Joshua 24:1-3a,14-25 Honour the Lord with me
Then Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders, leaders, judges and officials of Israel, and they presented themselves before God. 2 Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘Long ago your ancestors, including Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor, lived beyond the Euphrates River and worshiped other gods. 3 But I took your father Abraham from the land beyond the Euphrates and led him throughout Canaan and gave him many descendants. I gave him Isaac, 14 “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River 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.” 16 Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods! 17 It was the LORD our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nation’s through which we travelled. 18 And the LORD drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God.” 19 Joshua said to the people, “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.” 21 But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the LORD.” 22 Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the LORD.” “Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied. 23 “Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.” 24 And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the LORD our God and obey him.” 25 On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he reaffirmed for them decrees and laws.
Joshua, the Lord’s man for the new era in the new place promised by the Lord, stands and surveys the undiscovered country across the river Jordan that he and the people are now called to enter.
Moses left his apprentice, Joshua with the charge to
“….be strong and courageous, for you must go with these people into the promised land and divide it fairly according to the Word. The Lord himself will go before you and will be with you” (Deuteronomy 31:7-8).
The people of God have been on a long journey with the Lord. They have had times of fruitfulness, times of dryness in spirit, times of great unity and times of conflict, times of uncertainty and times of clarity.
Sometimes they have wanted to go back to what they knew, but then realised that the world they once knew has changed and it is no longer there.
They have never had a real choice of going back to the way it used to be. That world was changed by the Lord forever and so where they in the process. For a generation the Lord had been shaping his people in his promises of life, peace and purpose.
Through all that has happened, the Lord has been equipping his people for this moment – a big moment in this ongoing purpose he has for them – that they be the people through whom he blesses and saved a dying world. So, really, there has only and is only one way to go for God’s people, and that is with the Lord into his promised future.
Friends, this is us now. For three years (and before that too) we have been asking each other and the Lord where we need to go, what are his promises for us and asking him to remind us again who we are again. He is now calling us to cross into a yet to be discovered season of mission. This is a big moment in his ongoing goal of creating us to be his community of blessing, life and forgiveness for this community.
Today you can receive a bit of paper. It is our Book of Reports for our AGM coming up on Nov 30th. I know…. The acronym “AGM” does not usually inspire great celebration among seasoned church people! But this one might inspire some celebration…and challenge.
In this book of reports is a document called, “St Petri Mission Focus”. If you listen to the words on those pages, you will sense that we are crossing the Jordan into a new season.
This AGM, or “All Together God moment”, might be one to make sure you are at because we will pray and talk and discern if what is in this document, which has taken three years of conversation, prayer, hard work and discernment in the Spirit to come into being, is actually the new undiscovered country the Lord is leading us into together. We believe it is.
Do you? Will you? What will it take for you to believe in him and follow his call for this work in the undiscovered country awaiting us in 2015? We invite you to discern the Lord’s will with us.
What if the Lord has been active among us these last years? What if he has called me here to equip, encourage, serve, care and lead you into a new season of his mission? What if you are here not because of your own will or smarts but because of the working of God’s Spirit calling you, gathering you, lighting up your heart and mind for his purposes? What if the Risen Jesus wants to actually work through you to bring his grace into the lives of people? What if St Petri is not so much as a club or a family fellowship but a mission outpost in a secularised and dying world? What if the Spirit of Jesus has been moving people and money and events around to manoeuvre us all into the best positions to help us be effective and fruitful in the movement of the gospel in this community?
There are moments in a local church’s journey that are significant. As Joshua senses the need to wake people up and call them to prepare for the unknown life in the promised time and place of the Lord, so I sense this now too. Today is a call from the Lord to you. The AGM will be too.
14 “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped 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….. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
How shall we choose? How shall we serve? What will prepare us? What will the Lord require of me and or you? Will we succeed in the things he is calling us to? What if we fail? What if I fail? What if all of this will come to nothing and we shall all go on together just as we are with no new hope for new people, new life and joy ahead? All good questions. All natural questions because we can only see the undiscovered country in part. But Joshua speaks what is required down the very core, to the very essential, for us. This new season the Lord is calling us to is not founded on numbers, success, our skills, our brains, our morality, or lack of. No, the people of God on the edge of the undiscovered country know what this whole story and life and hope will be based on…The Lord; his real activity among them! They recount what he has done in the past to proclaim who he is and what it is that makes the primed growth and life a real possibility.
17 It was the LORD our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery…. He protected us on our entire journey….. 18 …the LORD drove out before us all the nations…We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God.”
Let’s make it clear though – what will happen in this undiscovered country will be a matter of trust – and that means choosing the Lord over other things. We are after all being called to throw away the “gods of Egypt” among us – things and people we trust for our wellbeing and life together in God other than God himself. We are being called to throw away the gods of pride in self, in buildings, in family history, in our own goodness, in anything upon which we depend for life more than the Lord and his Word.
As any leader who truly is a leader of God says, ….But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”
This is no leadership trick or manipulative call from God or me or Church Council. In these weeks there is a call from the Lord of the church to his church here to make a choice to live in what the Spirit of Christ is doing among us and trust him above all things as he moves along in this long journey of a faith community called St Petri Lutheran Church. “Honour the Lord with me” calls Joshua to the people. So too me. As we step from the edge of this morning into God’s new days dawning, honour the Lord with me. Be strong and courageous, people of God, for it is the Lord of the church, the new Joshua, Jesus Christ, who said at your baptism and today, “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). Amen.
Read the text carefully noting the dialogue between Joshua and the people. Notice how the basis for this renewal of the covenant relationship between the Lord and his people on the eve of the new era in the promised land is what the Lord has done in the past. First Joshua recounts what the Lord has already done (verse 2-3). Then the people recount in more detail what the Lord has already done (verses 16-18).
If you had a to make a big decision of faith not really being able to guarantee how things will turn out, what would be the big things God has done already for you that you would recount (like Joshua and the people here) that would give you strength and courage to continue on into the unknown? Share your stories and thoughts…..
Notice how Joshua really drives the people to make a full response as he “goads” them into speaking out their faith in the Lord (verse 19-20). Do you sometimes need to be “goaded” into speaking out your faith and trusting the Lord in a big decision or unknown journey? Share your thoughts….
The people boldly declare their faith in the Lord based on what he has done and who they have come to know him to be through his words and actions. “We will serve the Lord” they say! We do this in worship every time we confess the Christian creeds and every time we pray and sing too!
We are also “witnesses” against each other as Joshua tells the people. We are accountable for the faith and trust in Jesus we say we have. Our actions need to meet our words. have you had an experience of a brother or sister in the Faith holding you accountable for your words and actions that has been hard but really helpful? If you have, share that…..
We do believe that we at St Petri are in one of these occasional BIG moments like the Old Testament people were on the banks of the Jordan. It is time to step into God’s “undiscovered season” that awaits us as a church in mission. If you have read the St Petri Mission plan, share your thoughts on it and pray for the Spirit’s discernment and leading as we share it together in these weeks – especially at the AGM on November 30. Pray for pastor. pray for the Church Council. pray for the Lord’s courage and strength in these weeks.