No matter how well we’re off financially, it is probably safe to say that we all have a lot of stuff that we don’t need. It is easy to accumulate stuff in this country. Getting rid of it is harder. Getting rid of things requires thinking. The other day I couldn’t open a drawer in our house, because there was some small cardboard lid jamming it up. Rather than spending time investigating whether that lid should be discarded or whether it is meant to protect something of great value, I did the guy thing and stuffed it back in the drawer. And I’m really not that messy. I just didn’t have time to think about it.
Friends, to stop and think takes time. I have been trying to get rid of my books. I concluded there are a lot of books in my office I haven’t look in for as much as ten years, so why not give them to people who would benefit from them. Chelsea took a bunch, Grace Suwabe who is working on her Doctor of Ministry took a bunch. On Thursday the pastor of the Burney Presbyterian Church which has just been through a split took another bunch. It feels good to do that. But it took a little thinking.
Friends, as we have already seen, Joshua does an odd thing: he makes people think. That in itself is not unusual. What he asks the people to think about is: “do you still have use for God?” It’s shocking and stunning. “Do you still have use for God now that you have reached the destination of your journey? Or has God outlived God’s usefulness now that you have gotten to where you’re going.
During his message at Presbytery this week Jeff Chapman, the pastor at Faith Presbyterian Church shared a theory he had read about faith when people have it good enough to feel they control their destiny, when they are able to guarantee their own economic wellbeing, they lose “dependent prayer.” It is a kind of desperate prayer that so much of the world’s population lives with and lives on. Ours is perhaps more of “independent prayer” or “optional prayer.” We figure, when We pray we’re okay, we don’t pray we’re okay. It’s optional. For the downtrodden of the world, prayer will be a lot more like breathing. They are desperately looking for signs of God’s grace, while we may barely even recognize that grace, except for the times when we do not see the light in our lives and find ourselves having trouble breathing.
But then come to think of, are we really doing that well spiritually and emotionally? We may have a bed to sleep in and plenty to eat, but we all hit the wall sometimes, don’t we? That is the time that we may ask the question Joshua asked the people: “Do you still want God or are you done with God?” Maybe there are others gods or substitutes for God that you want to invest in. There’s plenty available.
Friends, we live in a world of substitutes now. There is a generic substitute for the brand medicines at the pharmacy. There are vegetarian substitutes for chicken. The other day I asked people if they knew of a generic substitute for processed wheat flower. They sent me to the Coop. Wow, there is soy flour and rye flower and sorghum flour. And I’m just getting started. You and I substitute experiences too and sometimes even relationships. Now in the ancient days of the Bible, they would substitute gods. It was very common. When it comes to gods, think local they thought. But the Bible says that “God is a jealous God.” It’s probably not a good word in English, but it is supposed to describe the relationship between husband and wife., with all the ups and downs. “Don’t substitute me,” says God. “I don’t take it very well.
When we dig a little deeper, the message from Joshua is: I dare you to try it without God. In the end it is God underneath it all. God’s grace is the undercurrent of our life, even when we were moving along on top of the water, as if burning diesel in a motor boat. If there is no dependence on God’s grace we will not get very far. And that is true for this church. Without God’s grace we get nowhere. Let us not forget that.
To stop and think is not so bad, friends. Even about our faith. Does the old faith work? If we find ourselves giving away not just our books, but our Bible, then maybe we need to think a little more deeply.
Instead let us do what Joshua did when he said:” As to me and my family, we will choose the Lord.” Thanks be to God.