August 22, 2021
"Decisions – Decisions"
Rev. Scott Landis
I’d like you to think for a moment about the number of decisions you have already made today. [Pause]
What time to get out of bed? That is assuming you are already out of bed – with virtual worship one never knows. What to eat? Whether to exercise or take the morning off since it’s Sunday? What to wear? That is assuming you are . . . ehhhh, I’ll just stop there – too much information may not be a good thing.
My point being, we make thousands of decisions each day. Most – are of relatively little consequence. Whether you decided on eggs or cereal for breakfast really doesn’t matter all that much in the grand scheme of things. Others may make all the difference in the world. For example, if you decided NOT to take your daily medication, the consequences could be detrimental. Or, if you decided to try and run that yellow light and beat the red – well, that may not be such a good idea either.
Every decision we make WILL have consequences, but some have a greater impact on our lives than others. [Pause]
In both biblical stories read today a decision is presented. Joshua has divvied up the land that he acquired – the land of Canaan. The Israelites are now challenged by him to remember the God who brought them to this place and gave them this land. The God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Sarah. The God who fed them in the wilderness. And the God who promised to sustain them and be with them forever. But this God was jealous God. This God demanded their allegiance.
So, when Joshua asked them to decide: whom will they trust? Whom will they follow? Whom will they serve? The gods on the far side of the river? That is, the gods of the Egyptians or the Amorites? OR the only true God? It was a question to which Joshua had a decisive answer. His answer you have probably seen on plaques that adorn the entryways of many homes – perhaps you have one hanging in your own hallway. It reads – “Choose this day whom you will serve. As for me and my household – We will serve the Lord.” A beautiful sentiment that is much easier said than done. [Pause]
Jesus posed the same question. While the setting and folks involved could not have been more different, the decision and subsequent consequences were exactly the same.
He had just finished what biblical scholars refer to as his “Bread of Life” discourses. It was a teaching that many found too difficult to swallow – pun intended. The decision Jesus asked them to make was a commitment to follow him – to adopt his ways – to live in peace with one another and to love the world.
Many wrinkled their noses in skepticism. Is this guy really who he says he is? How do we know whether he comes from the God of our ancestors? Where is the proof? And, what he is asking is much more than I want to do. So, they began to back away. This was a commitment they were not ready to make. And so, one by one, they left.
Their doubts prompted them to turn away. I imagine that hurt Jesus, but there was no judgment. He, instead, turned to his original 12 disciples and put the same question to them. The question that demanded their own decision. Are you with me or not? Are you getting in my canoe and paddling with me, or are you going to stay here on shore clinging to some imagined sense of security?
Here you have bread only for today, but the bread that I have to share will give you life – abundant life – eternal life.
Decisions – Decisions.
Most of us in the progressive church do not like the decisions that are raised in these stories today. These decisions are very personal and appear to have “eternal consequences.” If you are like me, these personal challenges are kind of foreign to my ears.
I am never so turned-off as when I am asked questions of “whether I am ‘saved’” or “do I know where I am going to spend my eternity?” Those questions always seemed so judgmental and coming from a place of imagined superiority. I don’t think this is at all what either Joshua or Jesus had in mind. But I do think they wanted us to struggle with where we will place our loyalty. Where is our priority? Theirs was a question of commitment – not to reprimand, judge, or strike fear into the hearts of the listeners – but to ensure that they were heading down a path that was for the good of all.
We face these weightier decisions all the time as well. We had to just the other day in determining whether to move back, once again, to virtual worship. No one WANTS to do that. We want nothing more than to be with one another, to see each other, and to feel the energy from one another as we are inspired by corporate worship. But we decided based on the best information we have what we feel we must to ensure the health and safety of all our members and visitors.
Does this decision have eternal consequences? Probably not – but it does indicate our commitment to walk with Jesus – the Savior who invites us to “love one another” as we love ourselves. This involves our commitment to Jesus whom we have decided to follow.
Our congregation is also in a discerning process – one that will take place over the next several months in deciding who, we believe, God is calling to be our next Kahu. Once again, will this decision have eternal consequences? Probably not – but it does indicate our desire to listen deeply and closely to the presence of Jesus through the gift of the Holy Spirit to guide us and help us align our desire with God’s calling. And, again, this involves our commitment to the God whom we have decided to follow. [Pause]
It is clear, in the biblical stories, the decisions called for by both Joshua and Jesus came down to “serving.” The answers or deciding factors were based on whom the people decided to serve – the one True God or the gods of our own imagination. This remains true to this very day. What we don’t fully discover, until we jump in with our whole heart, is that our decision will be tested as we accept both the “costs and joys of discipleship.”
To say with our mouths, “I have decided to follow Jesus” as we sang just moments ago is one thing. To live those words is something entirely different. That’s why we need one another – and why our commitment is not solely our own. We do this together. [Pause]
If we were not up against copyright restrictions I would love to close my sermon today by playing for you a wonderful old song by Bob Dylan entitled, “Gotta Serve Somebody.” Do yourself a favor and look it up on YouTube if you’re not familiar with it. The lyrics are great. Dylan, in his own unique lyrical style, keeps coming back to idea that, no matter who we are or where we are, ultimately, we serve somebody. He says, using a theology that is more simplistic than I would like – but still makes a good point, “It may be the devil, or it may be the Lord, but your gonna have to serve somebody.”
Who will it be for you, for us? It’s a decision that will have eternal consequences. One that changes our lives and the lives of so many others depending on what we decide. I invite you to choose the more challenging path. The path of justice. The path of peace. The path of love. The Jesus path and the one he invites us to as we serve the Lord.