SCRIPTURE: Joshua 24:-3a, 14-25; Matthew 25:1-13


In the name of the God who creates us, redeems us, and gives us life. Amen!


          I don’t know why, but several people have told me jokes about forgetting lately. One goes like this:

                   Two elderly men were talking.

One asked the other, “Do you remember your cholesterol number?”

“Let me think. What’s the flower that smells so good and has thorns?”

“You mean a rose?”

“Yes, a rose. Hey Rose, what is my cholesterol number?”

          Jokes about forgetting aren’t as funny to me as they used to be, mainly because I can’t remember them.

          Our living is strengthened and made more robust when we remember lessons from scriptures and from those who have lived faithfully. Our penchant for forgetting is made clear at the beginning of the Book of Joshua. The first battle for the people of Israel as they entered the Promised Land is at Jericho, and Israel is successful. However, the second battle is at Ai, and Israel is not successful because they forget the instructions from God. They took things into their own hands, literally. They pilfered and took booty.

          We humans are healthiest in our thinking when we go through a decision-making process. It is composed of three steps: First, Recognition. We see the current situation. We recognize the problems we face and the issues at hand. In the case of Israel, they recognized that slavery was robbing them of life. God heard their cries and called Moses to lead them to freedom and new life. The end of the recognition phase is marked with a crossing of water, the Red Sea, a sign of moving from chaos to creativity and new life.

          The second step of healthy thinking and problem solving is Reflection and Interpretation. For the Hebrews, this step is symbolized by the Sinai and the gift of the law. It is a Kairos moment, well a forty-year moment, when the people come to realize what characterizes freedom.

          One of our human weaknesses is we tend to hurry or totally ignore the reflective, interpretive process. We want to get moving on. We delight in evaluating what others have done, but we quickly pass over looking at our own actions, challenging our own assumptions, questioning our own motives, approaches and desired outcomes.

          The author of Joshua writes in Chapter 5 that the people had to travel in the wilderness forty years to let those who came out of Egypt die and a new generation come to the foreground. It was a journey which provided plenty of time to reflect. The end of the reflection-interpretation times is also marked by a crossing of water, the Jordan River, as the people move to new levels of creativity, a new life in the Promised Land.

          The third stage or step in healthy thinking and living is Implementation. Having recognized our life situation, and then spent time reflecting and interpreting, now we implement. Joshua is the implementer in Israel’s story. Yet even as we see this story move steadily forward to new levels of creativity and life we also see the importance of remembering, of not forgetting the past.

          Joshua is able to lead in implementation because he remembers what Moses taught. Moses helped the people remember what God had taught at Sinai. The remembering is good and positive as witnessed in the conquest of Jericho. Forgetting God’s ways, the taking of things into our own hands, is destructive as witnessed in the defeat at Ai.

          Our passage today is the culmination of Joshua’s ministry. He gathers all the people together for a great worship experience to renew their covenant with God. This passage reminds us of Deuteronomy 30, where Moses says, “See I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him for that means life to you and length of days.”

          In our passage Joshua echoes Moses’ statement by saying to the people, “Choose this day whom you will serve but for me and my house we will serve the Lord.” This is one of the most important affirmations of faith that we can make in our lifetime.

          Joshua, by the grace and guidance of God, has gotten this motley, diverse, rag-tag, loose confederation of twelve tribes of Israel into the Promised Land. This has been an amazing accomplishment. Yet it never seems to get easier. Joshua gathers all the tribes together to say his implementing is done. Their implementing time is here. Now they have to choose how they will live. Will they live life’s lessons or will they choose abuse, destruction and death.

 This final chapter is a recounting of all God has done to give the people life. Now they must choose to receive the life. Now they must choose to receive the life God gives or do otherwise.

A member of the congregation expressed gratitude for our focus this summer and fall on the life and ministry  of Moses, saying for the first time how so many of the stories now fit together. I have tried to provide a big picture look. Looking at biblical history as recognition, reflection, and implementation is just one tool to help us do that.

This Sunday is a very special day in the Christian tradition. For centuries, the Church has set aside All Saints Day (which we celebrate on All Saints Sunday, the Sunday following) as a day to remember the saints in our lives who have modeled for and shared with us the love of God and devotion to Christ.

On this All Saints Sunday we remember those who have died from the membership of our congregation this past year. We remember because they have taught us much. They lived life lessons for us. Though the pain of their passing away still may be very real, we remember them in gratitude.

All of these made the choice to follow Christ. Each of them gave of themselves but they did so in unique ways. May we live their life lessons by making inspired choices. May we give as they did.

I would ask that you focus on the screen. There are five names of church members who have died since last All Saints Day. I will read each name. As each name appears, be in silent prayer for them. Ask yourselves, “What is a life lesson that I learned from this person.”

(Read names: Fay John Arter.  Lela Gorsuch. Jean Moreland. Helen Rutherford. Doris Small.)

The Gospel reading this morning from Matthew 25 is Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish virgins. It is a story on being prepared. We are prepared for and all it offers or throws at us when we learn from the faithful lives of those who have gone before us.

It has been said we can’t choose many of the circumstances of life, but we can choose how we respond to the circumstances. Life teaches us many lessons. Our saints have given us a tremendous variety of examples of living well and giving of themselves and their resources to others. May we give well. May we live life’s lessons.