Sunday, August 23, 2015
I remember the story about two people talking to each other about a problem. After some discussion, the one said to the other, “Let’s pray about this.” The other responded, “Has it come to that?”
Our Hebrew Scripture passage (Joshua 24:1-2a, 14-18) describes a scene at the time of the Israelites entering into the Promised Land, a scene describing the decision of Joshua and after that, the Israelites, to trust in the Lord.
I have been reading the book by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude. This renowned book is said to do two things simultaneously: Firstly, describe the modern history of the country of Colombia; while, secondly, it tells an imaginary history of seven generations of one family, the Buendia family. A continuing and repeating problem for this family is that the members are self centered and closed to true love. And in the end, the family is completely eroded away.
It is not only Colombia. Here and everywhere there are social problems of being self-centered (like racism and income inequality). We see repeated patterns of discriminatory policing and we see repeating patterns in the vast inequity of income.
Being self centered does of course inhibit or even destroy families, peoples, countries – and today, even the climate of the whole planet.
So as Marquez described, those are two things which bother many of us – that is, firstly that we are self-absorbed, and secondly, that we keep repeating such patterns of behavior over and over again.
For reasons like this, our Collect prays that we may be gathered together in unity; worshiping and praying to God, whose “ears are open to our cry” (Ps 34:15).
Going back to Joshua, of course this was not the first time that the Israelites had approached the border of the Promised Land. We remember that the first time they had recoiled because they feared the inhabitants of the Promised Land. Conscious only of their own ability, they could not love and trust God’s direction to them to enter that land.
This is the second time at the border of the Promised Land, however. Will the Israelites repeat the pattern of turning against God? Joshua succeeds in leading the people into a wholehearted commitment of faith in God.
We call the writer of the book of Deuteronomy “the Deuteronomist”. This scene of Joshua is a high point in the writings of the Deuteronomist author. Jesus quoted the Deuteronomist repeatedly, in words like “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind; and your neighbor as yourself.”
This attitude of thoroughgoing love for God and trust in God, and love of neighbour is reflected in our Gospel reading as well. There again we have that challenge to a wholehearted commitment to engagement with God and faith in God is reflected in what Jesus says.
The first time of entry into the Promised Land, most people turned away. In the Gospel reading, here again, repeating the pattern, most of the people turn away from Jesus. Nevertheless, there are a few in this Gospel reading who remain and enter in faith into “the Promised Land”.
And so it was with St Paul (Eph 6:1-20) who turned away from trusting in himself, and towards trusting in the Lord. Then St Paul took that trust as his entire protection.
In the coming week we remember St Augustine of Hippo (430), St Bernard of Clairvaux (1153), and John Bunyan (1688). Google them! Read even a few pages of St Augustine’s Confessions — available through Amazon. They are acclaimed examples of loving the Lord our God with our whole heart and mind and spirit; and our neighbors as ourselves.
As with Marquez book, fear keeps us from love and life and our best future. What is your decision and mine? Will we live our lives in solitude? Will we turn away, preferring to be self absorbed?
Or, in taking and eating the sacrament of the Holy Communion, will you and I like Joshua, like Jesus, like Augustine, and Bernard, and like John Bunyan, make our own wholehearted commitment to love the Lord God with our whole hearts, and to love our neighbors as ourselves?