“Wir sind Bruder.” (We are brethren.) These are the words spoken by Philip William Otterbein, a German Reformed pastor, when he greeted Martin Boehm, a Mennonite preacher, in 1767. Martin Boehm had just completed a sermon in Isaac Long’s barn. Boehm had been preaching about the need for each person to have a personal religious experience. From that meeting in 1767, Otterbein and Boehm worked together to from the Church of United Brethren in Christ. (Frederick A. Norwood, The Story of American Methodism, (Abingdon Press, Nashville; 1974), p. 105) This church merged with the Methodist Church in 1968 to form the United Methodist Church.
The idea that we Christians can indeed be brothers, and sisters, stems from what happens when we start to follow Jesus Christ. When Jesus Christ becomes Lord of our lives, then we leave the past behind, taking on a new life in Christ. This new life in Christ is shared with all of the people who have experienced God’s mercy in their lives.
When we leave the past behind, it sort of takes on the process the Israelites went through as they entered the Promised Land. For when the Israelites finally finished their 40 year journey through the wilderness, they crossed through the water to the Promised Land. As we want to move into God’s kingdom, God’s house, we also cross through the water. Now, for us this water is the water of baptism. Though the Israelite men had to be circumcised to show they were claimed by God, we find that baptism is the sign of our being claimed by God.
Joshua and the Israelites were now ready to take possession of the Promised Land. After the time of healing after the circumcisions, the Israelites heard from the Lord. The Lord said to Joshua, “Today, I have rolled away from you the disgrace of Egypt.”
A. What is the “disgrace of Egypt”? (5:9)
1. Israel went to Egypt to escape the famine in Canaan
2. After becoming numerous, Israel was enslaved by Egypt
3. God heard the cries of the Israelites and delivered them from slavery
4. Now, after 40 years Israel is free from the moniker of slavery
5. What does this mean for us? We are known too often for the sins we have done. We were known for our alcohol-consuming, drug-riddled, gossip-telling, affair-making, video game-playing, cigarette-smoking, TV-watching, sitting-around lazy lives. But when we passed through the waters of baptism, we are no longer known that way. We are known as Jesus-loving, Spirit-filled, people-praying, marriage-keeping, Bible-reading, communion-taking, Bible study-going, neighbor-serving Christians!
6. It may be a personal decision to get baptized. But it is a decision which brings us into the church. It is a decision to recognize God has taken our disgrace away. Deciding to follow Jesus does mean we leave the past behind, except for the knowledge of how God delivered us.
B. We keep remembering what God has done for us through Passover (5:10)
1. A lamb’s blood was spread around the door frame so the angel of the Lord would Passover the gathered Israelites
2. It was on Passover that Jesus was killed
3. It is Jesus’ blood, shed on the cross, that makes us clean. For not only is our disgraceful lives rolled away, but we are made clean of those sins.
4. So, we remember Jesus’ body broken and his blood shed for us when receive Holy Communion
5. When we forget what it cost Jesus to take away our sins, we have forgotten too much! It is the repetition of this sacrament which keeps us connected to God, and to each other. Leaving the past behind means leaving our old life in the past. Leaving the past behind means we gain new life with Christ and with Christians. For even our appetites are different because of the mercy of God.
C. We find God has new mercy for us (5:11-12)
1. Manna, for 40 years!
2. Now, the Israelites could enjoy the produce of the land
3. In our alcohol-consuming, drug-riddled, gossip-telling, affair-making, video game-playing, cigarette-smoking, TV-watching, sitting-around lazy lives, it was the mercy of God that kept us alive
4. As we live our lives as Jesus-loving, Spirit-filled, people-praying, marriage-keeping, Bible-reading, communion-taking, Bible study-going, neighbor-serving Christians, we see new mercy from God
5. Manna sustained the Israelites, mercy sustains us
6. Holy Communion fills us with new life, God’s mercy fills our lives
7. We are leaving the past behind because we see and know the mercy of God for a new life. We are waiting for the kingdom of God to get here fully and completely. We are preparing to live in God’s kingdom. This involves living a new way, God’s way!
What mercy God has for us! What mercy we give each other as we don’t remember everyone’s alcohol-consuming, drug-riddled, gossip-telling, affair-making, video game-playing, cigarette-smoking, TV-watching, sitting-around lazy lives!
For then we free each other up, after God has freed us from our disgrace, to live as Jesus-loving, Spirit-filled, people-praying, marriage-keeping, Bible-reading, communion-taking, Bible study-going, neighbor-serving Christians.
Have you decided to leave the past behind? Are you ready to move into God’s kingdom? We want you to know the life of following Jesus sure is worth all we have given up. There is nothing like living a life without disgrace. The Israelites enjoyed such a life. We are enjoying such a life. You can enjoy such a life. Come on, start receiving the new mercies that God has for you!