Sunday October 16, 2022
Life and Work of our Church
The church is wherever God’s people are praising,
singing God’s goodness for joy on this day.
The church is wherever disciples of Jesus
remember his story and walk in his way.
Carol Rose Ikeler 1959 © 1963 W.L. Jenkins. All Rights Reserved. Used and adapted by permission of Westminster John Knox Press. LicenSingOnline#605486
Acknowledging the Territory
As we begin our worship, we take a moment to acknowledge that the land upon which we live, work and worship is, by law, the unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq people. We offer our deep gratitude for this land and we commit ourselves to use and share this land wisely.
Lighting the Christ Candle
And as we light our Christ Candle this morning, we are reminded that regardless of what is happening in the world around us, God’s Light and God’s Spirit are still here, actively at work in the world today. Once again, we commit ourselves to follow and to share that light.
Call to Worship
Life pulls us in many directions.
Many duties and tasks seek to lay claim on our lives.
Life offers us many passions and obsessions,
Many things that we chase after and devote ourselves to.
But this day, in this place, let us choose to devote ourselves to God.
This day, in this place, we open our hearts and spirits to God.
This day, in this place, we are reminded what it means to serve God without reservation or hesitation.
This day, in this place, we gather to worship God.
Lord, we have arrived here today from the busy-ness of our daily lives, from the noise and confusion of the world around us, from the many and varied things that make demands on our time, our attention and our priorities. We have arrived here today to worship you. In this hour, we long to meet you, to feel your presence surrounding us, enveloping us, loving us, and directing us. We long to settle into your silence, laying aside all our cares and worries, and opening ourselves to your presence. Be with us now, we pray. Amen
Gift of Music Praise my Soul the God of Heaven VU #240
We often talk about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as the patriarchs of our faith. We talk about Moses and Arron and the escape from Egypt and the journey to the “Promised Land”. But we seldom hear much about Joshua, who was actually the one who took the people across the Jordan and conquered all the people who had previously lived in what became the Land of Judah and the Land of Israel.
In today’s scripture reading from the ending of the book of Joshua, Joshua reminds the people of their history and all that has brought them to where they are now. He also offers his own promise that he and his family will always follow God and he challenges the people to do the same.
Joshua 24:1-16, 25-26 Good News Translation
Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel together at Shechem. He called the elders, the leaders, the judges, and the officers of Israel, and they came into the presence of God. Joshua said to all the people, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, has to say: ‘Long ago your ancestors lived on the other side of the Euphrates River and worshiped other gods. One of those ancestors was Terah, the father of Abraham and Nahor. Then I took Abraham, your ancestor, from the land across the Euphrates and led him through the whole land of Canaan. I gave him many descendants. I gave him Isaac, and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau. I gave Esau the hill country of Edom as his possession, but your ancestor Jacob and his children went down to Egypt. Later I sent Moses and Aaron, and I brought great trouble on Egypt. But I led you out; I brought your ancestors out of Egypt, and the Egyptians pursued them with chariots and cavalry. But when your ancestors got to the Red Sea, they cried out to me for help, and I put darkness between them and the Egyptians. I made the sea come rolling over the Egyptians and drown them. You know what I did to Egypt.
“‘You lived in the desert a long time. Then I brought you to the land of the Amorites, who lived on the east side of the Jordan. They fought you, but I gave you victory over them. You took their land, and I destroyed them as you advanced. Then the king of Moab, Balak son of Zippor, fought against you.
He sent word to Balaam son of Beor and asked him to put a curse on you. But I would not listen to Balaam, so he blessed you, and in this way I rescued you from Balak. You crossed the Jordan and came to Jericho. The men of Jericho fought you, as did the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. But I gave you victory over them all. As you advanced, I threw them into panic in order to drive out the two Amorite kings. Your swords and bows had nothing to do with it. I gave you a land that you had never worked and cities that you had not built. Now you are living there and eating grapes from vines that you did not plant, and olives from trees that you did not plant.’
“Now then,” Joshua continued, “honor the Lord and serve him sincerely and faithfully. Get rid of the gods which your ancestors used to worship in Mesopotamia and in Egypt, and serve only the Lord. If you are not willing to serve him, decide today whom you will serve, the gods your ancestors worshiped in Mesopotamia or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are now living. As for my family and me, we will serve the Lord.”
The people replied, “We would never leave the Lord to serve other gods!
