As Israel made its way through the wilderness to the Promised Land there was a moment that Moses sent spies into the Land to let them know the treasures to be found there as well as the challenges they might face as they attempt to make the land their own.
When the spies returned there was a mixed message. Truly it was a land flowing with “milk and honey”; but it also had giants living there. It was too dangerous to try and take the land. Joshua was one of the spies who differed. God has given this land to us as a gift; let’s take it. But he was in the minority. Because of this fear it was a generation before they entered the Promised Land. It was shortly after the death of Moses. Joshua had become their leader. He led the invasion. There are reports in Joshua, especially the destruction of Jericho, that trouble us today. On another day we need to deal with such moments reported in the scripture. But today we are going to jump forward. The Israelites have taken the land and are temporarily at peace with their neighbors. Joshua is an old man as he gathers the people and their leaders together.
God made a promise to free you from slavery and give you a “Promised Land”. Now you are settled here, and you are at peace with your neighbors. It is time for you to decide where and to whom is your greatest loyalty. You’ve got to serve somebody. Your ancestors: Abraham and his father Terah worshipped the deity of the land beyond the Euphrates. When we were slaves in Egypt, we worshipped the Egyptian gods. Now is the time to revere the Lord and put away the gods of our past.
Thus, begins what we call today a “covenant” ceremony.
In ancient times in the wilderness, it was like the “wild, wild, west”. The strongest took what they wanted from the weakest. As time moved on some of the stronger sheiks decided it was time to bring some law and order. So, when they heard of a weaker sheik being attacked, they would save them with a show of force and chase off the marauding bandits.
Afterward they would offer the sheik a covenant. I have saved you. If you would continue to like my protection, pledge loyalty only to me and send your young men to help me when needed, bring law and order to this area.
If the weaker sheik agreed; there was an elaborate signing ceremony and a document written up to forever remind everyone why there was a covenant.
Joshua led the way; “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” He warned the people if they chose God and later were unfaithful, they would lose the Promised Land. Generations later that is what happened when both the Northern and the Southern tribes were taken off to exile.
Joshua’s admonition holds true today. Regularly we need to honestly ask ourselves the question who do I serve? Is it my job? Is it a dream home at the beach? Is it being popular with my friends? What is my god, what do I give the greatest loyalty?
Bob Dylan, during one of the periods of his life when he was a Christian said it this way. “It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but you’ve got to serve somebody.”
Over sixty years ago, the Lutheran Church in America decided this was a good place to locate a congregation. They sent a mission developer. They hired an architect to design this building. He is now with the Lord, but is wife is still a member. The ministry was a gift from our denomination. Benevolent funds started this place.
Periodically we need to have covenant signing ceremony to recommit ourselves to the Lord and his call to make and grow disciples. In January I hope to have an elaborate ceremony of recommittal. But I thought we could have a recommittal today when we come forward to receive communion. When we come to the table to receive let’s not only receive “life, forgiveness, and salvation”, let’s also make that act to recommit our lives to the Lord, who gives himself totally to us in Holy Baptism, and Holy Communion.
But, before we do. Take a few moments to reflect on the time your spiritual journey started with the Lord. Was it the day you were baptized? Was it the day that you were confirmed? When was the last time you recommitted yourself to the Lord? My most recent moment was when the Council and I recommitted ourselves to serve together for another six months.
When was the last time for you?
Let us pray. You have been our Lord from eternity. We thank you for the ways that you have let us know we are your children. Thanks for all the challenges of life you have shepherded us through. Now Lord, help us today to recommit ourselves to that relationship that started the days Jesus died and rose for each of us that we might experience eternal life. Amen.