Printable PDF: 2-9-2020 Epiphany 5 Sermon
Pastor Mark R Jacobson ~ Epiphany 5 ~ February 9, 2020 ~ Joshua 24:14-24
AS FOR YOU AND YOUR HOUSEHOLD…
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. 15But 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.” 16Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! 17It 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 nations through which we traveled. 18And 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.” 19Joshua 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.” 22Then 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.” 24And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and obey him.”
- What is your “his story”?
I have a deep theological question for you this morning. Ready? Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons? You won’t find the answer in Genesis, but you will find a response in answersingenesis.org, a website dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith. Answersingenesis.org offers this conclusion, “God would not have planted on them a false indication that they had developed in a mother’s womb….Lack of a belly-button on Adam and Eve would be one of the biggest tourist attractions in the pre-Flood world, as the grandchildren and the great-grandchildren would come up and say, ‘Why don’t you have a belly-button?’ And they could recount again and again, to generation after generation, how God had created them special.”
Now I don’t know about Grandma and Grandpa’s belly with no button being a tourist attraction. But I do know every family has a story, a history, and because of sin every family has a history that isn’t so good. Joshua doesn’t go all the way to Adam and Eve in Genesis chapter 3, but Joshua does go back to the family of Abraham in Genesis chapter 11. Beyond the Euphrates River was where Abraham grew up, and beyond the Euphrates River was where Abraham’s father, Terah, had worshipped foreign gods. Beyond the Euphrates River was hundreds of years before Joshua, but Joshua and some of the older Israelites had lived in Egypt as children. They could have remembered some of the Egyptian gods, and they certainly would have remembered the idol their fathers had fashioned into a golden calf. That was their sad history. And now as they lived in the Promised Land of Canaan the potential was there for Israelites to add to this sad history with the gods of the Amorites around them.
What are the gods of our ancestors? What are the gods of the people around us? Martin Luther wrote in his catechism, “Whatever your heart clings to and confides in is really your God.” If a foreigner came to America last Sunday, and they went to church in the morning and then watched the Super Bowl in the evening, what do you think they would conclude was the god of our ancestors and the people around us? What would their conclusion be about physical health, social approval, careers, and families? Do our ancestors and the people around us carry out these activities in service to the Lord or in service to self? What about us? Are we naïve to think our ancestors and the people around us have no effect on our hearts and to what our hearts cling?
Thankfully, the nation under Joshua’s leadership, reviewed their history and their “his story.” I’m not the first person to break the word “history” into the two words “his” and “story”. It’s been done before, and the reason is to emphasize the loving hand of God in the history of our lives. This people of Israel captured the “his story” well, “It was the Lord 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 nations through which we traveled. And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land.”
How would we capture our “his story” in our lives? Might you say something like, “It was the Lord who washed away our sin with the water and the Word in Holy Baptism. God has never treated us as our sins deserved to be treated. We have been forgiven completely in Jesus. He was punished for our sins. God loves us and God disciplines those he loves. Every illness is a reminder of our need for a Great Physician. Every emotional setback is a reminder of our need for our Good Shepherd. He protects us from all evil and provides us daily bread. He meets our need every time and in every place. He is our God, and He will open heaven for us. That’s our “his story”! And like Israel our “his story” moves us to want to use our time and abilities in service for him.
- What is your commitment?
And so let’s now talk about commitment? Joshua said, “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Then the nation of Israel said, “We too will serve the Lord.” What a warm, feel-good moment! So awesome! Then Joshua puts a cold, wet blanket on that warm moment. Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord.” This is kind of like parents telling their pastor, “We want to baptize our child,” and the Pastor saying, “I want to make an appointment to talk to you about what Baptism is and what it means to raise a Christian child.” It’s like an engaged couple telling their Pastor, “We want to get married in the church,” and the Pastor says, “Congratulations, I would like to set up pre-marriage counseling classes with you.” Why would Pastors say those things? Why did Joshua say what he did? Are we just old and crotchety?
We are old. Joshua was 110 years old. Pastor Clark is younger, and I’m much younger. Hopefully, we are not crotchety. Hopefully, we are concerned about casual leadership. Casual leadership leads to casualties. The Titanic was not indestructible. Pearl Harbor was not too far away from the enemy. It was possible for people to be crazy enough to hijack planes and fly them into buildings. Casual leadership leads to casualties. Joshua said, 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.” 21But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.” 22Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.” “Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied.
Witnesses are people who have seen something and heard something. Witness are also expected to say something about what they have seen or heard? Have you seen and heard a parent bring their child to baptism and promise to raise junior in the Lord and then not do it? Did you witness to them? Did you say something? Have you been to a wedding where the man and the woman promised to be husband and wife, but now they hardly look or sound anything like a husband and wife? Did you witness to them? Did you say something?
Casual leadership leads to casualties. Serious leadership leads to casualties, too. There is no foolproof plan to keep our children and our congregation safe. Even Jesus lost Judas, one of his own apostles. We will lose people from the faith and from faithfulness, but let’s make sure as God gives us strength that we lose people after we take them through Bible instruction and after we give faithful witness to the promise of commitment they have made as Christians. And then, let’s also be willing to have people witness to us. I am not perfect. I need a Savior. It would also help to have someone witness to me. As much as I need Christ, I also need a Church. I need a community of family and friends to hold me accountable. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a church to bring a soul to heaven.
The words, “As for me and my household” are stenciled on living room walls or intricately carved into wood or even tattooed with gothic font on the body. The Lord and what he has all done for us is part of our “his story.” And so today and in the future, let’s let our light shine by rethinking our commitment to Christ and our need to witness and to be witnessed to by our Christian community. Amen.