Sermons 2008

Choose this day, Proper 27A, 9 November 2008, Joshua 24:14-25; Matthew 25:1-13

Home | Light and Love, Christmas 1B , 28 December 2008, John 1:1-18 | The light and the darkness, Christmas Day, 25 December 2008, John 1:1-14 | What would you see? Christmas Eve, 24 December 2008, Luke 2:1-20 | What did you say? Advent 3B, 14 December 2008, John 1:6-8. 19-28 | A refining fire, Advent 2B, 7 Dec 2008, Mark 1:1-8 | Alert, alert! Advent 1B, 30 November 2008, Mark 13:24-37 | Where will we stand: sheep or goats? Proper 29A 2008, 23 November 2008, Matthew 25: 31-46 | The talents to...? Proper 28A, 16 November 2008, Matthew 25:14-30 | Choose this day, Proper 27A, 9 November 2008, Joshua 24:14-25; Matthew 25:1-13 | All Saints A, 2 November 2008, Matthew 5:1-12; 23:1-12 | Holy or not? Proper 25A, 26 October 2008, Matthew 22:34-46 | Things: God's or Caesar's? Proper 24A, 19 October 2008, Matthew 22:15-22 | The wedding and the allegory, Proper 23A, 12 October 2008, Matthew 22:1-14 | The vineyard and the rock, Proper 22A. 5 October 2008, Matthew 21:33-46 | Deference and disobedience, Proper 21A, 28 September 2008, Exodus 17:1-7; Matthew 21:23-32 | Be content, Proper 20A , 21 September 2008, Matthew 20:1-16 | Only one true church? Proper 18A, 7 September 1008, Matthew 18:15-20 | Be content! Proper 20A, 21 September 2008, Matthew 22:1-16 | Be content! Proper 20A, 21 September 2008, Matthew 20:1-16 | Holy Name and Holy Ground, Proper 17A, Exodus 3:1-15; Matthew 16:21-28 | What's in a name? Proper 16A, 24 August 2008, Matthew 16:13-20 | Dogs? Proper 15A, 17 August 2008, Matthew 15:10-28 | Time to get out of the boat, Proper 14A, 10 August 2008, Matthew 14:22-33 | Who, me? Proper 13A, 3 August 2008, Matthew 14:13-21 | LIKE what? Proper 12A, 27 July 2008, Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 | Good seed, bad seed, Proper 11A , 20 July 2008, Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 | Watch the Farmer, Proper 10A, 13 July 2009, Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23 | Easy Yoke? Proper 9A 2008, 6 July 2008, Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 | Baptism of David William and Anne Tyler, Proper 8A, 29 June 2008 | The Twelve or the Dirty Dozen? Proper 6A, 15 June 2008, Matthew 9:35-10:15 | Jesus likes sinners?, Proper 5A, 8 June 2008, Matthew 9:9-13 | Lawlessness or not? Pentecost 3A, Proper 4A, 1 June 2008, Matthew 7:21-29 | What do you mean, if? Easter 6A, 27 April 2008, John 14:15-21 | Comforting words and St Thomas, Easter 5A, 20 April 2008, John 14:1-14 | Ordinary good shepherds, Easter 4A 2008, 13 April 2008, John 10:1-10 | Light for clarity, Easter 3A, 6 April 2008, Luke 24:13-35 | "Blessed are those who....", Easter 2A, 30 March 2008, John 20:19-31 | Hallelujah! He's alive! Easter Sunday A, 23 March 2008, John 20:1-18 | He had it all, Palm Sunday A, 16 March 2008, Matthew 26:14-27:54 | Lazarus: Waiting for Jesus, Lent 5A, 9 March 2008, John 11:1-45 | Miracles Physical and Spiritual, Lent 4A, 2 March 2008, John 9:1-41 | Living Water, Lent 3A, 24 February 2008, John 4:5-42 | God's unselfish love, Lent 2A, 17 February 2008, John 3:1-17 | Temptation, Lent 1A, 10 February 2008 | Ash Wednesday, 6 February 2008, Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21 | They heard the Lord call, Epiphany 3A, 20 Jan 2008, Matthew 4:12-23 | Come and See! Epiphany 2A, 20 January 2008, John 1: 29-42 | Remember Your Baptism? Epiphany 1A, 13 January 2008, Matthew 3:13-17 | We Three Kings, The Epiphany, 6 January 2008, Matthew 2:1-12

