Joshua 24: 1-3a, 14-25

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  • Proper 27A (2017)

    by Doug Bratt
    When a local Christian school wanted to publicize its mission, some people wanted to refer to its commitment to help parents and churches carry out their covenant responsibilities. However, other members of the community rejected that idea because “covenant,” to them, referred to a despicable part of America’s racial history. According to the Fair Housing Center of Greater Boston’s website, racially restrictive covenants were imposed in a deed on a property’s buyer. They prohibited the purchase, lease or even occupation of a piece of land by a specific group of people, usually African-Americans. Such covenants were enforced with the cooperation of real estate boards and neighborhood associations...
  • Whom You Gonna Serve?

    by Delmer Chilton
    When I was a student in the dvinity school at Duke University, there was a “shaggy dog” story going the rounds about a fraternity hazing prank. Seems the frat brothers kidnapped a pledge from his dorm, took him way out into the North Carolina countryside and put him out of the car with nothing on but a Duke Blue Devil mascot outfit. The young man trudged through the night, calculating how long it would take him to walk the 30 miles back to campus. After an hour or so, he saw some lights back in the woods, then he heard music and singing. It was a country church in the midst of a revival meeting. He thought to himself, “Church people are good people. Surely someone will give me a ride back to Duke.” So he walked across the parking lot and in the front door. The preacher stopped his preaching and stared. Everyone else turned to look at what the preacher was looking at, and then they stared too. Suddenly, the preacher dove out the window. The other folk began diving out windows too, until there was only one person left. She was too old and too frail to dive out the window, and the devil was standing between her and the church’s only door. She began to sidle down the aisle while talking in a soft voice, “Mr. Devil, my husband, bless his heart, was a deacon in this church for almost 40 years, one of my sons is a missionary, and my daughter is married to a pastor, and I was president of the Women’s Missionary Society for 20 years, but I just want you to know—I been on your side all along!”...
  • Preaching Helps (Proper 27A)(2008)

    by Scott Hoezee
    ("Joshua 24 and other similar Old Testament passages do not talk about hell exactly but they surely do talk about the fundamental idea behind the very idea of hell: namely, that God judges sin and doles out punishments for sins. The title of a 1997 article in Christianity Today asked the question 'Can We Be Good without Hell?'...")
  • Do I Choose or Am I Chosen?

    by Janet Hunt
    ("First a disclaimer: I find my home in that line of theological thought which insists that God chooses us long before we begin to give thought to choosing God. And yet. In both the words of Joshua today and in the words of Jesus in this week's Gospel, we are told it is ours to choose. And yet again, I have to say that as I look back over my life, it appears to me that a whole lot of the time the choice was pretty clear. As though it wasn't really mine to choose at all....")
  • Choose

    Art and Theology by Victoria Jones
    The American writer David Foster Wallace, who was not a Christian (that I’m aware of) but who had a spiritual sensibility, spoke incisively about this in his “This Is Water” commencement speech, delivered at Kenyon College on May 21, 2005. He said, In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship—be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles—is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things—if they are where you tap real meaning in life—then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. . . . Worship power—you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart—you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on...

    “Gotta Serve Somebody” is the first song Bob Dylan released after his conversion to Christianity in the late seventies...

  • Choices

    by Anne Le Bas
    ("the fact is that all of us, whether we like it or not, find in the end that we have walked one path through life rather than another whether we chose that path consciously or not. We are guided by these values rather than those. We see the world through this framework rather than that. We travel with these companions rather than those.. As Bob Dylan perceptively sang, 'It may be the devil or it may be the Lord/ But you're gonna have to serve somebody.'...")
  • Self-Made or God-Made?

