How many times in books, movies, Broadway musicals, and television shows have we seen this story? A young attractive girl or guy has been dating for a while. They are very popular and have more than one person vying for their affection. One day the two, or more, either discover that they are not alone or get tired of it and demand that the young person choose now. They are unwilling to share, they want all of the person’s love and devotion. Torn, most of the movie will be about the agonizing decision. There are two possible endings to these stories, either the person chooses, or they try to keep both and in so doing lose both. This is our story today.
In our story from Joshua (24:1-2a, 14-18) God comes right out and says “Choose now!” Either follow the gods of the local people or follow the God of your ancestors who has done so much for you in the past. Making the choice to follow God today is a commitment to last a lifetime. This may be easy today, but all sorts of challenges will arise: “losses, betrayals, promises of success from other gods of wealth and position and power.” How do we make good on our commitment? How do we keep ourselves in line and avoid falling back in with those other “gods”?
How many of you have tried to change a habit? Quitting smoking, getting rid of the credit cards, eating a more healthy diet, and exercising more are all examples of common habit changes. Was it easy? For the first few days many of these things probably go pretty well. We have committed to a plan, we are keen. As time goes on we run into the other challenges of life and these new patterns can very easily fall by the wayside. Without even thinking about it we reach for a chocolate bar or a cigarette after a stressful day at work. One leads to another and we are right back where we started.
What do we have to do to be successful in these efforts? Many people join support groups where they go each week for encouragement, a reminder of the benefits of the change, a reminder of the goal. With this sort of support people can often make major changes in their lives.
Making the choice for God involves a life change as well. In a way the message we get from the reading in Joshua is that we need to remember our goal. For our support we need to read our Bibles, need to hear it read in worship and discussed in classes. If we want to remain faithful we need to put ourselves in a place where we will be reminded daily of all that God has done and has promised us in His son Jesus Christ. This is what led us to our choice in the first place. To quote a sports phrase, we need the Bible to help us keep our eye on the prize.
In the Gospel lesson we have basically the same challenge put to us. Jesus completes his explanation of His purpose here as the bread of life and then we hear the reaction of the disciples. To paraphrase, “are you kidding? That is way too hard!” Like the disciples, we are keen to sign on for the salvation, but not so keen on following Jesus path of persecution and suffering and death. We are frightened by the idea of carrying our own cross.
Aug 27, 2006 Stanley
Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18