Summary: The first sermon in the summer 2008 series ‘God is...’
(Sermon was opened with the Reader’s Theater script, ‘Lost in the Desert,’ written by Tom Ewald in the ‘Christian Readers’ Theater’ published by Carson-Dellosa Christian Publishing © 2005)
(Slide 1) Have you ever been lost?
(Slide 2) I am not talking about being lost on our way to another destination. That is frustrating and sometimes scary.
(Slide 3) I am talking about being lost here in our heads (point to head) and here in our hearts (point to heart.)
(Slide 4) David Damico would probably call this kind of loss, a loss of purpose. A loss of purpose is a scary kind of loss. It is disconcerting. To live with no purpose is to live often with no hope and no joy and no peace and no love.
The Israelites seem to have lost their purpose; their way as they travelled through the desert.
They did not know who they were anymore. They were no longer slaves. They were a free people.
But they had no place to call their own and all the familiar landmarks and events and places they had known for a long time were no longer around. It was an unsettling time.
Several years ago, our late state minister, Richard Shockey, wrote a column about experiencing changes in life from the perspective of a river crossing. (Slide 5) He spoke of beginning, middle, and end.
The beginning of a change sometimes comes quickly. Sudden news – bad and good, brings change into the living rooms of our lives and we are forced to deal with new situations and new opportunities.
Then there is the middle of the river, when we reach the point of no return. Do we stay the course, or do we turn around? Do we go a new direction?
It requires us to take stock of our resources and situation… and our faith. Our main text, which is featured at the end of our dramatic reading is about both an end and a beginning and, when you step back a take a good historical look, a middle as well. Let us hear the word of God this morning from Joshua 1:6-9:
“Be strong and courageous, for you will lead my people to possess all the land I swore to give their ancestors. Be strong and very courageous. Obey all the laws Moses gave you. Do not turn away from them, and you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of the Law continually. Meditate on it day and night so you may be sure to obey all that is written in it. Only then will you succeed. I command you—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
I suggest this morning several important things for us to remember whether we are at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a chapter in our lives.
(Slide 6) First and most important, God is with us all along the journey.
Not long into our script, and not long into the new beginnings for the people of God, memories grew short and people began to forget God’s presence.
The question, ‘What has God done for us lately?’ is a question that is asked today and often! We forget, don’t we, God’s blessings as soon as we make a turn in the next bend and encounter our next challenge.
‘That was yesterday! What has God done for me lately?’ Maybe we need to start asking, ‘What have I done for the Lord lately?’ This memory lapse is a major reason for the numerous commands to the Israelites from the Lord to ‘remember’ and to ‘teach.’
(Slide 6a) Second, how we choose to respond to our circumstances is critical in how we handle the challenges that come in our journey.
Each step of the way, the Israelites had new challenges that challenged their faith in this God who had chosen them to be their God.
And as I wrote this segment of the message it hit me that the challenges they faced were based on the lack of something.
First there was the lack (or perceived lack) of safety as they were caught between a fast moving army and a body of water. ‘Have you brought us here to die?’
Second there was the lack of resources, namely food and water, along the way. ‘Have you brought us here to die?’
Third there was the lack (again a perceived lack) of direction and leadership along the way. ‘Have you brought us here to die?’
Fourth there was a lack of patience when Moses left for a significant period of time. ‘Where did he go?’ ‘Make us a god we can see with our own eyes!’
Our journey contains the same elements as the Israelites did. Their journey and story is also our journey and story!