With this Sunday’s reading from Joshua, our Living the Word resources move into a new theme: Living Faithfully in the Promise. God made promises to the people of Israel, promises of a sovereign nation and a land. But, the most important promise of all is that the LORD promised to be their God. This promise, this relationship, was formalized in the covenant at Sinai, but not limited to that. God never severed this relationship, though sometimes God turned God’s metaphorical back on them, parenting by natural and logical consequences. Sometimes, the people lived faithfully in this promise, but often they did not. In this week’s story, Joshua encourages the people to serve the LORD faithfully.
Joshua Tells the Story
The Narrative Lectionary asserts the principle that the whole of Scripture tells a story, albeit a long, complicated, and sometimes contradictory story. The Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy) tells the story of how the people of Israel came to be. The Histories (Joshua through Esther) tell the story of how the people became a kingdom, how that kingdom split, and how the people’s sin led to exile (and what happened next). The Prophets (Isaiah through Malachi) tell the people God’s warnings and promises during this period. The Poetry Books (Job through Song of Solomon) offer resources for worship and wisdom for the people. Joshua, the leader of Israel after Moses, tells the story of the people, to the people, as he is about to die.
Joshua’s Point: Our Story Is Part of Us
Joshua doesn’t recount the history of the people from Abraham to the present as a bedtime story, but for a theological purpose. We are not solely defined by the events and decisions in our (and our ancestors’) past, but they do form a great part of who we are. They show us how we got where we are, and they can explain in part the forces that form who we are. But, not only do the actual events and decisions form us but also the way we tell our story greatly influences us. For example, you can tell someone what happened to you yesterday. However, you can focus on the negative aspects of these events (like what went wrong) or focus on the positive (like what to be thankful for). Both are your story, but sometimes how you tell it is as important as what happened.
The history that Joshua tells is the story of God’s actions towards the people, what God has done to form them into a chosen people. Like Superman’s birth on the planet Krypton and nurture by Martha and Jonathan Kent, these stories are Israel’s origin story. They are part of who the people are. It is indeed also our origin story as well; it is the story of the origin of our faith.
Joshua’s Point: Our Past Affects Our Future
Not only do our past experiences and decisions (and how we tell that story) help form us into the people we are today, but through this process, our story influences our future. From the beginning, Abraham believed God’s promise but didn’t always live faithfully to it. So it also was with Abraham’s descendants. Even after witnessing God’s awesome power in Egypt, the people doubted and proved unfaithful. This continued to be a cycle throughout the history of the people of Israel. This is, of course, the nature of humanity, not just Israel. But, scattered in this betrayal is a cycle of repentance and forgiveness. Just as the people keep on sinning, so God keeps on loving and forgiving.
The Story at Home
The biblical stories we hear in church, class, or small groups should not stay only in that setting. We need to claim these stories as our own; we need to take these stories home with us. Each of our Living the Word: Small Group guides include three challenges for participants to do throughout the next week (in addition to a daily reading plan, both of which are included in most of our Living the Word products). The three challenges from the October 14th guide are included in our free download this week. Use these or other challenges to encourage participants from all settings to continue the story at home!
How has your story influenced your life today? How do you tell that story? How has the biblical story influenced your life today?
-Gregory Rawn (Publisher)
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For more great ideas on how to engage participants of all ages in the story of God’s love, check out our Living the Word series for elementary students, youth, adults, and intergenerational settings!