Archive for the 'Joshua' Category

For August 26, 2012: Proper 16, Year B

The Reading            Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18

The book of Joshua tells of the complete conquest of Canaan, though that conquest was more like a gradual encroachment. In any case, at the end of his long life, Joshua presents all the people with a choice: to follow the gods of the world around them or to enter into a covenant—a formal treaty—to be faithful servants of the Lord.

The Response            Psalm 34:15-22

The Epistle            Ephesians 6:10-20

The Old Testament lection omits the verses in which Joshua tells God’s people that they—we—are bound to fail to follow the Lord as we ought. Psalm 34:18 hints at the way out, and today’s reading from the letter to the Ephesians underlines it: what keeps us in righteousness is the power of the Lord.

The Gospel            John 6:56-69


Further thoughts

The lectionary selections today are an interesting mix. In the Old Testament reading, Joshua, having led Israel to ownership of Canaan, confronts the people of Israel with a choice between the old gods and The One God and more or less dares them to pick the right one. They brightly announce their allegiance to the Lord. The lectionary cuts off before the verses in which Joshua repeats the question, twice and with rising skepticism, then, after announcing that this is a covenant, tells them flatly that they’re going to fail at keeping up their end.

Joshua’s right, of course: when it comes to keeping covenants with God, they are—I am—no darned good. The flesh, as Jesus says, is useless. My insufficiency is partly a matter of meatheadedly human bad choices, but it is also simply that being righteous enough and compassionate enough and smart enough and simple enough and alive enough for God, all at the same time, takes more God-ness than even the best purely human being can manage under his or her own power. It requires more more than I can even really imagine.

Which leaves the unimaginable. The epistle offers God’s armor against superhuman enemies, which makes sense—but the gear is that of the Roman legions, who, though Rome has made Ephesus splendid and wealthy, are regarded with the esteem one reserves for playground bullies. In the gospel, Jesus presents as the means to salvation his own body and blood to be eaten and drunk—a flagrant violation of the foundational laws of the Torah, in which even animal blood is much too holy to take lightly, and thus literally unbelievable.

Both sets of instructions pull me way outside my comfort zone. That seems to be the point. I can’t plan or reason or bargain or scheme my way to being righteous and compassionate and smart and simple and alive enough for God. I can, however, say “Yes, with God’s help”—though with the package comes the sobering truth that God’s help may come to me from sources I’d thought myself better than or by means that may turn my world entirely upside down.

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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