“Choose this day”
The scripture this week is the story of Joshua leading Israel into the Promised Land. Before Israel could cross the Jordan River they were asked to do three things. Joshua asked them to choose which God they would serve in the new land, the males were asked to be circumcised and then they were called to cross the river into a new life.
It is not coincidence that John the Baptist returned to that spot to do his baptism. When people asked what they needed to do to be saved, John called them to works of justice (Luke 3:3-14). John wasn’t baptizing into the Christian Church, he was trying to return Israel to its original calling. It was like he was saying, “let’s try this again.”
Joshua wasn’t asking Israel to worship a sectarian God, nor was John the Baptist. They were both asking the people to live out of their highest principle. And what is the highest principle? The highest value ever discovered by human beings is the common good of all people. Every other good must serve this purpose.
Circumcision was a symbol that we must cut off anything that makes that highest value impossible. When Christianity replaced circumcision with a baptism by immersion, it was being true to the prophets who call us to the “circumcision of the heart.” Both symbols mean dying to the past and being born into the future. They both symbolize giving up our habits, addictions and comforts so we can enter into the common happiness.
Finally, came the call to cross the line and go into the Promised Land. Many claim that Israel itself is the Promised Land. Today, many in the church claim that we are the Promised Land. Both claims are wrong. The Promised Land is wherever people live for the common good of all. To cross the line means to live today the way you hope the world will someday be. To cross the line means to be a diplomat for life as we are called to live it.
The Promised Land is not Israel, or the church, or Mecca. The Promised Land is wherever justice rules and all are clothed, all are fed and all are welcomed.
(texts: Joshua 24:13-15, Luke 3:3-14)