Proper 27A 2008                  Joshua 24:14-25; Matthew 25:1-3

 “The people have chosen,” said or implied both candidates as the election results became clear.  “The people have chosen,” blared the headlines on Wednesday morning.  And the 2008 campaign for President of the United States and leader of the free world came to an end.  And the air was filled with the promise of change to come.  Hopefully for the better. 

Our lections for this Sunday seem connected by a theme of making a choice.  The major choice facing the Chosen People as they occupied much of the land of Canaan over the period of the mature lifetime of their great leader Joshua took place at the ancient city of Shechem.  Shechem was occupied relatively peacefully by the ancient Israelites at some point during that period in the last half of the 13th Century B.C.

During the conquest of Canaan, which was bloody and brutal, the ancient Israelites increased in numbers from a small wandering band of desert nomads to what resembled a large band organized for large scale irregular warfare.  This increase was somewhat by birth but largely through the submission and accession of conquered peoples.  These peoples brought with them their gods, most notably in the scriptures of the time, the baals of various places.  The original Israelite stock had merged with these peoples by marriage and subsequent births.   By the time the conquest of Canaan seemed well on its way to being completed it was time to settle the question of idolatry.

Shortly after the initial intrusion of the Israelites into the region near the prominent city of Shechem, the newly acquired city was the scene of a covenant renewal ceremony, called and conducted by Joshua.  The ceremony took place in or near a shrine where the representatives of the people presented themselves before God.  Twentieth Century archaeologists have uncovered the remains of a small temple on a rise inside the city including an altar stone for burnt sacrifices.  One of my Old Testament professors was present at the dig at Shechem when the altar stone was uncovered and recalled the sense of excitement and relief that the archaeologists and observers felt at the discovery.  It was at this site where the great covenant renewal assembly of all Israel took place.  It was given the name of the “Temple of El-Berith,” the God of the Covenant”.

Like the other holy site of Israel’s salvation history and ours, the theophany at Mount Sinai when God revealed his name and gave the Ten Commandments, Shechem is also holy ground.  Here the question of many gods was answered and put to rest.

            Joshua challenged the assembly:  “If you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

            The assembly is recorded as having answered in an anamnesis, a liturgical creedal statement:  “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods; for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; and the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God."

Joshua, knowing how hard it was to wean the people from their old idols and ways, was not satisfied until the assembly had sworn and chosen to serve only the Lord their God three times in all.  The witness of much of the rest of the Old Testament is that Joshua was wise to insist on this three time swearing.  Idolatry continued to be a problem throughout much of both Old and New Testament times, whether native Canaanite or Greco-Roman Palestine.

Idols are still with us here in the early Twenty First Century, are they not?  What about the “cute” Tee shirt top for small and not so small girls:  ‘I WAS BORN TO SHOP!”  Indeed.  Is that it and no more?  Seems like it sometimes in a culture that is materialistic.  Things are the idols for many of us.  Well the y are only things until they become the main focus of life – then it’s the danger of idol worship.

How about sports and sports events?  Beginning at an early age team sports and winning the event become a strong focus in the lives of children – children of whatever age from grade school to grandparent.

Boats, vehicles, houses -- all tempt us to idol worship if we are not careful.  Beware, “keep awake”, said Jesus, “for you know neither the time nor the hour.”






Works consulted:  entries on Shechem in The Anchor Bible Dictionary;  Bernhard W, Anderson, Undeerstanding the Old Testament;  Michael D. Coogan, ed;, The Oxford History of the Biblical World.