Thrive: The Gospel According to Joshua – Erin Robinson Hall

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hidden.
—Matthew 5:13-14

In seminary, I served at Big Bethel AME Church in Atlanta. Along with jumping head-first into new traditions, I got to know some of the beautiful people of this historic church. One of my new friends was Joshua.

Joshua was an energetic five-year-old boy who never stopped asking questions. His mom, Angela, and his two brothers were at church whenever the doors were open.

During Lent, I attended the Ash Wednesday service, ready to help the ministry staff in whatever way I was needed. It turned out that the place I was needed most was right in the pews. The practice of Big Bethel Church was to invite people to come forward to receive ashes. Then anyone wanting a time of personal prayer could remain at the front, praying at the long kneeling bench. Angela took her three boys to receive ashes and then turned on the Mom voice to give them direct instructions: “Go with your oldest brother and sit down quietly.” Angela needed a minute at the altar.

Two of the three brothers did exactly as they were told. But my buddy, Joshua, began to dance his way up the aisle, high-fiving everyone he saw. With my best teacher voice, I waved him over, and he plopped down next to me. He wanted to chat.

“Why can’t I dance?” I assured him he could dance after the service.

“What’s that stuff they put on our faces?” I told him it was a mark of ashes, so we could remember that God made us and that Jesus loves us. He seemed okay with that answer, until he looked around the room and then looked back at my forehead.

“But, you don’t have one on your face!” he said. I explained that I was waiting my turn to go up front. Concerned about my lack of ashes, he reached up and touched the cross on his own forehead. He rubbed the ashes from his skin and then took my face in his hands. He reached out, made the sign of the cross on my forehead with his tiny fingers, and said, “You can have some of my cross.”

Without a second thought, he shared what he had been given. He didn’t want me to be left out, and he knew he had just what I needed. The gospel according to Joshua has stayed with me for a long time.

Whether you are an aisle-dancing, question-asking, tooth-less grinning boy or an often frustrated, over-worked, sometimes believer, you have something to offer the rest of us. The world needs you. The world needs the story that you have to offer, no matter how messy it looks. Why? It is you who add the flavor and the light to this world.

You are the salt of the earth. Your mistakes, your hopes, your quirks, and your gifts sprinkled into the world in the most ordinary of ways are salt. Your certainties and your doubts in faith, your smallest acts of response to the love you have been given are sparks of light that point to Christ.

When we reach into our own story and scrape up the dust of our lives, we may see that grace looks a lot like the cross we see in front of us. Without your story, this walk of faith is just too dull. What the world may need more than any new Bible study or program might just be more people willing to say, “This is where I’ve been. This is what I am hoping. You can have some of my cross.”

Like Joshua, we can offer quite a gift if we look at what we have been given and don’t hesitate to give it away.

Erin_Hall_c_xsmErin Robinson Hall holds a Master of Divinity degree from Candler Theological Seminary, Atlanta, Georgia. She has served as minister of congregational life at Heritage Baptist Fellowship in Canton, Georgia, and for nine years taught in the public school systems of North Carolina, Texas, and Georgia. Erin is currently working on a Doctor of Ministry degree in Christian Education at Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta. She lives in Macon, Georgia, with her husband, Jake, and their almost-two-year-old son, Logan.

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  1. Important words, and a wonderfully told story that will be staying with me. Thank you Erin.

  2. Many of our most profound theological words come from children. It’s important to give them time, so those words can be heard.

  3. Allie Kilpatrick says

    Erin, this is a beautiful story. From the mouth of babes……comes much wisdom. Thank you for sharing it with us.

  4. “Little children praise Him perfectly, and so would we”.

  5. Charity Roberson says

    What a beautiful story and a great representation of the gospel. Beauty from the ashes….

  6. Love this image of “sharing one’s cross” with another — what church is all about.

  7. I love how children remind us what the Kingdom of God is all about. Thanks for sharing this with us.

  8. LeAnn Johns says

    Love this story. Thanks for sharing Joshua’s gospel! What a word!

  9. Thank you for sharing this story which saved a life today.
    A lady had thoughts about not want to live today and with the sharing of your story she begun to believe… ” it is you who add the flavor and light to this world”

    God bless you