Watching for the Morning of August 23, 2015
The Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost:
Proper 16 / Lectionary 21
So what do you choose? It is a question Joshua asks the Israelites and Jesus asks his followers. “What do you choose?”
Israel has come through the desert and, as presented in Joshua, God has led them on a victorious march to claim the land from its Canaanite inhabitants. There are hints in the text that the process was more complicated than this – but the author wants to emphasize God’s fidelity in fulfilling his promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all their descendants. The God who opened the Red Sea and freed them from every enemy has fulfilled his promises. Now what will this people do? Its time to choose: the LORD or the gods of the land?
It’s a tougher choice than we imagine, because we are by nature syncretists. We think we can worship God and the gods of our land: we can worship God and mammon, God and country, God and success, God and power, God and sexuality, God and family, God and self – or God and some of all of these.
Joshua demands they choose. Jesus makes us choose. With audacious, provocative, even offensive words he forces us to either see with new eyes or walk away. And many depart, many who were disciples. But the twelve respond: “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.” There is no true life in those other things, no enduring life, no imperishable life.
As we face this challenge, the psalmist reminds us of God’s faithfulness and Ephesians bids us put on “the whole armor of God.”
The Prayer August 23, 2015
Keep us, O God, in your eternal Spirit
that, when challenged by your word, we may never turn back from following you,
but always confess and believe that you have the words of eternal life;
through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
The Texts for August 23, 2015
First Reading: Joshua 24:1-3, 13-18 (Appointed 24:1-2a, 14-18)
“‘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.’” – Joshua gathers the people following the forty year wandering in the wilderness and the occupation of the promised land and challenges them to put away their foreign gods and serve the LORD with fidelity.
Psalmody: Psalm 34:15-22
“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry.” – The concluding section of an acrostic poem declaring God’s fidelity to those who are faithful to him.
Second Reading: Ephesians 6:10-20
“Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” – The author uses the metaphor of a Roman soldier’s armor to call the community to faithfulness to God.
Gospel: John 6:56-69
“When many of his disciples heard it, they said, ‘This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?’” – The words of Jesus about eating his flesh has revealed that many even among his followers do not understand the meaning of the sign of the bread (the feeding of the five-thousand) and they turn away. Jesus then asks the twelve: “Do you also wish to go away?”