Sermon for Evensong on 26th August 2017 by Rev Ellen Goldsmith

SERMON for 26.8.18  Evensong

Joshua 24: 1-2a,14-18          Psalm 34:15-end     (Eph.6:10-20)     John 6: 56-69

Joshua was the leader of the Israelites following on from Moses.  Moses never actually entered the promised land, even though he had led the people out of slavery in Egypt. Joshua did this, and conquered the land that had been overrun by the Canaanites, and he had divided the land between the 12 tribes. 

Today’s reading comes at the end of Joshua’s life, and like many final speeches, Joshua’s is memorable and challenging.

Joshua knows something of the Israelites’ character which had surfaced during their forty years of travel:  ‘prone to wander, prone to leave their God’.

Here in Canaan, there was milk and honey, and there were also foreign gods to tempt them.

Now towards the end of his life, Joshua must have been wondering, ‘Will the people keep faith? Has it been worth it?  Are these people worth bothering about?’

He must have known the answer was yes - he did care, and God cared; for Joshua gathers all the people together and he makes his farewell speech.

And he draws on what Moses had often said to the people.

He first of all recalls the Israelites’ history – beginning with Abraham, their father in faith, and then the highlights from their Exodus out of Egypt and to the crossing of the Jordan River, back to the land they once occupied. 

God had been faithful all the way:  as Moses put it, they had learned that

‘man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell during those forty years.’

Then comes the challenge:

v. 14, 15 ‘Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshipped beyond the River Euphrates and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. 15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.’

 

It’s a challenge that comes to every generation: 

Look back at the faithfulness of God and the faithfulness of past generations: 

What would be the highlights we would recall about Ladock?

Who have been the key players in this Church over centuries?

How faithful are we?

What are we leaving for the next generation?

 

I think the temptations are not dissimilar for us:  self-reliant

prosperity and complacency, half-hearted faithfulness that likes to choose its own level of commitment, or wonders, ‘Why should I bother?’  ‘Can I really make a difference?’

 

Moses put it like this:  Deuteronomy 8

10 When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you. 11 Be careful that you do not forget the Lord your God. …  17 You may say to yourself, ‘My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.’ 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

 

Joshua said:  Choose this day whom you will serve

And Jesus put the challenge like this when some disciples no longer followed him:  You do not want to leave, too, do you? 

 

Choice always demands a response and it is always a mixed blessing! 

We usually know which choice we should make, but so often torn between the two, aware of promising more than we can deliver, and the consequences that follow.

Joshua knew this was a frailty in God’s people:  he said, v.19

‘You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. 20 If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.’

He did not want  them to choose lightly or selfishly, but reverently and responsibly in the sight of Almighty God.

So then he tells them to do the 2 things we are always reminded to do:

Throw away the false gods; worship the one true God -

To turn from evil and turn to the good

What would this mean for you? 

What are the hindrances in your life you need to get rid of, to throw out?

What are the good things to take on board?  Which pieces of armour are you missing described in Ephesians 6  – they are available for the asking?  I wonder if prayer might be one …

 

This is where God’s grace comes to our rescue:

Joshua gave the people a reminder, a reminder to help them live out their choice to serve the Lord – it was a large stone he erected where they would see it regularly.

Samuel did this some years later when battling the evil of the Philistines; he gave his stone the name Ebenezer, which is made up the two words, stone and help.

And this is what God does – he helps.

He helps us to say with Joshua, ‘as for me, I will serve the Lord’. And with Peter,

‘You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’ 


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