How are you doing this week? What range of emotions have you experienced this week? What were your biggest fears? And what, if anything gave you a sense of peace, hope, and kept you from going crazy? As I looked at passages for this week’s scripture passages, I thought, wow how timely and appropriate are the church’s choosing of the scripture passages! The church lectionary is set on a three-year cycle. There are 3 different selections of each church year that rotates. Each calendar year starts from the advent, time of preparation before the birth of Jesus until the next year’s season of advent. So, the church calendar wasn’t picked specifically to prepare us for the election times this year at all. And yet, praises and thanks be to God! We can find wisdom, guidance, and comfort in the word of God this morning.
As we chose our next president by voting, I believe, we can relate to Joshua’s speech to the Israelites. We had elections on Tuesday this past week, on November 3rd. While we were waiting, we didn’t know yet who is going to be the next president of our country. Then 4 long anxious days later on November 7th, we now have a new president-elect. And as we await the next presidential office, I believe the words of Joshua will give us guidance for our faith in God who alone is our creator, sustainer, and savior.
1Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. 2And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors — Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor — lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods. 3aThen I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan and made his offspring many. (Joshua 24:1-3)
Joshua starts by gathering everyone, the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel, all the leaders. Then Joshua said to all the people, recalling Abraham’s legacy and his choices, that the Lord the God of Israel took Abraham from beyond the River, his homeland, and led him through all the land of Canaan, and blessed him making his offspring many.
Just to be clear, to be on the same understanding, let us read the following passage together:
14“Now therefore revere the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15Now if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:14-15)
Joshua acknowledges that the Israelites are the descendants of Abraham. The Lord, the God of Israel, chose Abraham, called him, and led him to a new land, and blessed him so that his offspring were many. So, are the people that Joshua is speaking to now, are they not also chosen, and called and to be blessed? Yes, and No. They are for sure the descendants of Abraham. But Joshua encourages them and asks this generation whom they will serve: “Now therefore revere the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:14).
While reading this passage I wonder about the Gods of our ancestors, were they serving the Lord, the God of Israel? If they were not, did they choose to serve the Lord? Have you inherited their faith? Whatever faith they had, as Joshua says, choose to serve the Lord, but “Now if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living” (Joshua 24:15).
Choose, this day, whom you will serve. Each generation must choose. Each person gets to decide for him/her/themselves whom they will serve. Whatever you were born into, whether you were born into a household of faith or not, whatever faith it was, that is the faith of your family, of your ancestors. Each of us must choose. Not one day, but on this day. Whom you will serve. Whom will Joshua and his household be serving? Joshua tells the people, “as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD” (Joshua 24:15). If Joshua and his household were going to serve the LORD, he could have said, follow my decision, choose to serve the LORD. But he doesn’t. He gives the people a choice whom they want to serve. But they have to choose. You know, this means that even our family, children, grandchildren, extended family, they must choose also.
What we learn from Psalm 78:1-7 is that what our ancestors have told us, we must tell our next generation.
1 Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will utter dark sayings from of old,
3 things that we have heard and known,
that our ancestors have told us.
4 We will not hide them from their children;
we will tell to the coming generation
the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,
and the wonders that he has done.
5 He established a decree in Jacob,
and appointed a law in Israel,
which he commanded our ancestors
to teach to their children;
6 that the next generation might know them,
the children yet unborn,
and rise up and tell them to their children,
7 so that they should set their hope in God,
and not forget the works of God,
but keep his commandments; (Psalm 78:1-7).
The psalmist says, “I will open my mouth in a parable, I will utter dark sayings from of old, things that we have heard and know, that our ancestors have told us” (Psalm 78:2-3). What he knows, the sayings of the old were what he has heard and know, because his ancestors told him these things. And likewise, he says “We will not hide them from their children: we will tell the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done” (Psalm 78:4). We must tell our family, our children, and their children, the coming generation, “the glorious deeds of the Lord, his might, and the wonders that he has done.” God commanded “our ancestors to teach to their children; that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and rise up and tell them to their children,” why? “so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments.”
The burden is on us, not only to tell the good news to strangers to make disciples of all nations. The responsibility and burden, and our duty commanded by God, is also to tell teach the children, children of our children, so that the next generation might know the ways God has worked in our lives, and the children yet unborn will know also. This is the way we will have hope in God, not forgetting the works of God, and keeping God’s commandments.
Even as we are anxiously, fearfully, in anticipation awaiting the results of presidential election, we must choose, this day, whom we will serve. Remember, we are not serving the president of this nation, or even the political party you feel affiliated with, or even to specific political policies. We are choosing whom we will serve, the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of Israel. Or gods of our ancestors, who or whatever that may be. Or gods of the land we are living in.
Perhaps many of us are accepting of the choice we will and must make one day, whom we will serve. But as Joshua urges the Israelites, it is not tomorrow or the day after, but on this day. As we read the parable of the brides, what is the message of being ready for the kingdom of heaven?
1“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. (Matthew 25:1-3).
The wise bridesmaids took their lamps with oil in them. They will get to greet the bridegroom. The foolish ones had to go out to buy oil.
10And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ 13Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 24:10-13)
While the foolish bridesmaids went to go buy oil, the wise bridesmaids who were ready went with the bridegroom into the wedding banquet. The door was shut. The message is this: “Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” Kingdom of Heaven is for all, and it is coming. In some sense it is already, but not yet. Kingdom of Heaven is already here and now, but it is also coming. In the same way that Jesus has already died on the cross and reconciled us to God, and yet, we are still in this world, and even though we were justified to God, we still find we are falling short of God’s glory also. The Kingdom of Heaven in this sense is here and also coming. But we don’t know the day nor the hour. Therefore, we must choose, on this day, whom we will serve.
Joshua told the Israelites, “as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:15). Let it be so. Let us choose this day to serve the LORD, the God who created us, sustains us and saves us. And if you choose God, then tell it to the world, especially to our family members, to the next generation, that we should have hope in God, knowing the works of God, the ways God has protected us, kept us safe, and guarded our hearts. Let us leave a legacy to the next generations that they will know God’s deeds, so that they will have hope, and to choose to follow God themselves.
Let us pray – Dear God, our beloved, you set before us the goal of new life in Christ. Let us, on this day, choose to serve you. May we live in the power of the resurrection Christ and bring forth the fruit of your gentle and loving rule. Amen.