This month, we return to the Revised Common Lectionary texts and begin a new series with the Bishop’s arrival in December.
This week we focus on choices. We each make hundreds of choices a day, ranging from socks to seasonings, from freeways to food. Those who affirm Process Theology would say that God guides us even in the most basic choices, drawing us toward God and God’s purposes. Joshua’s conversation with the people of Israel reminds us that we get to choose whether or not to acknowledge and follow God’s invitation.
Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
1Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders of Israel, its leaders, judges, and officers. They presented themselves before God. 2Then Joshua said to the entire people, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Long ago your ancestors lived on the other side of the Euphrates. They served other gods. Among them was Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor. 3aI took Abraham your ancestor from the other side of the Euphrates. I led him around through the whole land of Canaan.
14“So now, revere the Lord. Serve him honestly and faithfully. Put aside the gods that your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt and serve the Lord. 15But if it seems wrong in your opinion to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Choose the gods whom your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live. But my family and I will serve the Lord.”
16Then the people answered, “God forbid that we ever leave the Lord to serve other gods! 17The Lord is our God. He is the one who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage. He has done these mighty signs in our sight. He has protected us the whole way we’ve gone and in all the nations through which we’ve passed. 18The Lord has driven out all the nations before us, including the Amorites who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.”
19Then Joshua said to the people, “You can’t serve the Lord, because he is a holy God. He is a jealous God. He won’t forgive your rebellion and your sins. 20If you leave the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn around and do you harm and finish you off, in spite of having done you good in the past.”
21Then the people said to Joshua, “No! The Lord is the one we will serve.”
22So Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.”
They said, “We are witnesses!”
23“So now put aside the foreign gods that are among you. Focus your hearts on the Lord, the God of Israel.”
24The people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and will obey him.”
25On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people and established just rule for them at Shechem.
Consider these questions:
- What are some basic choices you make that seem like they might have little or no interest of God? What might it mean to listen for God even in these choices?
- What are more critical choices you have faced? Were you able to listen for God in these times? If not, is there a sense in hindsight whether or not God offered guidance?
- How can you intentionally include God more fully in the choices you make?
Post-sermon follow up on 11/15
Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found by clicking this link (will open in a new tab).
Preaching on the one-week anniversary of the killing of 26 people at First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs TX, I shared that I felt angry about needing to take time in our service to communicate clear and concrete steps we must know as a congregation in the event of a violent intruder in our worship space. I understand that it may be scary to consider being in a church – or any good-sized gathering of people – in a time when our news seems to be dominated by violence.
Yet, in the face of this understandable fear, I believe that God calls us to choose to continue in relationship with one another, with our communities, and with our God. In the beginning when the universe was without form and all seemed dark and chaotic, God called forth light. In acknowledging God’s call on us as people of faith, I believe we can be the light in darkness and chaos.
Consider these questions:
- When have you been afraid? How did you respond?
- I guess that all of us have responded sometimes to fear in ways that we might later wish we could reconsider. With this in mind, in what ways could you have made a change from your initial reaction?
- Does this reflection make a difference to you in ways you might respond to fearful situations in the future?