So Joshua made a covenant for the people that day, and there at Shechem he gave them laws and rules to follow. Joshua wrote these commands in the book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up under the oak tree in the Lord‘s sanctuary.
When we think about the ancestors of our faith we generally think about Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, or about Joseph and about Moses and Arron, but most people could tell you very little about Joshua, other perhaps, than the song Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho.
The truth is that Joshua plays a fundamental role in the history of the Israelite people and thus in the history of Christianity. But it is not always a role that we are comfortable with or that fits well with our understanding of God’s call for us or God’s purpose and will for our world.
What we don’t remember about the story of the battle of Jericho is that after the walls fell, Joshua’s troupes went throughout the city killing every man, woman and child there, except for Rahab the prostitute and her family, the one person who had helped in the planning of the attack on Jericho. We are told that they even killed every cow, sheep and donkey.
And it didn’t end with Jericho. Everywhere he went Joshua continued to not only conquer city after city, but to wipe out entire populations claiming the land that God had promised to the Israelite people. The claim that God had promised the land to the ‘chosen people’ was the justification used for the genocide carried out by Joshua’s army. Since God had promised to bring them victory what happened to the people who already inhabited that land, did not matter.
This is not something we really want to think about, let alone talk about. God made a covenant promise that the Israelite people would have a land of their own, and God does not break God’s covenant. The problem is that we, as human beings, interpret God’s covenant in our own ways. We interpret it to suit our own purposes and priorities.
But God’s covenant is, and always has been, one of living in right relationship with God, with others and with all of creation. God’s covenant is not one of ownership, but one of stewardship.
From the very beginning of our scriptures, from the very beginning of creation, we are told that we are to be caretakers of God’s creation. We are told to “have dominion”. But that does not mean ownership and control. It means that we are called to use the tremendous ability we have been given to manipulate and control our environment, not for our own personal gain, but as a sacred trust to care for what God has given us.
Unfortunately, human beings have always confused stewardship with control. We feel a sense of entitlement and pride in our ability to manipulate our world and we claim it as our own. We all do this. We renovate, rearrange and redecorate our homes in order to make them uniquely ours. We pay a lot of money in order to own things that we want. We live in a world where the rights to personal property are engrained into our laws, and where owning real estate is often seen as the ultimate proof of success.
Now I don’t believe that there is anything wrong with owning personal property. The problem arises when our ownership comes at the expense of someone else. When we claim something as our own personal property because God has given it to us, we use God as an excuse to claim for ourselves something that may, in fact not be ours. Our claim may in fact go against God’s very call to live in right relationship with others or with creation.
When Joshua entered the land of Canna, he assumed that, since God had given him this land, he had the right to destroy anyone or anything that he believed threatened his understanding of the ownership of that land. What we see today as horrible atrocities, he saw as fulfilling God’s promise that the land had been given to the Israelite people. Joshua understood this as being God’s will.
And before we shake our heads in discussed and say, “Well obviously Joshua didn’t understand what God was telling him”, we need to stop and take a look at our own history. Between the mid-fifteenth century and the mid-twentieth century, the Doctrine of Discovery allowed our European ancestors to seize lands inhabited by Indigenous peoples under the guise of “discovering new lands”, meaning any lands that were not already inhabited by Christians. Our entire country was “settled” using of this Doctrine of Discovery.
In our own area Acadians were forced out and their property confiscated because they were French Roman Catholics rather than being English Protestants whom God obviously favored and had chosen to settle in this “new land”.
But God’s way is not the way of conquest and destruction. It is not about domination and ownership. God’s way is loving, caring and relational. God’s covenant is a two-way covenant. God promises to love us and care for us at all times and in all situations forever, and we promise to love God and to follow God’s call and direction.
Unfortunately, as the Bible tells us over and over, humanity is not always very good at keeping our part of the Covenant. We do not always live in right relationship with God, with others or with creation. There are times we claim as our own what does not belong to us. There are times we refuse to recognize the rights of others to live in ways that may be different from ours. There are times we refuse to honour or build relationships but instead choose to tear down those relationships and claim for ourselves what we have no right to.
In the passage we read this morning, after conquering the land of Canna, Joshua tells the people, on behalf of God, “Your swords and bows had nothing to do with it. I gave you a land that you had never worked and cities that you had not built. Now you are living there and eating grapes from vines that you did not plant, and olives from trees that you did not plant.”
Joshua is calling the people to remember, not their own strength or their own victory, not the rights they have to the property and land upon which they now live, but instead, to remember their relationship with God and the covenant that they have made to follow and obey God.
