Deacon Marcia Tomlinson
Bradford Congregational Church-UCC
2 Corinthians 5: 16-21
March 31, 2019
Fourth Sunday of Lent
“The manna ceased on the day they ate the produce of the land, and the Israelites no longer had manna; they ate the crops of the land of Canaan that year” (Joshua 5:12)
“So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” 2Corinthians 5:17
We refer to Lent as a journey.
It’s a time of cross over.
If we were to hear today’s Old Testament story of Joshua and the people’s arrival in the Promised Land without knowing the whole story of the journey to get there, its importance would be meaningless.
Leading up to today’s part of the story about the people’s arrival in the Promised Land, is the Gilgal … the stacking of stoness from the Jordan River.
Stacked to be a sign the parents could point to when telling their children about the day God’s promise of deliverance was fulfilled.
Stacked to be a sign the parents could point to when telling their children about the day when God’s forgiveness for their past sins was complete and fully reconciled.
Stacked to be a sign the parents could point to when telling their children about the day the manna stopped coming because God had delivered them into a land where they could provide for themselves.
We all remember the abrupt change of diet back in Egypt the night when the Angel of Death passed over the land. Told to be dressed for a hasty getaway, they ate a lamb and burned up any leftovers. Moses told them God would provide.
We all remember the abrupt change of diet in the wilderness. When leaving the shores of the Red Sea behind, the people entered a wasteland. they were soon parched. At last they arrived at a spring; but they found it too bitter to drink. Of course, the people complained. God instructed Moses to toss wood from a certain tree into the water. No sooner was this done than the bitterness was changed into sweetness, and the peoples’ thirst was quenched. God provided.
We all remember the abrupt change of diet about a month later when the people complained ‘At least in Egypt we had all the food that we wanted.’ So God said: ‘I am going to cause food to rain down from the sky.’ The next morning the people saw white stuff on the ground: ‘What is it?’ Moses said: ‘This is the food that God has given you to eat.’ MANNA. It tastes like wafers made with honey. Only pick up as much as each person needs for the day,’ God provided this manna every day from then on.
We all remember the abrupt change of diet when the people then complained that they were sick of eating manna every day and they longed for meat, such as they had had back in Egypt. God heard their grumbling and provided them quail.
Yada, yada, yada.
Complain, Get fed. Praise God. Want more.
Complain . Get fed. Praise God. Want more.
Yet God never abandoned them, never went back on the covenant with them. Never gave up on them.
We all remember when the people escaping from Egypt reached the Red Sea and thought all was lost. God parted the waters so they could safely walk across to the other side. 40 years later there was another river to cross.
Think of the Waits River right now … it’s deep and dangerous, brutally cold. But that same river in 5 months will be easily crossed and refreshingly cool. The Jordan River of this morning’s lesson was even more swollen and treacherous than the Waits River when the people came to its eastern shore. what happened? You guessed it, God parted the waters so they could safely walk across to the other side. Bookended miracles of deliverance … the Red Sea and the Jordan River. God had provided for them every step of the way.
We all remember, that once the people crossed to the Jordan’s western shore, Joshua had one man from each of the 12 tribes go back and retrieve a stone. When all 12 stones had been brought back, they were piled together, a sign that here at this spot, God had fulfilled the steadfast promise to deliver the people.
“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Lam. 3:22-23
Today’s Old Testament lesson is what happened right after God’s people were safely delivered into the Promised Land. It was spring and time for the Passover Feast. Meanwhile, the locals were hastily abandoning their fields and homes and fleeing to Jericho for protection from these foreigners who somehow successfully crossed the raging Jordan. The next morning, instead of their usual daily dose of manna, God’s people found the crops and livestock and supplies abandoned by the Canaanites. Precious ingredients for the “stone soup” dished up by God.
God had provided every nutritional need for the 40 year wilderness journey. Now The daily dose of manna was no longer needed.
“Give us this day our daily bread” … is part of the prayer Jesus taught his disciples and has been passed down to us over the centuries. When knowing that manna was called the bread of angels, it now makes so much sense why we ask for “daily bread” . It acknowledges God as the source of our spiritual sustenance … a spiritual sustenance we need renewed every day.
We refer to Lent as a journey, a time to cross over from what was to what is. But what is our life compared to one of God’s people journeying from Egypt to Canaan? Those people had to shake off the influence and temptation of Egypt, to stop looking back at it with yearning for the good old days. When life may have been hard but there was ample food and drink and … enjoyments … when God was not as important to them as Pharaoh.
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Is. 43:18-19
Those who crossed the Jordan River had lived their entire lives not under Pharaoh’s protective reach, but by being fed and protected by God. They were, despite their large numbers, a tight knit group with one leader, Moses, and his successor, Joshua. When told that stones were needed for a memorial, they collected the stones. Gilgal. A new word for a new life.
I mentioned from the start that Lent is a journey.
Now it’s our time to cross over from being mere followers of Jesus to being the ambassadors of Christ mentioned in today’s epistle reading.
That is our next great crossing: to seek out and invite in everyone for a seat at the table of God’s great steadfast love banquet. Amen!