6 Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their ancestors to give them. 7 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:6-9)
How many of you like change? This is how I began my first sermon on internship – a change as big for me as it was for the congregation and staff. Not too many hands were raised. Change is uncomfortable and for me it often comes when things are going smoothly. Just when I get used to a certain routine, change can make me irritated. But what if I ask it like this: How many of you like new beginnings? So many more hands were raised! New beginnings can be transformational and life-giving. New beginnings are important in our lives as we reach milestones and begin to live in new ways that are exciting and filled with joy! And they often mean change.
It seems like this coronavirus pandemic has initiated lots of unwanted change. There are new ways of having coffee together over zoom or worshiping together online. Many are working from home or have been laid off from work. Others are risking their own lives to work. And we’re learning new ways to celebrate milestones. Graduation parades have gone through the neighborhood and birthday celebrations have been happening in smaller groups or maybe even not at all. As restrictions begin to be lifted what are the changes in our lives that we can’t wait to go back to “normal”? And what about the changes that we might consider bringing into our new normal?
It’s pretty clear that we will not return to the way things were or the way things have always been. As Joshua is put in charge of bringing the Israelites into the promised land, God promises, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deut. 31:6 NIV) This command and promise are repeated to Joshua by Moses, and after Moses dies God repeats them again to Joshua directly. God has called Joshua to serve in a new way, a way that is scary, a way that he might feel unprepared, a way that is a change from the way things used to be. Joshua leads the people of Israel into a land they had been promised, but it would be different. It wouldn’t be like any of them had experienced before. Scary? Sure. And they cling to the hope that God goes with them. This is a new beginning and a reminder that God’s love is unending. God never leaves us alone. We may be isolated, but we are not alone.
As I’m finishing writing this devotion, I learned that my cousin and her husband just had their first child. A baby girl! What a gift and what joy to welcome a new life into this world! I’m sure this is not the world they anticipated welcoming her into 9 months ago, and yet I’m confident they are filled with joy in this new beginning. Things will not be the same for them in many ways, and we hope in our risen Lord Jesus Christ that they will all remain healthy and safe. One thing we know for sure – God will always be with them.
Next week I will graduate from seminary and I am currently in the call process, waiting to hear whether or not I will be called to be a pastor of a congregation in North Dakota. There are so many unknowns right now. I am hopeful for a new beginning in which we can all live confident in God’s presence in our lives.
Each day is a new beginning. Each day we have opportunities to learn and grow and change. What change do you need to embrace this week?
Faithful God, the recent changes in our lives are uncomfortable and we miss so many opportunities to gather together. Thank you for your promise to never leave us, no matter how much life changes, and thank you for new life! Remind us daily of your presence and your love. Grant us grace and peace as we experience new beginnings, isolated, but not alone! Thanks be to God! Amen