At this writing, as of early this morning (1/27/2021), she has “crossed over the Jordan” to be with the Lord on the other side. She has ventured safely into that “land which knows no parting.”
There are many words of tribute and memorialization which will be uttered about Melba in the days and weeks ahead. She lived an amazing life which has influenced many, and her legacy will continue to have a positive, encouraging influence long into the future. One of the passages from brother McGarvey’s sermon which I did not specifically use, but which seems now especially appropriate, reads as follows: “But now we pass on, and treat more briefly, by far, the last source of this wondrous river’s fame. It is the association which connects it in the minds of Christians with that which is very dear and precious to every Christian heart, when we sing that good old song, “On Jordan’s stormy banks I stand, And cast a wishful eye; To Canaan’s fair and happy land, Where my possessions lie.” Here is a mingling of the ideal and the real which is very strange; but the ideal is caught by every man that sings it, round the whole earth…Every man imagines himself standing on the literal Jordan, and at the same time he instinctively feels himself standing on the brink of that dark river separating us from the heavenly land. Every man, when he hears that song, looks over to the hills of the earthly Canaan, and at the same time is gazing upon the blooming fields of the everlasting paradise of God. And why this association? Because, when Israel had wandered and wandered, until now they were within full view of the land of promise, they must yet cross that dark and swollen river, before they can enter into it. And if they had gone into that river just as they were, with none but their own strength, they would have been washed away, every one of them, down into the Red Sea, and the nation would have perished. Just so, when you and I shall have wandered, no matter how long, we finally come to that which is properly called a deep, dark river, a turbid stream that we must cross. If we plunge into it in our own unaided power, we sink to rise no more. The bottomless pit receives us. The Israelites were able to cross that river because God himself was in their midst, and standing by Joshua their leader; and you and I will be able to cross this one, and stand on the eternal shores, if only God and Christ are with us when we make the plunge. We often have a false conception about death, to our own injury, and to the disturbance of our thoughts; we think of it, perhaps, as a plunge into some dark, cold, chilly stream, as it is represented in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress–we sink down and touch bottom, and spring up, and in the darkness we struggle and pant until, after a long and fearful effort, our feet begin to touch bottom toward the other shore. I do not believe that. I believe that all the pain you and I will suffer will be on this side of death, this side of the river. I believe it will be with you and me (if God be with us there) as it was with the Israelites–that the very moment our feet begin to dip in the brim of death, death will vanish, and we are over there at once–you will cross it as soon as you touch it. There is no long, dark, terrible struggle. When you touch death it is gone forever, the light of the glorious land shines that moment upon your soul, and the glories of the eternal world are in your eye. I believe that. And what a blessed thing it is.”
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.