Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sermon for Aug 26, 2012; Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18

Rev. George Miller
Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18
“Every Day, A New Day”
Aug 26, 2012

As a Christian, and as a pastor, I continue to wrestle with what the cross and resurrection can mean in our lives. Over the course of my vacation, I have come to discover that both events can be symbolic ways in which we release our past to step into the beauty of our present.

I am reminded of a song that is featured in the Broadway play called “Rent.” Set in New York City during the start of the AIDS epidemic, “Rent” has a scene in which the characters sing these words:

“There’s only us, there’s only this.
Forget regret or life is yours to miss.
No other road, no other way.
No day but today.”

No day but today; it fits perfectly into today’s reading. I like that notion, even if I do not always live by it.

I can easily spend a lot of time in the past while simultaneously worried about the future, allowing today to just slip on by. This seems to be a common part of the human condition.

Which is one reason why I love Sunday worship so much. It’s truly the one hour of the day, one day of the week, where I find myself rooted in the “now”.

During worship I find that my body, mind, and spirit are able to release the past and forget to fret about the future. I wonder how many others feel the same as I do.

No day like today.

That’s also seems to sum up my vacation. I went back to Long Island to perform the wedding for my oldest and dearest friend.

As most of you know, my family is rather disjointed. Many of my relatives died while I was rather young. My mother and siblings are spread out throughout the nation.

It’s been easy for me to boo-hoo about it, define myself by it. But something has happened since I’ve been living here in Sebring; something that you all and my neighbors have taught me.

Which is: family is family, no matter if they are your siblings, your aunt or uncle, your cousins or your cousins’ children.

And friendships, when they are true, have no expiration date, no matter how much time or distance has passed.

So this vacation was not just about a wedding, but about seeing folk I have not seen for 4-10 years.

I spent a night at Aunt Anna’s, who made macaroni and gravy along with her infamous Italian salad. Her children came over, as did her grandchildren. And we spent all night, sharing stories, learning more about family history, getting progressively louder and louder as we each jockeyed for attention.

I visited my Godmother who lovingly berated me for staying in a hotel room when I could have stayed with them. She told me of how she met my mother and became best friends and I met, for the first time, all her grandbabies.

I visited an ex-girlfriend whose son asked if he could call me “Uncle George.” I met with an old college professor and thanked him for all I learned. I met a church friend who played a role in my going to seminary.

I visited the cemeteries where my family members are buried. I shared fabulous meals on the south and the north shore of the island.

In this vacation, I discovered what I’ve needed to know for a long, long time: that as small and dispersed as my family may appear to be, they all love and miss me very much and that I have places to stay whenever I wish to go back and visit.

In many ways, I’ve reclaimed my past, allowing me to embrace my future and to truly live in the now.

In other words, I have discovered that though my family may appear to be small and spread out, they are all “enough.”

And I thank you all for helping me to learn this life-changing lesson. There is indeed no day like today.

This is the message from this morning’s reading, and the message that we experience at both the cross and in the resurrection…

The Book of Joshua was written to address a bleak period of God’s people. They had experienced something called the Exile, in which the enemy had come in, destroyed their homes, destroyed their economy and had taken many of them into captivity.

The people couldn’t understand how such a thing could have happened. Had God abandoned them?

The author of Joshua uses this story to say it wasn’t God who abandoned them; it was they who had abandoned God and failed to trust that God was “enough.”

To make his point, the author refers back to a pivotal moment of Israel’s history. The people had been living in the Promised Land for decades now.

Under the compassionate and effective leadership of Joshua, they had finally come to a time of peace and of rest.

But, as it usually happens, the people had grown complacent; some of them forgetting all the good that God had done for them.

So Joshua gathers all the people for a service of remembrance and rededication to the Lord.

He starts by reminding them of their ancestors. How God took a childless couple and gave them many offspring. How God sent Moses to deliver them from slavery.

How in the face of unrealistic odds, God fought all their battles along side them. How God blessed them and gave them a bountiful land.

In other words, how God has always been “enough.”

So now the people have come to a point in their lives in which they must decide. Are they going to continue to love and revere the Lord in total faithfulness or are they going to worship other gods and give in to the popular way of thinking?

In essence, Joshua is saying to the people “Choose today; choose now. Who will you serve: God or the ways of the world? You can’t do both and be successful.”

The people wisely choose to continue their covenantal relationship with the Source of Life, with the Blesser of Blessings.

But there is an underlying theme to this recollection: that every day we are given another chance to make the same choice.

That every day we are to decide if we are going to follow God or if we are to give in and follow the ways of the world.

Every day is a new day, so every day welcomes a new choice for us to make.

This sentiment is reassuring because what it means is that no matter what has gone on before, no matter what has happened in the past, no matter whatever inflictions we have suffered or have inflicted, we always have a new day to renew ourselves and to make that choice:

To follow ego or to follow God. To live in disbelief or to live in reverent faith.

And as long as we breathe, as long as we walk the face of this earth, we always have another chance to make that choice.

And that, dear friends, is great news, and that is part of what the Gospel is all about.

That regret, that wrong suppositions, that sins and trespasses do not have to have a hold on us. For the Good New is that there is no day but today.

As Christians, we find that everlasting truth through Jesus’ saving actions on the cross and the event of Christ’s resurrection.

One symbolic action of the cross is that it becomes for us the place where negativity can die. The cross is the place where the things that have trapped us, the things that have held us back, can be released.

You know those stories we have told ourselves for too long that keep us stuck? Those experiences we have had that keep replaying in our minds?

Those things we’ve done that we’ve regretted doing that we try so hard to hide?

Those are, in many ways, false gods that we have been worshipping. They are thoughts and ideas that have done us more harm then good.

They are things that have held us back from truly experiencing the blessings of God.

But today they don’t have to. Because today and every day we are given a new opportunity to hand them over the Jesus.

Today and every day we are invited to release them, to ask Jesus to take them to the cross where they can be disempowered.

And when we make the choice to bring our baggage to the cross, we also make the choice to experience our own personal resurrection.

For what we release to Jesus creates space for something new, something exciting, something different to take place.

In other words, because of the resurrection, whatever we hand over to Jesus becomes transformed and becomes a source of new life; an opportunity for new blessings we could not even begin to imagine.

Because of Jesus’ saving action on the cross followed by the good news of the resurrection, we discover that friendships can be mended, families can be restored, mistakes can be forgiven and healing occurs in all different formats.

Through the cross the pain of the past can be buried; through the resurrection the glory of the future becomes ours to embrace.

For myself, I discovered that all my preconceived notions of having no family can be placed on the cross to be resurrected into the realization that I do have family in numerous forms, and regardless of time and distance, I can always turn to them to be reminded that I have “enough.”

In conclusion, in Christ there is no past, there is no regret, there is only today, and with it a new chance for a new start.

And we have the honor of making that choice to let go of the defeatist ways of the world and to dedicate ourselves to God.

And we have that choice not once, not twice, but every day of every week of every month of every year of every decade.

A chance to celebrate all that God has done and to welcome all that God is ready to do.

Because in God, in the Spirit, in Jesus Christ, there is no other path, there is no other way. There is no day but today.

And that, dear friends, is life in abundance.

Amen and amen.

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