Weekly Reflections 8-19-2015

 Texts for Sunday, August 23

Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18 
 Psalm 34:15-22
 Ephesians 6:10-20 
 John 6:59-69 

Life happens….the death of co-workers, cancers appearing in people who seem so dang healthy, serious chronic illnesses that take one’s energy and spirit down low…and “out there” is  injustice, violence, racism, terrorism, trafficking, cruelty. 

Most of the time, knowing that God stands like a rock in the midst of these “sinking sands”,  I respond to “life” with patience and calm and “good courage”.  But then there are those times when I wonder if this whole God/faith thing I have going is all in vain.  “Seriously?  Me, Lord? I think you have the wrong number. Your call is difficult; who can accept it?”

All of the texts for Sunday August 23 speak to the issue that this “faith thing” isn’t always easy.

In John (the finale of Chapter 6 which has been with us the last 4 weeks), the “crowd” from the verses before are now described as “disciples”. Somewhere in there, they must have decided to follow him. But once more there is grumbling and complaining and conversation and Jesus makes more outrageous claims about his relationship to God and their relationship to God. It was one challenge too far. “This teaching is difficult; who can accept it? …many of his disciples turned back and no longer when about with him.” (v.60 & 66)

In the Joshua text, the nation of Israel who wandered the desert after leaving Egypt, are gathered at Shechem, a city already steeped in patriarchal legend:  Abraham built an altar, Jacob dug a well, Joseph was sold to the Egyptians nearby and then his bones were buried there when the nation of Israel returned.  Shechem sits in the middle of the Promised Land, between two mountains. The Israelites began their conquest there with a litany of blessings and curses and now Joshua in this reading, calls them to that place again, to recommit to God. They are asked to “choose this day whom you shall serve”.  It seems that some may have been clinging for 40+ years to what the gods of Egypt and how it was then. And it seems that some may have looked around Canaan and thought some of the local gods looked interesting. 

And the Ephesians text is an exhortation to build up your muscles in the faith (put on armor) so you can stand firm in the challenges of life. If it was easy you wouldn’t need armor.  It all sounds a bit militaristic, so I share two notes from Sarah Heinrich of Luther Seminary about that armor: 1) the armor is to help people stand fast “Standing fast does not require a person to hurt a neighbor in any way”; 2) the armor is defensive “Believers are girded in truth, faith, peace, the Spirit through the word, and in prayer for their defense and strength”

So what to do when storms hit? 

Ephesians says look at all the tools God gives you, including faith. 

Joshua says to the people “as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord”. And the people do the same “We also will serve the Lord, for he is our God.”  Every once in a while, say it out loud. In hearing yourself, you’ll realize it is true.

And John…in one of my favorite and often used texts, Peter answers “Lord, to whom can we go?”  When you get down to it, God is there – in the doubts and in the despair. There is no other place to go.

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Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Iowa City

Gathered by grace. Scattered for service.

123 E Market Street
Iowa City, IA 52245