Below is a copy of the sermon I preached on Sunday, March 6, in Cove Presbyterian Church, Weirton, West Virginia and Two Ridges Presbyterian Church, Wintersville, Ohio. You can also find a podcast of this sermon on The Cove Podbean page. You can also find a podcast of this sermon on The Cove Podbean page.
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The Lord said to Joshua, “Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.” And so that place is called Gilgal to this day.
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.
Anyway, this last Monday, I went and saw The Revenant, not The Reverent. And I’ve got to tell you, after seeing it, I’m really glad it has nothing to do with clergy. Now without giving any kind of spoiler alert, I will tell you, you would really enjoy it if you like snow and Leonardo being mauled by a bear and snow and Leonardo being buried alive and snow and Leonardo crawling into a gutted horse and of course snow. I’m going to be straight with you, if you have something against the color white, don’t go to this movie. This is one (wait for it) cool western.
And you know, I think we’ve got something sort like that in the passage we read from Joshua. I mean, just think about what’s going on here. The people of Israel have finished their wandering around in the wilderness, and they were right on the edge of the promised land. In other words, they were about to enter something new, a new phase in their history. Sort of like those black and white settlers, they were about to move from their past into their future.
But before they made that move, according to passage, three things happened. You see, first, “the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.’” In fact, the name “Gilgal” is very close to a Hebrew word that means “I have removed.” In other words, God sort of changed the way they should see their past. And then, second, they did something that reminded them of God’s presence. I mean, it says that “...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.” And then, third, they recognized, they accepted that things had changed and so would they. According the writer, “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.” You see, they were no longer wanderers who needed constant care to survive. That had changed. Now, they’d have to raise their own crops and eat what was coming from their own land. I’ll tell you, just like in those old movies, these are some things the people Israel did before Joshua, their leader, said “Forward Ho.”
And I’ll tell you something else, I think the exact same thing applies to us as we move into the future. And you know, this is something we’re constantly having to do, whether we want to or not. I mean, quoting Fatty Arbuckle, “good night nurse,” I can think of only one sure fire way to avoid moving into the future, and it’s something most of us try pretty hard to avoid as long as we can. No, we’re always moving from the past and into something new, something different. And for that reason, I think we can be a whole lot more successful in making this trip by remembering these three things we talked about in this passage.