May 14, 2017
“But As For Me…”
Rev. John R. Larson
Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
I can say the dumbest things!! A few years ago, I was leaving the church on a Thursday afternoon, walking into the parking lot and I heard a noise to my right, to the east. Two boys came out from under the overhang and I thought I spotted a cigarette in one of the boy’s hand. Now they were only twelve or thirteen years old. And we had been having a problem with some kids hanging around here smoking. So with some authority I said, “You’re not going to smoke those here!!” And one of the boys said, “Oh, we’re not going to smoke them here, we’ll smoke them over there.” And my response? “Good.” That’s what I said!! What a stupid thing to say. “It is alright to smoke, even though you’re just a kid, just as long as you don’t do it on church property?”
That was not the first stupid response I have ever made and I know that it won’t be the last. Have you ever done the same? Good, I’m not alone!! Today, at least for the next 15 minutes, I hope not to say anything stupid. In fact, I hope I can have all of us saying something that is brilliant and great and wonderful by the end of the sermon.
Our text is from the Old Testament book of Joshua and it tells of the events of the people of Israel somewhere around 1,300 B.C. Joshua is about to die and he wants to know where the people of Israel will stand following his death. He looks them in the eye and says, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24:15)
How would they respond? What would they say? They had had great trouble in following the ways of God. They had been stubborn and hard-headed, defiant, and their faith in God was quite sporadic. What would they do? Maybe they would go back to their heritage before Abraham? Abraham’s father, Terah, was not a believer in the only true God, he was an idolater, believing in the existence of many man-made gods. Would they head back there? Would they step away from God and live their life without His ways and salvation and promises?
At times we make choices for our life that are foolish, sort of like those silly words that I spoke to those boys. And sometimes the choices we make in life can be filled with evil. Today on this day when we speak kindly of our mother and show them our love in some way, we are asked to answer some questions concerning our homes. Will God be present in everything that happens in your home? What ways will be evident within your walls? The answer we give, if it is the greatest answer, cannot be foolish, or sin-filled, but filled with God’s wisdom!! “As for me and my house…”
I wish that every house had Christ in their homes. But, sadly, that is not the case. In 2010 our ladies headed toward Grand Junction for the District Convention of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML), they brought items for the Mesa County Foster Children program. 300 children in Mesa County are placed with protective services every year. In the Happenings article it said, “These children are removed from their parents due to neglect and/or abuse.” I know that our congregation has folks that work in Social Services, in the court system or as teachers, and they can tell us that some families have no room for Christ and His word and His ways in their home. No love, no guidance, no wisdom, sometimes just awful and terrible things live in those homes. Joshua was looking for a commitment and so am I. I pray that you will say again, or for the very first time, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
If anyone has had the influence in a family to make such a commitment it is usually the mother. Mothers, grand-mothers, aunts, or others that assume that great place in a family, are to be applauded!! They have allowed many folks through the ages to say, “But as for me and my household…”
And I hope they know and I hope that you know on this day when mothers and families are so central to our thought that Christ wants to be the center of our home. He wants to come with His ways of mercy and compassion and kindness to be part of our daily living. He wants to come with His words of forgiveness and assurance of our everlasting salvation. Psalm 127:1 says, “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” Christ must be in our homes, His presence must be apparent in every conversation, His influence in every decision that is made. Christ cannot be locked up inside of a church, He must come with us into the walls of our home!! Have you ever challenged God to reveal your heart and how it can improve? Psalm 139 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.” (Verses 23-24) It is like what St. Paul says, “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (I Corinthians 3:10-11)
When Joshua asks the pointed question about their future faith and who they would follow and serve he really leads them into their answer. He recounts for them the great deeds of God and how God rescued them from slavery and opened up the Red Sea for their deliverance. He tells them how God chose them. God says, “So I gave you a land on which you did not toil and cities you did not build; and you live in them and eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.” (Joshua 24:13) In light of such grace and goodness – whom will you serve, whom will you follow? God, of course!!
The same question must be answered today. You and I must come to a decision about where our families and our lives will get their guidance. And we do that with the leading actions of God’s goodness to us. Israel recounted their history; we recount ours. In an amazing step of love Jesus came to this earth to show us the heart of God, in amazing love Jesus willingly went to the cross and carried our sins with Him, in pure desire for us to be in His presence forever Jesus defeated the old enemy of death and promised everlasting life to all who believe in Him. In light of this we are then asked, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” I see the response that we can give in light of God’s grace in the words of Paul, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God.” (Romans 12:1)
When the people in Joshua’s time responded and said, “We too will serve the Lord, because He is our God” (Joshua 24:18b) Joshua warned them about making a quick promise. It would not be easy, many obstacles would come before them. But they insisted. They too said, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” It will not be easy for us either!! God’s Spirit has much work to do in us, He has much changing to do, in all of us!!
I pray that this is what comes from your mouth and from your heart on this day. I pray that it is lived out daily. I imagine that Christian mother’s would love that confession from their family more than flowers and cards (though they are nice, too!) But understand that this confession is not so easy!! You may have to find different words to use when you are angry. You may have to consider others in your household before you consider yourself. This amazingly wonderful gift of a healthy and godly family and household may take much work to make it well again. But it is worth it.
If in the past your actions within your family have been foolish and without wisdom; or they have been sinful and wrong, it is never too late to begin something new. These last words that Joshua spoke were some of his most important – he needed to know where the people of God would go when he was gone. And we want to see the same for us. Some of us are getting up in years, it is our heart that our family be well and follow Christ and know Him as Savior. We want them to be with us in heaven!! With the power of God’s Spirit we ask our loved ones, as we have been asked, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.” And the most wonderful answer that we can give and the most wonderful answer we pray those in our family will give is, “But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”
Christ is our Savior, the foundation of our faith. Christ is our Lord, the leader of how we live and what we do.
May God do that work in your home and mine and in the homes of those we love!! Amen!!
(On Mother’s Day in 2010, many of these words were preached for the first time. They are spoken again today.)