Sunday, June 19, 2011

Who Is Your Father? – Joshua 24:14-18 and 19-24

Today is father's day. That day we set aside every June to honor those men in our lives that have helped to mold us. Those men that have modeled for us, shown us, taken the time to teach us, what it means to be a grace filled people. A people that place the concerns of others above our own. A people that know the importance of respect for this earth, a respect for our actions, as well as a respect for other people. This is the day we recognize those men and say thank you.

This morning I want us to take time and reflect on how we can say thank you to our Heavenly Father as well. A Father that created us, a Father that yearns to be an intimate part of our lives, a Father that will lift us up no matter the situation. This morning I want to use the model of Joshua as we remember, remind and recommit to our Father in Heaven.

My Dad is the Best!
Three kids are in the schoolyard, bragging about their fathers. The first one says: "My dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper ... calls it a poem ... and they give him fifty dollars." The second kid says: "That's nothing. My dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper ... calls it a prescription ... and they give him a hundred dollars." Leading the third kid to say: "I've got you both beat. My dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper ... calls it a sermon ... and it takes eight people to collect all the money."

There are all sorts of ways dads over the centuries have sought to provide for their families. In our Scripture lesson this morning we find one dad, Joshua, using a sense of reverse psychology to care for his tribe, his family. In order to accomplish that he urged them to do several things. First, he wanted them to remember.

Joshua begins by taking his people for a trip down memory lane. He gets them to remember all of the wonderful things God has done for them. Remember, these people are direct descendants of those rescued from Egypt. These are the sons and daughters of the Israelites that walked with Moses, that received the Ten Commandments, and that witnessed God's mighty power in warding off the Egyptian pursuit from Pharoah. This is the generation that will finally get to enter the Promised Land. In fact they are on Mount Nebo, actually looking into that land.

And Joshua wants them to enter into this land, thankful. Thankful for the lessons learned by their ancestors. Thankful for the provisions given to them by God. Thankful that God has never left their side and thankful that God's promise to them is about to be fulfilled.

As a tribute, Joshua wanted his people to remember, because by remembering they would see God at work within their lives. I can look back over my life and see those times I was blessed and those times I shut God out. I can see where God prospered me and I can see where I missed God's blessings. Here Joshua is charging his people to rid their lives of all idols, all practices, and anything else that does not bring them closer to God. He reminds them of how life went for those that did worship idols. He encourages them to remember why they are still wandering and not in the Promised Land. Joshua is setting the stage, preparing their hearts, for what they are about to do. For what God is about to do for them.

Today I invite you to be remember of all God has done for you in your life. For the blessings that you have. For the church family you are surrounded by today. For the ever present companion you have in the Holy Spirit. God is active in your life. Choose to allow God to be more active in the days ahead. Take the time to remember events in your life, to rediscover God's part in your life, to allow those revelations to draw you closer to the Father that loved you first.

Joshua also uses this opportunity to remind his people, and to encourage them to remind each other, that even though God has done a mighty work in the lives of their ancestors, that even though God has already done a mighty work in their lives, God is not finished yet.

Peter writes in 2 Peter 1:10-17, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more eager to confirm your call and election, for if you do this, you will never stumble. For in this way, entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be richly provided for you. Therefore I intend to keep on reminding you of these things, though you know them already and are established in the truth that has come to you. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to refresh your memory, since I know that my death will come soon, as indeed our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort so that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things. For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying, "This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased." (NRSV)

Notice what Peter says, "I intend to keep on reminding you." That's part of our role as believers, to keep on reminding each other of all that God has done for us. This life can be very difficult at times. So much so that we wonder if God is there at all. If we are not truly alone. That is where your church family comes in. We are called to lift up one another, to support one another, to care for one another. The spirit for that, the ability to do that, comes from God. We can spend an endless amount of time recounting in Scripture all those places God cared for humanity. We can continue that by hearing testimony from each other about how God has cared for us in the book that is our lives.

But our mind is a funny thing. It can be selective in what it retains and recalls. Let us be a blessing to each other. Let us remind each other of God's love and presence though words to each other, prayers for each other, and signs of affection toward one another.

As we take this day to remember all God has done for us; as we take this day to remind each other all the ways that God is still working in and through each of us; let us also use this day to recommit ourselves to our Father in Heaven.

When Joshua gathered the people of Israel, his purpose was to remind them who they are and how they got there. He called them to remember what God had done for them and then Joshua challenged them to recommit their lives by saying: "Choose this day whom you will serve."

Remembering and reminding made the recommitment easier. For when they remembered the promises of God and reminded themselves of all that God had accomplished in their lives, who they were and how they got there, their lives were filled with hope. It is easy to recommit when there is hope both for the present and the future.

Frederick Buechner wrote, "Hope stands up to its knees in the past and keeps its eyes on the future. There has never been a time past when God wasn't with us as the strength beyond our strength, the wisdom beyond our wisdom. To remember the past is to see that we are here today by grace, that we have survived as a gift."

That gift of grace, that gift of God's presence is what allows us and calls us and challenges us like Joshua to recommit our lives to God. In a sense, every time we come through these doors to worship, every time we bow our heads in prayer, every time we gather for fellowship, every time we help a stranger, offer forgiveness, or give a hand up we are recommitting ourselves once again.

Every time we gather to baptize an infant, youth or adult; every time someone joins the church and begins that journey of discipleship with us we recommit ourselves through the vows we all take. Your involvement is a sign of your recommitment.1

Today is the day we set aside to honor our fathers. Our fathers have played an important role in each of our lives. Our fathers, those men that took the time to teach us, to instruct, to hold us accountable. Those men, whether they be biological fathers, church fathers, uncle fathers, or best friends borrowed fathers, we have all had them. But we also have all had our Heavenly Father. Today, remember God, remind yourself and each other of all God has done for you, and recommit yourself to God, basking in the hope that will be yours because of it. God is here, God is waiting, take time today to tell God how thankful you are for all God has done for you, both unrealized and obvious. Do this not out of obligation, but out of gratitude for the One that loved you first.

1. Strayhorn, Billy

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