March 25, 2022 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Joshua 5:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:16-17 (NRSV)
While the Israelites were camped in Gilgal they kept the passover in the evening on the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. 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.
From now on, we regard no one from a human point of view; even though we once knew Christ from a human point of view, we know him no longer in that way. If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!
The people of God are not yet all the way to the place God has called them to be. But they are far enough along that they can stop, rest, begin to settle in, and survey the ground.
Traditionally, the fourth Sunday of Lent—tomorrow—has been a Sunday of celebration meant to provide a respite from the long Lenten journey. It’s been called Laetare Sunday (from the Latin for “rejoice”) and Refreshment Sunday. In churches that use purple vestments and paraments (hangings) for Lent, pink ones are often used on this day instead to be more festive—giving it yet another name, Rose Sunday. (If you don’t believe me, you can look at some pink vestments here and here.) In Britain, servants used to be released from their service on this Sunday to visit their home, family, and mother church, and it acquired the nickname “Mothering Sunday.”
When I write these devotionals, I usually pick just two of the three passages the lectionary sets forth for the day, but today I could not help looking briefly at both the Old Testament and the Epistle lesson. (As always, we’ll ponder the Gospel tomorrow.) Both of them have a bit of a celebratory feel.
In the passage from Joshua, the Israelites have finally come to the Promised Land and (in Joshua 3) crossed over the Jordan. While there are many battles and much trauma before them—Joshua 6 will feature the Battle of Jericho, for starters—today’s reading features a huge milestone: no longer do they have to depend on manna to sustain them, but they can begin to settle down and eat the crops of the land around them. It directly follows another milestone (Joshua 5:2-9) where the generation that was born and grew up during the forty years in the wilderness is circumcised.
The people of God are not yet all the way to the place God has called them to be. But they are far enough along that they can stop, rest, begin to settle in, and survey the ground. Looking around as we have just passed the two-year pandemic marker and are beginning to see what the world will look like now, I am tempted to say: that’ll preach.
Our Epistle lesson sounds the same note. It’s part of a longer passage in 2 Corinthians 5 where Paul first reassures the Corinthians that God is with them in both life and death (2 Corinthians 5:1-10) and then, based on that reassurance, calls them to a ministry of reconciliation in the name of Christ based on the fact that Christ has reconciled the world to himself (2 Corinthians 5:11-21). Because of Christ’s death and resurrection, everything has changed. There is more ministry to do, and there are more ways to live into the freedom and newness that Jesus provides. (2 Corinthians has eight more chapters, after all). But we can go forward into that new world confident that God loves us and will provide.
Again, the people of God are not yet all the way to the place God has called them to be. But they are far enough along that they can stop, rest, begin to settle in, and survey the ground. Again, looking around as we have just passed the two-year pandemic marker and are beginning to see what the world will look like now, I am tempted to say: that’ll preach.
How far have you come?
Where are you going?
Where was and is God in your coming and your going?
It’s difficult to think of Joshua’s progress through the Promised Land without thinking of the spiritual “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho.” As you listen to this classic recording by Mahalia Jackson, think of the song as coming not out of an experience of conquest but out of an experience of oppression and suffering, depending on God to sustain the singer on the way. Ask the Lord how you can depend on him for whatever comes next.
Lord, be with me as I rest and refresh myself, and as I survey the ground ahead. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Working the Land (Joshua 5)
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Jennifer Woodruff Tait (PhD, Duke University) is the editor of and frequent contributor to Life for Leaders. She is also the managing editor of Christian History magazine and web editor for the Theology of Work Project, and a priest in the Episcopal Church. She has written a book of poetry, Histories of Us. Jennifer lives in Berea, Kentucky, with her husband, Edwin, and their two daughters.
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