Text: Joshua 24:1-15
My dad loved fall….and during the fall, he loved taking us to this place called “Inspiration Peak.” Inspiration Peak is this point about 400 feet above the rest of the surrounding central Minnesota plains…and you can see for about 20 miles in every direction. You’ll see miles and miles of trees covering the Minnesota plains – trees displaying the colors of fall…red, yellow, orange. Just beautiful. And I loved going there too.
But as much as I remember loving to go each time….it was always a pain getting there. It was a two-hour drive to get to the park….you had to take backroads. And then you had a 20-30 minute hike up to the top…it was a relatively short distance, but it was really steep, and exhausting. During that drive and that hike….I’d kind of forget how beautiful it was at the top….and it would take a pep talk or two from my dad to push me, reminding me just why were doing this, and what waited us at the top…that amazing view.
Today we’re in the book of Joshua: the Israelites are finally able to reach the peak of life in the Promised Land – a life of peace after years of nothing but being at war with other nations and tribes in the land. That’s exactly what the majority of the book of Joshua is about; the Israelites being at war, and then finally realizing peace.
And the reality is that the Israelites we’re speaking about at the end of Joshua are about 1 or 2 generations removed from those who originally left Egypt. Truth is, somewhere between 65-80 years have passed since the Exodus out of Egypt. These Israelites had no firsthand experience with the Exodus or the wilderness wanderings. All they had known in their lives was a period of war – one after another, series of wars between nations and tribes. And now….all that was coming to an end – the military had drawn down. The 12 Tribes of Israel were established. People were now about to live “normal lives.” A life of civilization. A settled life. A life of peace.
Does any of that sound familiar to you? Think about this: our nation has been at war in Iraq and Afghanistan for 13 years now. 13 years. And now these wars are coming to an end. This past week, I was in a Navy leadership course for Reservists – mobilizations and recalls to active duty are decreasing rapidly as we end our presence and campaign in Afghanistan. People are coming home.
But if you think about it; there is a whole generation of people – primarily our kids – who have known nothing but an America at war. That’s their experience. And in fact, maybe thats our experience as well – all we’ve known and heard about is “The War on Terror.” Terrorism in all forms, both abroad and in America, threats and realities…and all the conspiracy theories too. We could sit here all day and debate all the facts and reasons behind the past 13 years of war but I think that’s not the point at all.
The point is that it’s created an unstable and anxious world. And that’s the world our kids have grown up in; it’s a world we’ve lived in. The events of 9/11 and the threat of Terrorism the past 13 years has affected us – we don’t feel safe; our security and well-being is no longer a sure thing. And I think it’s also made us extremely skeptical and paranoid and mistrustful as well – of our government, organizations and institutions, the economy; people of different race, religion, sexual orientation and social status.
A life….safety and security compromised; where skepticism and paranoia and mistrust and violence of war occupy our thoughts and time. And I wonder if this clouds our hearts and minds so we can’t see or even imagine what the view from the peak looks like – much less live into the reality – of a life of peace, a life of beauty.
The history lesson that Joshua gives the Israelites, that we heard today, is significant. Because it reminds the people WHY they are here – that it’s the covenant with God that shapes this life and time of peace they’re about to enter. And it’s this life that’s normal; not the one of endless war they had lived. The God that promised blessing; that promised freedom; that promised protection and provision…and delivered good on those things, now makes good on the promise of peace in the Promised Land. This is why they are here at this moment; this is what the covenant was all about. There’s no need to live in fear and uncertainty. God brings a time of peace…..a time to live in relationship with God, with each other as a nation, and with all the nations they were at war with in the land of Canaan.
And I think for us today, this history lesson is important. All the fear and mistrust and violence of body and soul is not God’s vision of life; that’s not why we’re here. It’s about living in the anticipation of the beauty that exists in the peaks of relationships and community with God and with each other; it’s about being surrounded by the presence of God and all people without fear and paranoia; it’s about living in an enduring covenant of blessing and and peace with God and all people, no matter who they are.
“Choose the day whom you will serve…but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” This history lesson, makes Joshua’s words not an ultimatum or a demand for our allegiance; but rather, a confession of faith that invites us into this covenantal relationship with God.
In faith, we choose to live in relationship with Almighty God who has been so faithful to us in the blessing of covenant and in Christ. In faith, we choose to see the beauty that exists in our world; we choose to trust and hope in the power of relationships and community. In faith, we choose to serve God…so that through us, others might know this God in Christ who blesses them with beauty and hope and peace too.
That is why “this house” – why we as a church are here. To be A place of safety; a family built on trust. And it is why this church is called…..to serve the Lord. Amen.