- Sunday 21B (Joshua 24:1-2,15-18 & John 6:60-69)
Joshua today invites the people to renew the covenant. He gathers the people in the very centre of the promised land, at Shechem, and retells the story of salvation so far. He reminds the people of all that God has accomplished within their history. He reminds them of who God is and who he has called his people to be – a holy people, a royal priesthood, a nation dedicated to the Lord alone. Now God has brought them into a land into which they have not laboured, to dwell in towns they did not build, to harvest grapes and olives they did not plant.
Joshua doesn’t sugar-coat it. He reminds the people that God is holy and jealous. The choice is to serve and worship God alone and to get rid of everything else.
Ever since the stories of creation that begin the book of Genesis, this theme of testing has been present with every character and every generation. God wants to partner with us as his image bearers, to work and worship in the world. But he needs to know what our character is like. What do we have in our hearts? Are we dedicated to a life of goodness and flourishing, or will we only choose for our own pleasure and satisfaction? The choice is not complicated, but it does require commitment and integrity.
In that garden in Eden, God invited us and commanded us to enjoy from all the trees in the garden. To eat of the bounty of that place, with only one exception. Don’t eat from one tree. Everything else is good. Trust me. I know what is good for you, and what is bad. Trust me.
Instead the woman-life decided that she knew better and listened to the wrong voice.
God knows that every person he has called will basically get it wrong. The people make bold declarations in Joshua 24 – but the whole book of Judges documents all the ways that they stuff up that choice and fail to live true to their bold promises.
Jesus began his public ministry by going out into the wilderness. He spent 40 days and 40 nights stripping away everything and anything that was not of God.
Every day he was invited to renew the same choice. Trust in God. Believe in the father’s love.
On the night before he died, Jesus again had to make a choice. He struggled. He asked to have the cup of suffering taken away from him. It is not easy to trust and believe in love. Especially when that choice involves suffering and death.
Thank God he did. He chose for us. To free us from all our sinful choices.
Our Gospel reading concludes the long section on the Bread of Life in John. Jesus has been very clear about his desire to be completely available for his people. He wants to feed us, and nourish us, with his word and with his body and blood. And all that the people can do in reply is to declare that what Jesus says is intolerable. They complain, and protest and grumble. This is too hard. It’s too much!
All he wants from us is trust and belief. Is he trustworthy? Has he proven himself?
Jesus wants to share his very life and spirit with us. He has the words (rhema) of everlasting life. But he does want covenant partners who will do what we need to do to trust and believe in him.
Today we get to choose again. What voice will we listen to? Whom shall we trust?