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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Saturday, November 7, 2020  

Today’s Scripture Reading  |  Joshua 24:1–3a, 14–25

Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors—Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor—lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan and made his offspring many. I gave him Isaac; “Now therefore revere the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.

Now if you are unwilling to serve the Lord, 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.” Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; for it is the Lord our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; and the Lord drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.” But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.” And the people said to Joshua, “No, we will serve the Lord!” Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” The people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and him we will obey.” So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem. (NRSV)

Every time I hear or read Joshua 24:15, I recall the cross-stitch of that verse hanging on the wall of my friend Bryson’s living room, just inside the front door on the right. In my memory it’s oval, with a light wooden frame, white fabric, and brown stitching: “Choose this day whom you will serve. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Bryson lived across the street, and we spent hours upon hours in one another’s homes. I must have walked by that cross-stitch hundreds upon hundreds of times throughout my childhood.

It didn’t tell me anything about Bryson’s family that I didn’t already know. His mom was a devout woman who only played the religious radio station on the drive to school, and they were always in church. When they weren’t in church, Bryson’s mom, April, was badgering my parents to go. And so they eventually did. Before long, my parents were swaying in the aisles while in Sunday School Bryson and I colored pictures of Jesus. Nearly forty years and a couple of church changes later, I would not be surprised to find that cross-stitch still hanging on the same wall of the same house where April is still my parents’ neighbor.

There are a lot of this days in forty years, a fact certainly not lost on the Israelites, hearing Joshua’s ultimatum that day, who had spent that interval wandering the wilderness. We know now how misplaced was the confidence of their declaration, “We will serve the Lord!” The phrase “Israel did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” will feature prominently in this story going forward. Yet the invitation never goes away.

This day is as good as any before to choose to serve the Lord.

God of the covenant, we desire to serve you this day and all days. Strengthen us with the example of Jesus and the inspiration of your Spirit, so that our will may be decisive and true and faithful. Amen.

Written by Rocky Supinger, Associate Pastor for Youth Ministry

Reflection and prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church

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