Worship for Sunday, August 22, 2021

Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18

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, “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.”
The Word of the Lord.

Psalm 34:15-22

The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous,
and God’s ears are open to their cry.
The face of the Lord is against those who do evil,
to erase the remembrance of them from the earth.
The righteous cry, and the Lord hears them
and delivers them from all their troubles.
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted
and saves those whose spirits are crushed.
Many are the troubles of the righteous,
but the Lord delivers them from every one.
God will keep safe all their bones;
not one of them shall be broken.
Evil will bring death to the wicked
and those who hate the righteous will be punished.
O Lord, you redeem the life of your servants,
and those who put their trust in you will not be punished.

Ephesians 6:10-20

Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power. Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints. Pray also for me, so that when I speak, a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it boldly, as I must speak.

The Word of the Lord.

The Holy Gospel according to Saint John 6:56-69

[Jesus said,] “Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.” He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it?” But Jesus, being aware that his disciples were complaining about it, said to them, “Does this offend you? Then what if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before? It is the spirit that gives life; the flesh is useless. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. But among you there are some who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the first who were the ones that did not believe, and who was the one that would betray him. And he said, “For this reason I have told you that no one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father.”

Because of this many of his disciples turned back and no longer went about with him. So Jesus asked the twelve, “Do you also wish to go away?” Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

The Gospel of our Lord.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

There are times in all of our lives when we just need to be reminded of who we are and whose we are. When we need a reminder of our identity.

Well – some of us anyway. Because I – for one – will have you know that there is a certain small-ish human being in my life who reminds me of my identity ALL of the time. Seriously – ALL OF THE TIME! William McFarland has made it his life’s mission and primary goal to make sure that I never – ever forget that I am his MOM!!! This might actually be Will’s superpower.

Typing away on the computer with a look of deep concentration on my face – this is the time to remind Kerri McFarland that she is a mom over and over again!

On the telephone attempting to have a conversation with someone other than him – also an excellent opportunity to remind Kerri McFarland – that she is a mom!

Caught trying to read a book before Will’s bedtime – well Kerri McFarland most definitely needs to be reminded 3,000 times that she is a MOM.

Trying to have a thought all her own – also an excellent time to remind her that she is his mom – Mom – MOM!

It is also essential that I be reminded of my mom-ness while brushing my teeth – watching anything on television and even while hiding in the closet!

If Will is around then he wants me to remember who I am and whose I am!

Actually – Will wants me to remember that I am his mom when he isn’t around too – because he leaves little reminders of himself everywhere! But that’s okay – because I am his MOM and that’s important to both of us.

(But I do hope that someday – Will has a child who is just as intense he is and stalks – I mean – lovingly reminds him of his “dad-ness” just as often as Will reminds me of my “mom-ness!”)

We all need reminders from time to time. After all – this world is full of distractions and things that would have us forget who we are and whose we are.

And we aren’t alone in needing these sorts of reminders. We see this very same thing happening in our First Reading for this week from the book of Joshua.

When we meet up with the Chosen People this week – we discover exciting things are happening in their lives. Finally – after 40 very long – hard – exhausting years – filled with challenge after challenge – their journey through the desert is almost over. They are almost home. They can literally see the Promised Land. Soon they will be starting their new lives in the land God has promised them and their descendants.

But before they begin their lives in their new homeland – their leader Joshua calls everyone together. It is a time for the people of Israel to reflect. To refocus. To remember who they are and whose they are. And to make plans for the future. Because this will help them start their new lives out on the right foot.

First Joshua reminds them of who their God is and what their God has done for them. Joshua reminds them of their long history with their God. Joshua reminds them of the many ways God has lovingly cared for his people over time.

Joshua recounts the way God first called Abraham and Sarah and then faithfully and lovingly cared for them and their children and grandchildren.

Next Joshua reminds them of how God responded to their own desperate cries for help when they were still slaves in Egypt. Of how God parted the Red Sea allowing them to escape the cruel pharaoh and his menacing army.

And how God lovingly cared for them during their 40 year journey to the Promised Land. God fed them when they were hungry and gave them water when they were thirsty. God defeated their enemies and protected them each and every step of the way.

And now God is about to give them a beautiful country – rich in resources.

Joshua declares this is the God to whom they belong. This faithful – loving – awesome and almighty God is their God.

And then Joshua boldly proclaims that he and his family are going dedicate their lives to serving and praising and worshipping this God.

Next – Joshua – says to the People of Israel – now it is your turn. You must choose if you will follow the one true God? Or will you serve other gods – false gods? You must decide – who will be your God?

Clearly – Joshua’s reminder of who God is and who they are – works – because the entire nation of Israel declares they too will follow the one true God. They will serve God and be his people.

Just as it was incredibly important for the Chosen People to remember who they were and to whom they belonged – it is equally important for us to remember who we are and to whom we belong.

We need reminders of our true identities. Because we too are the beloved children of the one true God. But it can be so very easy to forget this and to lose our way. After all – our world if full of distractions and temptations and things that would lead us away from our God. Our lives are just as filled with false gods.

There are many things we can do to strengthen our relationship with our Lord. One important way is by reading God’s Word. Your Bibles are filled with reminders of how much God loves you. The Bible is all about God’s love for you.

The Bible also tells us about how God wants us to live our lives in this world. God’s Word reminds us who of we are and whose we are.

Another important way we learn more about who our God is and what it means to be God’s children is during worship. Each week during the confession – we are reminded we are the forgiven – redeemed – beloved children of God. In the hymns we sing – the prayers we pray – and in the preaching of the Word – we learn more about God’s love for us and we hear God’s call to us to serve others.

In the sacrament of Holy Communion – we can actually taste and see that our Lord is good and that we are forgiven and loved.

When we gather together for Bible studies, Sunday school, youth group meetings, and fellowship times we are reminded of who we are and whose we are.

You are the beloved, redeemed, called and claimed children of the one true God. Truly this is Good News. AMEN.

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