March 14, 2010
Fourth Sunday in Lent

Joshua 5:9-12

Dec. 7, 1941: Pearl Harbor—One day you’re at peace, the next day war.
Sept. 11, 2001: the World Trade Center—One day your life is secure, the next day it is in shambles.
Jan. 28, 1986: the Challenger disaster—One day a nation boasts of its accomplishments, the next it mourns its frailty. One day you’re on a seemingly endless journey, the next day you’ve arrived.

That was Israel: 40 years of journeying from Egypt to the Promised Land, 40 years of God’s never-ending supply. Then one day the Israelites were standing on the bank of the river, looking longingly into the promise. The next day they were there—and celebrated. We celebrate what a difference a day makes.

Life changes when we experience God’s activity. What was, isn’t; what wasn’t, is. Even as Israel celebrated the change in their location and existence, we can celebrate the changes in our lives. However…

Before We Can Celebrate, We Must Commit
Israel left Egypt as “am” —the people of God; but 40 years and a generation later, they had lost the mark of their commitment. Their men had not been circumcised. In Joshua 5:4-8, there is a play on the terms for “people.” They left as “am” but entered as “goi”; and that had to change. The decision to submit to physical circumcision was testimony to their decision to commit to be God’s people, now in God’s land. Circumcision would demonstrate their commitment to once again be the people of God (“am”).

Commitment often requires a public stand, a stake driven in the ground. At a lectureship a few years ago, William Willimon addressed the early church’s understanding of baptism. He described people who came to church all dressed in their finest, hair combed and in place. Then, in an embarrassing, undignified act, a preacher plunges you under water and declares you’re a follower of Jesus. That public stand precedes any act of celebration.

With Commitment Comes Change
When you read today’s text, you note the incredible changes that occurred. For 40 years, the Israelites lived in tents, followed a cloud, picked up daily meals from the ground and listened to Moses. Then the manna stopped, and they ate the produce of the land.

Conversion is like that. Massive change. Things are different. One day you are a prodigal; the next day you’re wearing the ring and robe of the king. One day you are unforgiven, lost; the next day, free and found; one day an orphan, the next day adopted into the grand family of God.

Commitment to God is a statement of willingness to be changed, and that change prepares me to celebrate.

After Change Comes Celebration
For the first time in the Promised Land, Israel celebrated the Passover. It’s one of six times we know they celebrated the Passover; but even in the celebration, there is change. Instead of recalling the journey out of Egypt, this celebration celebrated the nation. It recalled the promises of God to create a nation, a people of His very own.

The church continues the celebration through the Lord’s Supper. We remember we, too, were rescued from slavery, carried through the waters and set free in a new land. That freedom warrants celebration.

It was a brisk spring day. Sallie had given her life to Christ and was to be immersed in the icy waters of the Kilchis River. She and Lloyd were shaking as he took her confession of faith. She gasped for air as she arose from the snow-fed waters. The solemn occasion erupted as she decided she shouldn’t be the only one wet. She doused Lloyd with those same cold waters and the celebration began.

What a difference a day makes. One day you are undecided, not fully committed, hardly changed. The next, you’re a committed follower of Jesus, experiencing life change that is hard to explain. You celebrate change. You celebrate with thanksgiving in your prayers. You celebrate at the Lord’s Supper in remembering your journey. You celebrate in your witness as friends see and hear about what God is doing in your life.

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