Sermon Pentecost 13 year B
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Creator and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
The words from scripture present us with two choices today: wander off or abide in God.
When we first hear that, we think the choice is easy, but it is not. It never has been easy to abide in God. It is never straightforward. For one thing, it is our nature to go wandering off. We like to follow the pretty shiny things we see. We are very curious. We are very easily distracted, too.
I am not talking about the kind of wandering we do when we have a day off and take a hike in the woods. I am not talking about the kind of wandering we do when we are on vacation and go exploring a new city. Or the kind of wandering we do through a museum. I am not even talking about the kind of wandering I do when I miss the turn and think I can find my way back to the main street.
I am talking about the kind of wandering we do when we don’t have a clear direction in our lives. I am talking about the kind of wandering we do when we deliberately go the wrong way because it looks easier or more fun.
We all wander away differently, but we all do it some times. Some people wander away from the promises they made when they got married. Or they wander away from the responsibility of caring for their children. Some people wander away from the responsibility of their jobs.
Some wander away from the promises they made when their children were baptized – to bring them to the services of God’s house, place the scriptures in their hands and teach them the faith of the church. Or they wander away from the promises they made at confirmation to strive for justice and peace in all the earth.
We rationalize all kinds of excuses for our wandering, but mostly we try not to think about it. It is easier not to think about it. When we put it out of our minds, we believe don’t even need an excuse anymore.
Joshua summoned all the leaders of the tribes of Israel. He gave them two choices: wander off or abide in God. The leaders made the right choice, not because they were smarter or better people than we are, but because they remembered what God had done for them.
They remembered that God rescued them from slavery. They remembered that God protected them everywhere they went. They remembered that God gave them the land they now enjoy.
Note what they didn’t say. The leaders of the Israelites didn’t say God kept us from hardship and gave us an easy life. They didn’t say God prevented bad things from happening to us. They had been slaves. They knew hardship. They knew bad things happen in this life.
They remembered what the LORD had done for them. The LORD rescued them and went with them on their journey through the wilderness. Because they remembered, they chose to serve the LORD.
Notice carefully what Joshua said: “As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Pay attention to what he doesn’t say. He doesn’t say, “I personally plan to serve the LORD, but I don’t want to impose my beliefs on my family, so when my kids grow up they can choose for themselves.”
Joshua knows that serving the LORD is a family affair. He recognizes that he has parental responsibility not to let his family wander off while they are under his care.
The parents in our congregation who read to their children from the story Bibles, and help them with Sunday school and confirmation lessons, know that serving the LORD is a family affair. They know it isn’t always easy to remember and take the time when you are tired and distracted, but they know it is important to keep the promises they made.
The parents and grandparents of the children receiving first communion this month know that serving the LORD is a family affair. They are keeping the baptismal promises and bringing their children to be fed at the Lord’s table. They are helping their children grow in love and faith and grace.
Jesus gave his disciples two choices: wander off or abide with me. He had just been teaching them about the sacrifice he was going to make. He told them he was giving them his flesh and blood to eat. He said, “I am the bread of life, the One who came down from heaven.”
Many who had been following him were offended. They wandered away. Jesus did not sound like the kind of Messiah they were looking for. They wanted a conquering hero, a political leader to make their lives easier.
Jesus asked the twelve if they wanted to leave, too. Simon Peter spoke up for all of them. We know what he said. His words are the Gospel acclamation from the LBW, the green worship book: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
It is easy to wander off. It is our nature to choose the path that looks easier. That path is filled with arm chairs and recliners and television sets. It has all kinds of distractions and entertainment. It has piles of unhealthy junk food and drinks. It appears comfortable. We have friends there, too. Sadly, they are also distracted and wandering.
There are two choices, wandering off and abiding in God. The second choice, abiding in God, is not only more difficult, it is not even humanly possible. We are prone to wander. We cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus or come to him.
Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless it is granted by the Father. ” This is good news indeed. We are not left to our own wanderings. The Father of Jesus Christ is our Father, too. He chooses us to abide with him.
There is nothing better than to abide with God as God’s beloved children. Our loving Parent takes care of us. God is with us wherever we go. God comes to look for us when we wander and brings us home. God gives us our daily bread and provides for all our needs.
It is not for this life only, that God cares for us. The bread that God gives us is nothing less than the flesh and blood of God’s own Son, Jesus Christ. We have come to believe and know that he is the Holy One of God.
Abide in Christ. Share in this communion as one family of God’s children. He has the words of eternal life. Alleluia. Alleluia!