November 04, 2008

Looking Forward to November 9, 2008 -- 26th Sunday After Pentecost

The Scripture Readings this week are:
  • From the Jewish Scriptures: Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
  • Psalm 78:1-7 (VU p.792 Part 1)
  • From the Gospel: Matthew 25:1-13
The Hymns this week are:
  • 410 This Day God Gives Me
  • Let There Be Peace on Earth (see insert)
  • 356 Seek Ye First
  • 421 Lead On O God of Presence
The Sermon Title is Split Loyalties

Early Thoughts: What does it mean to proclaim loyalty to someone or something? Are our loyalties that cut and dried? Or are they split apart in different directions?

In regards to this passage from Joshua John Shearman writes:
The conquest and settlement of Canaan completed, Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to the holy place at Shechem to renew their covenant Yahweh had initially made with Abraham. He issued a compelling challenge that they should choose to serve the Yahweh as he and his family had chosen to do. They promised to do so too although Joshua warned them of how difficult it would be and the penalty if falling away from their commitment to worship the gods of their foreign neighbours.
At the end of Deuteronomy Moses exhorted the people to choose life by following the commandments the God has provided. Now, at the end of the story of conquest (although the final conquest of the land really isn't complete until the time of David) Joshua asks the people where their loyalty lies. Will they choose the God who has done all these things for them? Or will they follow the other gods they find around them?

The interesting thing is that Joshua doesn't appear to believe the people can keep their commitment. They cry out that they would never forsake God and Joshua is dubious (the history that follows sort of suggests that Joshua was right).

If we were all gathered together and given the Joshua challenge what would we say? What would the other gods be in our setting? Where do our loyalties get split apart? If someone from outer space were to come and study our cities what would they assume to be the focus of our religion?

In the end it is actions that count in the face of the Joshua challenge. Words can be empty, they need actions to back them up. So if we want to join the people at Shechem in proclaiming that we would never forsake God, we need to act in ways that show it. Join us on Sunday as we explore how best to respond to the Joshua challenge.

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