Sharing Burdens on the Long Walk of Obedience

Joshua 6:2-5
2 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. 3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4 Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. 5 When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.”

The timing of our series is striking. The first recorded protest in human history was here in Joshua 6. The Battle of Jericho is a bit of an ironic title because there wasn’t an actual battle. Which is the point. The battle was God’s to win. But the Israelites had a part to play.  It was a long obedient walk around the city. God did everything, but the people had to play their part.

As it goes with good interpretation of scripture you can’t directly apply a story from scripture to current events. Nevertheless, this story conjures the strong symbolism of walls and the long arch of God’s redeeming of the world.  So, we'll depart here from the specific events of Jericho and focused on how God uses walking in obedience.

You may be unaware but Jericho Walks, as activists have called them, are acts of spiritual solidarity calling for other kinds of walls to come down. Walls of injustice, walls of oppression and walls that separate people. To collapse.

There is an important call for us to listen to the pain of others, to walk with them. But then there is a time to shout. To speak aloud what God is doing and wants to do. You see injustice, racism and separation of people is God’s battle.  It is his prerogative, to heal our broken world.  It is a key aspect of the biblical arch of heaven come down and God’s complete and final shalom "on earth as it is in heaven."  As Galatians 6:2 says, to “carry one another’s burdens” in solidarity with the whole of God’s family.  

Racism: Of course we see the burdens that racism brings, and we must listen to the burden that creates. When we as a human race reduce God’s beautiful handiwork into other humans who are different than us and unleash our base fears and insecurities, that is the sin of racism. When God’s children cannot feel safe amongst those who are charged to protect them, the burden intensifies. When a smartphone camera is the only way to bring to light the horrors that a people have endured for generations, the burden intensifies. And this burden is owned by many around us.
Poverty: Combine that with the burdens that poverty brings. When hard working people are no longer employed, the burden intensifies. When ‘food insecurity’ becomes a household phrase, the burden intensifies. And this burden is owned by many around us.
Pandemic: We see the burdens that a pandemic brings. When 100,000 lives are snuffed out in less than three months, each with a family, a future, a story – the burden intensifies. Black Americans are 4 times more likely to die of Covid19. Does this trouble your spirit?  It should.  

If we listen -- really listen -- to the Holy Spirit we may sense where and how God is working and calling. The Spirit pushes us out of our comfortable safety and into the burdened lives of others. To walk with others around the walled city of injustice in our region and country.

This is where the Spirit’s call to pick up the burdens is our call, UPPC. Now you’d think that sharing burdens would create even greater isolation and despondency (which some make the mistake of believing), but actually the opposite is true.  Burdens draw us together.  Why?  Because the only way we endure life’s pain is in the solidarity and joy of community, together. It’s there, together that our shouts of injustice have impact. The battle is God’s, but the long obedient walk of obedience is ours. And if we are humble enough to enter into and share the burdens of others, we will know the unburdening peace of Christ.

"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land."  
--2 Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)

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