Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sermon for July 12, 2009

July 12, 2009
Scripture: Joshua 24:1-18
Sermon Title: “Choosing the God of Life”
Rev. George N. Miller

For the Israelites it was a long time coming. 70 years ago they were in Egypt. 70 years since God took them from the sting of the slave master’s whip to a magnificent journey across the Red Sea.

It’s been 30 years since they entered the Promised Land; a place in which milk and honey, grain and grapes were plentiful.

Before they were to enter, Moses gathered the people and gave a beautiful speech. He reveled to them that his part of the journey was over, that he was soon going to die.

But he assures them this: that he saw the land God had promised, and it was good. And Moses told the people they had two choices: they could choose life and prosperity or death and adversity.

“Choose Life!” Moses encouraged the people. “Love and obey God and the land will be blessed and your children and your children’s children will joyfully live.”

His speech was so rousing that the people chose life. A new leader was called; a man named Joshua who had been with Moses to the mountaintop.

Joshua was a person who knew how to stay the course and to move forward even when the others wanted to give up and go back.

After Moses died, Joshua led the Israelites across the Jordan river. It was Joshua who led them into the promised land. It was Joshua, with the hand of God, who helped them fight their battles and let go of their baggage.

For years peace filled the land, and it was good. And when Joshua new his time on this earth was almost over, he gathered the people just as Moses had 30 years before.

He gathered the elders and judges, he gathered the officers and families, and he began to remind them of all that God had done.

And like Moses before him, Joshua gave the people a choice: worship God or worship the gods of the earth.

“Make your choice” Joshua stated. “Either serve the Lord 100% or not at all, no half stepping or second guessing.”

What Joshua said to the people, what Joshua is saying to all of us today is this: if you choose God, you’re choosing life. So choose life.

Joshua speaks on behalf of God and shares the history of Israel up until that moment, illustrating ways in which God is life.

When Abraham was just a nobody who worshiped other gods, it was God who called him to the land of Canaan and gave him and Sarah children.

In others words God is saying “I gave you life.”

When they were slaves in Egypt, God sent them Moses and Aaron to deliver them.

God is saying “I gave you freedom.”

When they came to the Red Sea and the soldiers were on their back, God used the waters to protect them.

“I saved you.”

God brought them to the promised land.

“I gave you a place to call home.”

When the King tried to use Balaam to curse the Israelites, God used Balaam to bless them instead.

“I blessed you.”

When the enemies attacked the people God made them victorious.

“I fought for you.”

The Israelites received a land filled with fruit and olives.

“I fed you.”

Free, save, home, bless, defend, feed: life.

All the things God did for them, and all that God asks is they put away their other gods, they let go of their idols and they focus all their attention on the one who made them and loved them so.

Joshua admonishes the people: choose God or do not choose God. Choose life or choose death. But don’t think you can half step this one.

And 3,000 years later that question still lingers today, and we stand right beside our spiritual sisters and brother. What do we choose? Who will we profess to follow?

Do we commit fully to God our heavenly parent, teacher, and friend, or do we commit to the gods of the world and of our own doing?

You’re probably thinking “But we do worship God, don’t we? We’re in church when we could be sleeping or at the mall. We don’t have to worry about worshiping other gods, or do we?”

Of course we do, even if we don’t realize it. Every day we are faced with the temptations of idols, fears and celebrity that can fool us into placing them above and before God.

The easiest example is money. The importance we place on it. What we’re willing to do for it. How fearful we are to part with it. How we trick ourselves into thinking it’s money and not God that makes a ministry doable.

Another idol can be technology. How much time we devote to Facebook, Youtube and Twitter. How we may forget to say our prayers before we leave home but we would never forget to leave our cell phone at home.

And perhaps the most timely idol is celebrity. The entertainers we worship, the contestants we vote for, the recently departed Michael Jackson who’s songs touched a world but was certainly not God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit, although his gifts may have come directly from them.

Allow money, technology and celebrity to be the gods of your life and soon you’ll be among the living dead. For none of them will love you, free you, feed you or bless you the way God does.

God, through the words of Joshua, lays it out for us, breaking it down: “Look at what I did for you when you made me the focus of your life. So continue to choose me and you will choose life.”

As Christians, we realize things are not always as simple as that, and as gloriously simple as this sentiment sounds, we must still wrestle with the thought. Because many of us have chosen God. And yet death is still so real and so imminent.

And the man who taught us that is the one person who had no problem choosing God 100%.

In Jesus we have the irony that choosing God did not at first seem to lead to life but instead to a cross.

But Jesus was indeed choosing life. Because by living as he did, he lived a fully realized life and fully immersed himself in what it meant to be alive.

From dinners with friends to celebrations with the community, from worship in the synagogue to healings of the people, Jesus lived life to the fullest. So much so that not even the cross could silence him or stop his work.

Because by choosing God, Jesus had indeed chosen life, when on Sunday morning he overcame the darkness of Friday and the loss of Saturday and came stepping out among the people, where his light and his life continues to shine and inspire.

So we too are invited to make a choice today, and tomorrow, and each and every day after that: will we worship God and live life, or will we choose to worship imitation gods, seduced by the world, opting instead for spiritual death.

3,000 years ago Joshua asked the Israelites a very important question. And today we get to stand with the elders and judges, the officers and families, the young and old together, and we get to say our answer.

And may each and everyone one of us be able to say just what our ancestors did “We will serve the Lord and it is God we will obey.”

God loves us so, and in that love there is great and abundant life.

Choose God, my family and friends. Choose God because in doing so, you will have chosen life.

All thanks and praise be to Jesus who showed us how to make that choice, for the Spirit that blows upon us limitless blessings and God who has done more for us then we can ever imagine.

Amen and amen.

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