Dear brothers and sisters:
As part of our Lenten emphasis on the Scriptures of the Old Testament, we have recently read in worship the story of the great gathering of the people of God convened by Joshua at Shechem to re-commit their national life to God. This story contains the Old Testament in a nutshell: 1) God offers the covenant of his steadfast loyalty and love to the people; 2) the people promise in return to be faithful to God and his law for their lives; 3) the people then wander away from God and forget their promises to be faithful; 4) God punishes the people through defeat and occupation by hostile forces; 5) the people repent and cry out to God for salvation; and finally, 6) God hears their cries and restores them to their lives of peace and prosperity in return for their promised faithfulness. This is the cycle of human behavior repeated several times in the Old Testament.
This Lent and Easter season, I would like us to borrow a script from Joshua and re-examine our covenant relationship with God and each other. In our worship services the next several Sundays and in our Sunday evening Bible studies, we will continue to explore the story of the people of God and their covenant relationship to God as it is told in the Old Testament. On Easter morning, we, as one people, will make our own re-commitment to the divine covenant. Let us for the moment set aside the technicalities of merger and a new identity, and assume our identity as the unified assembly of the people of God.
I want us this year during the Easter service to renew our covenant relationship with God through a litany that we all will help write. So, I would like you to write down on a sheet of paper the things that God has done for us over the years. Now, I’m going to ask you to write in two columns—one column can be for the blessings that God has bestowed on you and your family, and the other column will be for blessings that God has bestowed on us as a people, as a church—you can think of your own church, Massapequa or Levittown plus our combined effort, should you wish to mention that.
On the other side of the form will be an opportunity to say what we should include in our re-commitment—what promises we should be making as a people to our God. This one too, will have a column for your personal re-commitments, and for the re-commitments you feel should we should make as a people of God—as one church growing out of two, however you want to think about it.
I’m going to distribute the form next week in church (March 6) and give you one week to work on it, and I’ll be the editor, to turn it into a litany of thanksgiving and re-commitment. You can sign the form if you so choose, or just contribute it anonymously. On Easter morning during our 10 a.m. service we will gather as the people of God gathered at Shechem to re-commit to the Lord and to the future of his ministry in this place.
Let this liturgy of re-commitment be the beginning our goal-setting for our life together, our renewed community life that we will live in the marvelous light that shines forth from the face of the risen Savior. The apostle Paul reassures us in I Corinthians 10: 13 that God will not abandon us, that He will not let us succumb to the enticements of the devil, if we approach him with humbleness and repentance. Through his covenant, God will reward us beyond all that we ask or think, so let us turn our hearts during this special month toward God, our pillar of fire by night and cloud by day who will lead us through the wilderness of doubt and confusion into the promised land of love, justice and peace.