Meditation

13th Sunday After Pentecost – August 22, 2021

Psalm 84 1-12; Joshua 12:1-2, 14-18; Ephesians 6:10-20; John 6:56-69

There are times in our lives that we have an overwhelming desire for God’s presence, very near to us. Psalm 42 yearns for God’s presence in difficult circumstances; Psalm 90 addresses God’s presence in difficult circumstances, Psalm 91 speaks to dwelling under the protection of His presence. This psalm, however speaks through an exiled Levite in time of war, is a song of yearning for God Himself in His dwelling place, the Temple. Verses 5-7 probably refer to the joy of those in pilgrimage to one of the annual feasts. No other joy can be compared with the joy of His presence. Prayer seeks fellowship with God and thus provides that fellowship even when we are far removed from the house of worship. In His goodness graciously provides what His people need, and the ending, “O Lord Almighty, blessed with the man who trusts in you.” Nothing more needs to be said. It is these words that make us feel closer to Him and Him to us.

In our lesson from Joshua, Moses was denied entry into the Promised Land, though given the ability to see it before he died and was buried. Joshua has been selected to replace Moses as the leader of God’s people, and they are on the verge of finally taking up the land promised to them and Joshua called God’s people with all of their leaders, elders, priests, and all the people there at Shechem, to once again commit themselves to their covenant relationship with Almighty God, and promise to be obedient and faithful to God’s will. The Worship of God involves identifying with the history of God’s people and committing oneself to serve God and His historical deliverance with the people has been to give His people reason to both trust and serve Him.

There were a number of times when they had specific and visible reasons to trust God and be obedient to His will. We have the accounts of those times to read in God’s Word, and yet still we don’t always seem to understand or be obedient to God, instead, trying to work things through on our own. Beloved, God loves us in spite of our hardheadedness, our ideas that God “needs our help,” as if we have a track record of doing things so well on our own, right?!

God gives us the free choice to follow our covenant with Him, to both love and serve Him joyfully, as opposed to being grumpy, to commit ourselves to being His people, instead of grumbling all the time. We have all tried to do things our way, and fallen flat on our face. The free choice, says we don’t have to do this, but that we choose to do so willingly and in full agreement with not just a god, but the One True God. This is why Joshua wanted everyone to willingly accept the covenant relationship. If you have done so yet, why do you want to continue to struggle in your lives and turn away from the gift of a loving relationship with the Creator of this earth, and the whole universe? Insincere commitments separate us from His forgiveness, Forgiveness always rests in His grace, not on what we deserve.

Disciples of Jesus Christ must struggle with superhuman forms of evil, including Satan. God’s spiritual armor will help us in these struggles. The enemy causing the evil we face in not a human force we have a chance to defeat in our own power. The enemy is an evil spiritual force led by Satan and includes rulers, and authorities, angelic forces created by God through Christ who have rebelled against God and exercise temporary power in our universe. Powers may be pagan gods connected with sun worship who cannot bring light to the evil darkness we must endure. Evil is not problem limited to life on earth. Spiritual forces represent Satan’s followers who oppose God on His heavenly territory. Will God or Satan exercise ultimate control of the universe? The Bible assures us God’s victory is guaranteed. We can participate in God’s victory by identifying with Him and living according to His will in our daily lives.

Paul’s metaphorical use of humans as warriors or soldiers and includes only one offensive weapon, the Word of God the Spirit gives to God’s people. The Word is the gospel message about Jesus Christ proclaimed by Christians. It’s called the Spirit’s sword for three reasons. The Spirit always works to remind Christians about Jesus; the Word of God about Jesus; and the church as it proclaims the Word of God to protect Christians.

In our Gospel lesson from John, we are told that “whoever eats my flesh and drinks by blood remains in me; and I in them.” “Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate the manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever. He said this while teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

Jesus heard much grumbling, for He knew those who truly believed and those who only professed to believing. He knew there were those who would turn away and they did so in large numbers. Does this teaching turn you off? Are you a follower of Jesus Christ up to a certain point and then fall away? This is a hard teaching, but a true one nonetheless. I can only tell you that for those who follow Jesus with their whole heart and soul, it will become clear to them that their choice was correct, for staying the course. Being a Christ follower is many times a challenge, but one well worth the effort. Being a Christ follower will not make your life easier every single day, but it will make every day worth your faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. Come, walk with us. Amen

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