The amazing thing is that, regardless of what the people have done, God has not abandoned that covenant. Through the words of Joshua, God is calling the people to bear witness to their commitment to their promise to live in right relationship with God. And the relationship that God is calling the people to live into, is a relationship built on love, on justice and on peace. It is a relationship that goes beyond the Israelite people and their God. It is a relationship of caring and stewardship that goes beyond our relationship with God to include all people and all of creation, just as it was at the beginning of time, and just as it has always been.
That some promise and that same covenant apply to us today. God continues to keep God’s part of that covenant even now. No matter what we have done, no matter how far we may have strayed from our relationship with God, God continues to promise us a relationship built on love, justice and peace.
But God’s promise of a relationship built on love, justice and peace cannot be fulfilled by using scriptural texts as a justification to overpower, marginalize or enslave others. When we dominate rather than embracing others, we are not living our part of the covenant. We are serving our own self-interests rather than serving God.
And so, as they settle into a new life in a new land, Joshua challenged the Israelite people to, decide today whom you will serve. Will they choose to worship power rather than worshiping God? Will they choose to live by the dictates of the surrounding culture or will they choose to live by the laws and dictates of God?
That same challenge is offered to us today. Decide this day whom you will serve. Will we live into our covenant with God, a covenant expressed for us in the words of our creed. We are called to be the Church: to celebrate God’s presence, to live with respect in Creation, to love and serve others, to seek justice and resist evil. God never fails to keep God’s covenant, but today we must choose if we will keep our part of the covenant. We must choose who we will follow. Amen
Gift of Music Sing Praise to God, Who Has Shaped VU #221
We Offer Our Gifts
God continues to call each one of us each and every day. One of the ways we respond is in the gifts we offer. Those gifts may the financial gifts we give to support this church or they may be the gifts of our time, our talents, our caring and our sharing. Whatever gifts we bring, whether they are what we place on our offering places as we arrive, the change we put in our Mission & Service piggy bank, the donation we make through PAR or any of the many other gifts we offer God through what we offer to others, we ask God to bless them as we bring them forward.
Offertory Response Tune # 549
For all your goodness God, we give you thanks.
And so we offer you, all that we have and do,
To serve and honour you and give you thanks.
© no Copyright
As you have blessed us in all that you have given us, we ask that you will bless the gifts that we bring that they may become a blessing to others. Amen.
We Offer Our Prayers
God is always as near as our next breath. God always listen when we pray, whether those prayers are written down and placed in our prayer jar or whether they as said in the silence of our hearts. So let us bring our silent, personal prayers to God with confidence, knowing that they are always heard … Amen.
Minute for Mission
Prayers of the People
Gracious God, your amazing love extends through all time and space, to all parts of your creation, a creation that you called good. You made a covenant with Noah and his family, putting a rainbow in the sky to symbolize your promise of love and blessing to every living creature, to all successive generations. You made a covenant with Abraham and Sarah, blessing them and their descendants throughout the generations. You made a covenant with Moses, Aaron, Joshua and the Israelite people, giving them the ten commandments and challenging them to choose a life lived in relationship with you, with others and with all of creation. As people of faith, you continue to call us to live into your covenant of faithfulness and love that extends to the all generations.
And so, this day, we pray for the healing of the earth, that present and future generations may continue to enjoy and share the rich fruits of your creation …
We pray for justice, that people everywhere will learn to live in peace, recognizing and honouring the rights of all people to share in the abundance you provide …
We pray for peace, that those who wage war in order to claim for themselves more power, more control or more property will learn that true power comes only through our relationship with you …
We pray for our loved ones and for ourselves, that regardless of what is happening in our lives, we may know that through living in covenantal relationship with you and with one another we may truly find the love, joy and peace that you have promise to all people. Amen.
Gift of Music Great is Thy Faithfulness VU #288
Choose this day who you will follow. That is the challenge with which we go out from this place into the world around us. But the good news is we do not go alone. The God that calls us also leads us. The Christ whose example we follow is with us. And the Spirit that surrounds us and dwells within us, will be our help and our guide wherever we go. So, as we go out from here, let us go with God.
Choral Blessing #298
When you walk from here, when you walk from here,
Walk with justice, walk with mercy, and with God’s humble care.
© Words and music; 1991 Borealis Music. Used with Permission. OneLicense.net#A-723756