Monday, March 15, 2004

Lent 4 C Joshua 5:9-12

According to the Revised Common Lectionary, here's the First Reading for Sunday, Lent 4.

Joshua 5

9 The LORD said to Joshua, "Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace [NIV: reproach] of Egypt." And so that place is called Gilgal to this day. 10 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. 11 On the day after the passover, on that very day, they ate the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. 12 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. NRSV

Along with Shechem, Shiloh, and Bethel...

Gilgal was one of the shrines of the tribal confederacy. This text hauntingly recounts the first Passover in the promised land of Canaan! No longer does the community need to count on manna from heaven; now they can harvest and enjoy the land's bounty. Like our New Covenant sacraments, baptism and Holy Communion, Passover was sacramental remembrance, real-time re-enactment, and anticipation of God's future faithfulness in liberating, providing for and shaping the people into a community that reflects and enables God's own faithfulness and liberation.

It's another reminder of God's very physical and earthbound provision! Any times our lives lose the sense of uncertainty we've experienced in the desert's wildness and precariousness and we begin feeling comfortable and assured of life necessities beyond our very "daily bread," we almost inevitably begin trusting ourselves and our own power rather than God and God's power. Despite that fact, "today!" in this text is so present...rolled away the disgrace, the reproach of Egypt, rolled away the shabbiness and dis-grace of bondage and slavery, rolled in a life of freedom—resurrected life, Eastered life! "Today" is extremely close at hand with an urgent sense of here-and-now, emphasizing we need to live "as if" still in the wilderness, as if we still were trusting God every moment for every bite and every breath, because in real life, we are in that liminal position we assumed when God acted in our baptism. Every today we live immersed in vulnerability and dependence, on the boundary between life on our own and life in community.

Living "today" means out of my own control, into God's control and abandoned into the unpredictable embrace and support of the community!

So you've (we've, I've) been to Gilgal, the place of rolling away doubts, pasts, fears, transgressions, regrets and anything else that's been getting in the way.

Abandonment to God! Out of my own control, into God's control and also abandoned into the often not all that predictable embrace and support of the community... the congregation into which God calls us actually is the Body of the Christ: to each of us and to the world the crucified body of Christ in its redeeming brokenness but also the Body of the Risen One in its liberating wholeness. May we see. May we be!

Gilgal is a kind of onomatopoeia for the Hebrew word meaning "roll," as in roll away.

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