Doilies, First Dates, and the Big Bad Wolf

The following is a short sermon based on Joshua 24:1-15

“As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

This is a bit of a rally call, isn’t it?  It gets people excited.  It reinforces loyalty.  We declare allegiances.

And then we end up putting this Bible verse on doilies and cross stitches and bumper stickers and status updates.

This phenomenon of the rally call isn’t unique to faith only, though.  We have rally calls for all sorts of things.

As for me and my household, we will cheer for the Blue Bombers.

As for me and my household, we will drive Hondas.

As for me and my household, we will drink fair trade coffee from Ten Thousand Villages.

Basically, I just described my life there in a series of rally calls.  I drive a Honda, drink fair trade coffee from Ten Thousand Villages, and cheer for the Blue Bombers.

Rally calls are meant to be short, catchy, and build up support.  They’re really not supposed to lead us to asking questions.

Like the question “Why?”

Why do I cheer for the Bombers? Especially when they haven’t won the Grey Cup for 25 years?  They’re our local team, it’s fun to go to games and boo the refs, plus both my Dad and Grandpa are faithful Bomber fans, so I am contributing to the Penner legacy of True Blue.

Why do I only drive Hondas?  Well, in my experience, they drive well, and don’t break down.  Although sometimes I do miss my 1994 Ford Tempo.

Why do I drink fair trade coffee?  Well, I don’t mind paying a bit more at the till to ensure that farmers are paid a fair wage and can better provide opportunities for their families.

Those reasons don’t make very good slogans or catch phrases or rally cries, do they?

But I’m okay with that, because talking about my first car, and farmers providing for their families, and my dad and my grandpa going to Bomber games with me… it all  brings a bit of a tear to my eye.

It’s those stories, the important ones that have shaped my life and explain why I do what I do… Those are the important stories.  Sure, we have rally calls. But what’s underneath them is what’s important.

It’s the same with the rally call we read in Joshua 24.  “As for me and my household will serve the Lord.”  Sure, we put that verse on doilies and on the backs of T-Shirts, but it’s the “Why?” behind the statement that’s the important one.

Why do you and your household serve the Lord?

Well, that’s a really good question, isn’t it?  Why? Why do you serve the Lord?  Why are you here, sitting on uncomfortable pews?  Why are you here singing songs that were written hundreds of years ago?  Why do you give money to church?  Why do you serve the Lord?

Let’s go back to the text and ask the same question.  Why does Joshua declare that he is going to serve the Lord?

Because he remembered.  He remembered God.  He remembered all that God has done for his people.

Joshua remembered that it was God who took Abraham from his land and promised him that he’d make him a people, and that he’d bless them so they could bless the world.

Joshua remembered how God had led his people out of slavery in Egypt, and how they had crossed the Red Sea.

Joshua remembered how God led them through the wilderness, and brought them to a new land to live.

Joshua remembered all these life changing encounters with God over the centuries.

He remembered them so well, that when he was giving this speech, he gathered all the leaders at Shechem, which is a place that probably means nothing to most of us.   But every time the Bible names a place that’s hard to say, it’s probably named for a reason, and if we go back a few Sundays, we find that we mentioned the place of Shechem here before.

It was the place where God showed Abraham the land his descendants were going to get, the land where God was going to bless them so they could be a blessing to the world.  Shechem, to Joshua is like that ice cream place where had your first date with your partner.  Shechem is like that movie you watched where you first held hands.  Shechem is like the first house you bought.  Shechem, is like seeing your picture on the wall at the curling club for being Men’s League Champs.  It’s this place that oozes memories.  It’s screaming out “Remember what happened here!”

And isn’t that what we do every Thanksgiving?  We take a moment and reflect on all the things to be thankful for?  When all my siblings and cousins are gathered around the table, I always make sure that we go around the table and make everyone say what they’re thankful for. IMG_4500

My sister in law did this a craft with my 2 year old nephew this week, and they wrote down the things they’re thankful for.  He said family, friends, snakes, Opa, and the Big Bad Wolf, and he only needed some prompting from his mother for the family and friends part.

We pause, we reflect, and we remember.  And when we do this, it changes how we see the world moving forward.  It roots us in something deeper and something more important than just the necessary day to day activities we do to live.  When we pause, reflect, and remember, it changes how we see the world.

This is what Joshua was doing.  He was remembering the stories of God’s faithfulness.  And when he remembered, when he looked back, he came up with this nugget:

“As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Why do you serve the Lord?

My hope, and my prayer, is that somewhere, somehow, in your life, you have encountered God.   That somewhere in your journey, you have experienced the depth of God’s love.  A moment of awe.  An experience of unbelievable grace.  A flicker of peace.  That you have felt God’s love deep in the marrow of your bones.

We’re here, because somewhere, somehow, sometime, God encountered us.  And in that encounter, we found life. Life to the fullest.  Life at its best.   Life as it could be.

One of my favourite authors, Mark Yaconelli, says that “We, in the church, are connoisseurs of life.  You know what it means it be alive.  That’s why there’s humour here. That’s why playfulness here.  That’s why there’s praise and stories and music and prayer here.  All the capacities of the human being are invited into this place, because that’s who we are…. We’re living human beings who carry the image of God. And that’s the gift that we bring to the world.”

We have this encounter with God, this experience with God’s love… it’s this that propels us into the future, full of life.  We live our lives out of gratitude to God.

This is our remembering.  This is our story.  This is our rally call.  Me and my household, we’re going to the serve the Lord, because we’ve experienced God’s love.  We should put this on a doily or cross stitch or bumper sticker.

I’m going to end my part this morning, before we sing, by getting us to simply sit in silence for about 60 seconds.  And as we sit, I’d encourage you to ask yourself the question:

Why do you serve the Lord?

And if you come across a story, just smile and enjoy it.


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