Joshua 5.9-12; Luke 15.11b-32
The Basic Stuff …
The Gospel of our LORD Jesus Christ.
We are loved …
Here and now … then and there.
The whole story.
All of our life.
All of time.
From the beginning to the end.
The Alpha and the Omega.
By God we were created … by God, our days are determined, and in the end, it’s God.
God in the morning … God in the evening … and God in all the in-between places, the nooks and crannies of our lives … to God be the Glory.
We are loved.
We are loved:
Because the way of Christ requires love.
God hopes that in loving us, we might learn the ways of love …
That we could be loving of one another.
Especially paying attention to the trinity of need, the Biblical image of those most vulnerable to abuse and hurt: the widow, the orphan and the alien.
To love is fulfill the law of God, all the law, all the requirements are summed up in the power and courage of love.
Paul the Apostle writes:
Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.
Christ calls to us, beckons to us, commands us, pleads with us, to love one another as he has loved us.
To love the world in all of its diversity, as God created the heavens and the earth with all of its people, and all of its creatures, great and small.
The wind and the air, the earth and the water …
The cattle of the field and the birds of the air.
The fish of the sea and all that lives and moves and has its being in the love and mercy of God.
To love like this requires maturity … maturity of soul and spirit.
For everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.
Our reading this morning from Joshua …
It’s a growing up story.
In the Wilderness:
Manna in the morning and water from a rock.
A pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire at night.
God is leading the people by the hand, as a parent holds a child’s hand while out and about … sometimes the child pulls away, annoyed with the hand, and eager to be on her own … but the child remains the child until the days of her maturity.
So it was for Israel
Now, in the land of promise, on their own.
To plow the ground and plant the seed.
To tend the vineyard and gather the harvest.
But there’s sadness in the story, if we pay attention to it.
The Promised Land didn’t come free of charge.
There were people living there.
Children and grandparents.
There was song and dance … art and literature.
People laughing and people playing.
Folks crying and folks mourning.
Going to work; paying the bills.
Life, every-day life.
In the land of Canaan.
Israel took the land.
At the time, it made sense, I guess.
Hard decisions have to be made, sometimes.
I wonder if God cried that day.
Did God cry when God saw the walls of Jericho Fall … and all the death that came that day … and all the death that was to come?
How did the story turn out?
Israel as a nation was mostly a failure … over the centuries, a few good kings, and lots of bad ones.
Some mighty fine prophets, and plenty of false prophets, too.
A story of repeated failure, greed, corruption, crime, spiritual pride, idolatry, shallow religion, war and victory, war and defeat, war and rumors of war … and always the mistreatment of the vulnerable, the widow, the orphan and the alien.
Read the Book of Kings … it’s a sad story … ending in the destruction of Israel and Judah … the destruction of Jerusalem … the end of it … Israel ceased to exist.
Which is why God got out of the land business.
In Christ, a new day.
It’s the whole world that counts.
For God so loves the world … because that’s what love is like … love is all or nothing, which is why Jesus says, to love your enemy … that’s what it means to be like God, says Jesus …
You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to your, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.
Paul the Apostle writes:
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
And then Pauls says:
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.
Growing up is what it’s all about … it’s a long journey, and none of us ever finish it … I’m always growing, and sometimes not … I get stuck, I get lazy … I’m satisfied … and then Spirit comes along, maybe a book, something my wife says, or just some inner prompting … and maybe I grow a little bit more that day … always putting an end to childish ways, to be a little more mature in how I respond to people, to my own self … a little more mature in the ways of love.
Growing up …
I remember the first day our son got on a bus for kindergarten … Donna had made him a little green patterned jump suit, and there she was, kneeling down by him, to see that everything was shipshape, his lunch box in hand, and then he boarded the bus … he didn’t look back.
Donna stood up and looked at me, and I looked at her, and we both had tears in our eyes …
We’ve had plenty of goodbye tears over the years … but this is what parenting comes down to … raising a child up, to take leave of Mom and Dad, and head out on their own, the road ahead.
We love our children, and would do anything for them … but we’ve given them life, and they’re on their own …
Sometimes we lay awake at night, wondering …
We want only the best for them.
Their decisions wouldn’t necessarily be our decisions.
Or the chances they take.
The risks they meet.
The dreams they have.
Their sorrows are their own, course, but ours, too.
Such is love.
Love embraces, and love sends away.
Love makes the jumpsuit, and love waves goodbye.
Love rejoices and love weeps.
With love, Christ calls us to follow.
And with love, Christ sends us on our way.
To God be the glory.
Amen and Amen!