For Sunday, Oct. 30, 2011: Proper 26, Year A

The Reading            Joshua 3:7-17

When the people of Israel went out of Egypt in the book of Exodus, one great sign of God’s presence with them and with their leader Moses was the parting of the Red Sea.  Today’s reading turns the page: under a new leader, the people are going in to the land of promise—and as they cross the River Jordan, once again through God’s power they will go on dry land. That the process of bringing them to their new home requires that other peoples be dispossessed is troubling to 21st-century ears—and should be.

 

The Epistle            1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

In the first reading, a miracle showing God’s presence legitimized Joshua’s leadership of the people of Israel. Writing to the Thessalonians, Paul also invokes God’s presence in what he does, though Paul’s is a very different sort of leadership than was Joshua’s.

 

 

Further thoughts

The Old Testament reading shows us God acting with great power on Joshua’s behalf and before all the people, pulling no punches in preparing a homeland for the Israelites by evicting seven other groups. In verses that we don’t see, in fact, the Israelites are promised that they will not only wrest this prime real estate away from the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites who were already living there, but they will destroy those tribes utterly. This turns out not quite to be the case, but it is certainly true that Joshua and company will cut a mighty swath through them. In any case, with God on their side, these Israelites are assuredly a force to be reckoned with.

 

Oct. 30, Sunday: Proper 26, 9:30 am
Intercessor: Betty Levie
Second Chalice: Aaron Gates
Lector 1: Mike Park
Lector 2: Penny Park
Proper 26: Joshua 3:7-17, Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37, 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13, Matthew 23:1-12

Somehow one cannot imagine the mighty captain Joshua asking people to notice how hard he and his team have worked not to be a nuisance, to do things right, and to produce right results. That is exactly what Paul does, however. Paul is not being exalted here, nor is there a breathtaking miracle to quash opposition, nor a promise that other peoples must yield and be crushed before God’s people. That’s quite a series of shifts of perspective.

What drives these shifts? I think it is reflected in today’s gospel. The way of Jesus is not to strut our stuff, nor to demand respect and honor, nor to hierarchize individuals as more to be deferred to or less, nor to point out fellow human beings as “others” whom we may take advantage of, scorn, or even expect God’s help in obliterating. Instead, Jesus says this: “The greatest among you will be your servant.” How much less grand-sounding—but how much better a way to live a life.

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