1 Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel at Shechem. He summoned the elders of Israel, its leaders, judges, and officers. They presented themselves before God. 2 Then Joshua said to the entire people, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Long ago your ancestors lived on the other side of the Euphrates. They served other gods. Among them was Terah the father of Abraham and Nahor. 3 I took Abraham your ancestor from the other side of the Euphrates. I led him around through the whole land of Canaan. I added to his descendants and gave him Isaac.
14 “So now, revere the Lord. Serve him honestly and faithfully. Put aside the gods that your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt and serve the Lord. 15 But if it seems wrong in your opinion to serve the Lord, then choose today whom you will serve. Choose the gods whom your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live. But my family and I will serve the Lord.”
Left to ourselves, we humans always have an urge to make our “founding fathers” into grand figures, ideal examples of what we hope to be. Joshua’s final charge to the people of Israel took the opposite tack. Their ancestors, he said, “served other gods.” “The sites of Mari and Alalakh have yielded archives of cuneiform tablets from this period that attest to many deities worshiped by peoples of the region and same linguistic background as the patriarchs. This demonstrates that Abram did not come from a long line of unbroken monotheism.”*
Lord God, forgive me when I try, even unconsciously, to make you the exclusive possession of my religious “tribe.” Help me keep growing in my understanding of the wideness in your mercy. Amen.
* HarperCollins Christian Publishing. NIV, Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, eBook: Bringing to Life the Ancient World of Scripture (Kindle Locations 54384-54386). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
As Christians, we are called to tell others about Jesus Christ. In fact, the United Methodist Church mission statement says we are called “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.” And here at Church of the Resurrection our Purpose is to build a Christian community where non-religious and nominally religious people are becoming deeply committed Christians. Our Vision is to be used by God to change lives, strengthen churches, and transform the world.
As part of the ShareChurch team within Resurrection, I have the privilege of focusing on the strengthening churches portion of the vision statement for my job. Our team works with leaders from other churches on leadership development through conferencing and providing tools and resources so these church leaders can be more effective in making disciples of Jesus Christ in the communities in which they serve. The ripple effect of the work our team does extends throughout the US, across denominational lines and beyond. How cool is that? This is rewarding and fulfilling work, knowing our work is impacting churches who in turn are reaching more people and teaching about the transforming grace of Jesus Christ.
But in what ways am I living out this vision and mission in my personal life?
If I’m honest, living in “the bubble” of Johnson County (as we often put it) it seems like most of the people I interact with already claim Christianity as their religion. My kids go to a relatively diverse school for the area (I think there are over 20 countries represented at the elementary school they attended), but most of my daily interaction is with other Christians. I have one good Jewish friend. And I have made small talk a handful of times over the years with parents from another religion or culture at a birthday party or school event. I remember asking a friendly acquaintance of mine one time about why she chooses not to wear the hijab. And talking to a Pakistani mom about henna tattoo art at the school’s cultural fair. But I’ve never invited any of these women to coffee or engaged with them on a deeper level. I wonder how many opportunities I have missed over the years to engage in meaningful conversation with someone from another religion? I feel certain I would grow more in my own faith journey by learning about someone else’s faith journey who sees things differently.
So, I’ve been anticipating this sermon series on Christianity and World Religions for quite some time. I’m eager to learn about the similarities and differences of other religions from around the world, to learn where there is common ground and understand other religious perspectives more fully. I’m open to where God might be leading me and challenging me to get to know and understand my neighbors of other faiths. I look forward to learning over the next few weeks and then seeing how God leads me to reach out to neighbors or parents at my children’s school who practice another religion. And how we might share our faith journey stories with each other, expand our mutual understanding and grow closer to God in the process.
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