    by Anne Le Bas
    The term “self-made man” only entered the dictionary in 1832 – US senator Henry Clay seems to have coined it to describe those pioneering people who made new lives for themselves in the USA. They’d had to reinvent themselves as they’d colonised what was, for them, uncharted territory. Some had chosen to come. Others were forced from their old ways of life in Europe by persecution, pogroms or famine. It’s easy to see why they might have felt as if any success they’d had was down to them alone and to their determination and grit. No wonder the myth of the “self-made man” or “self-made woman” caught on so stronglyin the USA – it’s something that Donald Trump is noticeably playing into. But it is a myth. In reality, those pioneers were drawing on all sorts of support in order to survive...
  • Sermon Starters (Proper 27A)(2020)

    by Stan Mast
    Until Joshua forcefully called Israel away from their other gods, they may not have even been aware that they were trusting those gods. They looked like faithful covenant keepers to the casual observers, even to themselves. They had a hidden virus in their lives, a virus that could sicken and even kill them. But so many of them were asymptomatic. It took a prophet to diagnose them. Today, you are called to be that prophet for your congregation. What hidden gods have infected the faith of your good people. It will help if you do a self-diagnosis first. Joshua’s call to “the people of Israel” reminded me of “we the people” from America’s founding documents. And I wonder if “we the people” who are so accustomed to making our own laws as a matter of principle, if we independent individualistic people will be able to hear Joshua’s strong call to fear, serve, and obey the One True God. Many of our contemporaries will hear that as a call to patriarchal subservience that lessens us, rather than a loving call to a service that fulfills our true destiny.
  • Thanksgiving and Offering Our Lives

    by Jim McCrea
    •Multiple Academy Award winning actress Katharine Hepburn told a story about a time when she was a teenager and she was standing in line with her father to buy tickets for the circus. The family in front of them consisted of two parents and their eight children, all of whom were under the age of 12. She writes, “The way they were dressed, you could tell they didn’t have a lot of money, but their clothes were neat and clean. The children were well-behaved, all of them standing in line, two-by-two behind their parents, holding hands. They were excitedly jabbering about the clowns, animals, and all the acts they would be seeing that night. By their excitement you could sense they had never been to the circus before. It would be a highlight of their lives. “The father and mother were at the head of the pack standing proud as could be. The mother was holding her husband’s hand, looking up at him as if to say, ‘You’re my knight in shining armor.’ He was smiling and enjoying seeing his family happy.” But when he heard the cost of the ten tickets, it was clear he couldn’t afford that. Hepburn adds, “How was he supposed to turn and tell his eight kids that he didn’t have enough money to take them to the circus? Seeing what was going on, my dad reached into his pocket, pulled out a $20 bill, and then dropped it on the ground. (We were not wealthy in any sense of the word!) My father bent down, picked up the $20 bill, tapped the man on the shoulder and said, ‘Excuse me, sir, this fell out of your pocket.’ “The man understood what was going on. He wasn’t begging for a handout but certainly appreciated the help in a desperate, heartbreaking and embarrassing situation. He looked straight into my dad’s eyes, took my dad’s hand in both of his, squeezed tightly onto the $20 bill, and with his lip quivering and a tear streaming down his cheek, he replied: ‘Thank you, thank you, sir. This really means a lot to me and my family.' “My father and I went back to our car and drove home. The $20 that my dad gave away is what we were going to buy our own tickets with. Although we didn’t get to see the circus that night, we both felt a joy inside us that was far greater than seeing the circus could ever provide. That day I learnt the value [of giving]. Hepburn ends her story by saying, “The importance of giving, blessing others can never be over emphasized because there’s always joy in giving. Learn to make someone happy by acts of giving.”...
  • Choose This Day

    by David Russell
    I was at a training event with a guy named Ed White. Ed had served on a Presbytery staff--kind of like our regional staff. He told about a woman who worked in their office. She was warm, engaging, a hard worker, a committed Christian. But she started missing work on Mondays. A pattern developed. She would call in sick on Monday. Tuesday she would come in and be in a bad mood, irritable. Wednesday she would be her happy self, and the same on Thursday and Friday. But Monday, she wouldn’t show up for work again and the pattern would repeat. People on the staff recognized that she had become a crack cocaine addict. They gave her a choice. She could go to Seaton House, a drug treatment center, or lose her job. So she went for treatment. The whole time she was in the treatment center, she could not see anyone from the outside. She was in a demanding program with 30 other young adults. When she was released, she cut off all relationships whatsoever with anyone who had been involved with drugs. She basically had two groups of people in her life: her church and Narcotics Anonymous. There is good news and bad news in this story. This woman celebrated her 1 year anniversary of being drug-free. She was successful, she was happy, she was serving the Lord. She had a new life. That’s the good news. The bad news is that of those 30 young adults who went through the extensive drug treatment program at the Seaton House, she is the only one who celebrated a drug-free first anniversary...

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