Sunday at St Andrew's

Sunday 7 February 2021

Morning Worship 10 am on Zoom  

'Fear and Courage'

 

1. Joshua 1.1-9,16-18

Speaker: Phil Rodd

 

Series: Joshua

‘No Failing Words’

 

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Welcome to this service at St Andrew’s Eaton

 

Today we begin a new sermon series, as we prepare to enter the season of Lent: the Old Testament book of Joshua.

The title for the series is ‘No Failing Words’ (suggested by verses from chapters 21 and 23 – see if you can find them).

‘No Failing Words’.  

It’s an expression that could also be translated ‘no falling words’ – because quite simply, in this series we’ll find ourselves looking at words that won’t fail us; we can stand on them – no matter what circumstances we find ourselves in.

 

As we begin, let’s pray that God will still our hearts and minds and speak to us in this time today.

 

INTRODUCTION                

Leader: Grace, mercy and peace

             from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ

             be with you

All:        and also with you.

 

Leader: Loving God, we have come to worship you.

All:        Help us to pray to you in faith,

to sing your praise with gratitude,

and to listen to your word with eagerness;

through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

 

HYMN: O worship the King, all glorious above 

 

CONFESSION  

Leader: The grace of God has dawned upon the

world with healing for all.

Let us come to him, in sorrow for our sins,

seeking healing and salvation.             cf Titus 2.11

 

Leader: We confess to you our selfishness and lack of love:

             fill us with your Spirit.

             Lord, have mercy.

All:        Lord, have mercy.

 

Leader: We confess to you our fear and failure 

                  in sharing our faith:

             fill us with your Spirit.

             Christ, have mercy.

All:        Christ, have mercy.

 

Leader: We confess to you our stubbornness and lack of trust:

             fill us with your Spirit.

             Lord, have mercy.

All:        Lord, have mercy.

 

Leader: May the Father of all mercies

             cleanse us from our sins,

             and restore us in his image

             to the praise and glory of his name,

             through Jesus Christ our Lord.

All:        Amen.

 

PSALM 27

 

Glory to the Father and to the Son

and to the Holy Spirit;

as it was in the beginning is now

and shall be for ever. Amen.

 

FIRST READING

Luke chapter 2 verses 41-52 

The Boy Jesus in the Temple

 

This is the word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

 

HYMN: I will turn to the Lord 

(No words/music available; please use the service booklet in the Vicar's email)

 

HYMN: Send, O God, your Holy Spirit 

 

SECOND READING

Joshua chapter 1 verses 1-9 & 16-18

God’s Commission to Joshua

 

This is the word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

 

SERMON (Phil Rodd)

‘Fear and Courage’

 

NEW BEGINNINGS

New beginnings.  Don’t you just love them?  It’s great, isn’t it? – the opportunity to put the past behind you and to start again.  There are so many different situations when we see new beginnings – when we welcome new beginnings.  Springtime.  New Rugby Six Nations tournament.  New vaccine.  New US president.  It’s great.  We get caught up in it – it’s all so exciting, we feel the blood coursing through our veins.  There’s hope everywhere.  

It’s just like that at the beginning of the famous Old Testament book of Joshua – where it’s a beginning for the people of God.  People at a beginning, people at a crossroads – people we know who were tempted to look back.  Do you remember?  Time and time again during the time of the Exodus from Egypt, they’d complained to Moses, ‘If only you’d let us be, if only we’d stayed in Egypt, where the living was good.  Weren’t there enough graves in Egypt that you had to bring us out into this accursed wilderness to die?’  And that, basically, had been their story for the previous forty years, traipsing around the wilderness, between Egypt and the promised land of Canaan, watching friends and family gradually all die off, with the stories of the great Exodus, the ten plagues, and the parting of the Red Sea, passing into ever dimmer, ever more remote memory.

What were they even doing here?  What did they have to show for all their obedience to God? – or was it just in fact Moses they were obeying?  

It’s not so very different from us, really, is it?  We’re all tempted to complain to God about our ‘lot’, aren’t we?  I mean, you know, we get a bit down about things, and question what is it that we’re doing here?  ‘God, what are you doing in all of this?  My life’s a mess!  It’s nothing like I expected it to be at this stage in my life!’  Sure, we all give up on our expectations of being astronauts or brain surgeons – but when things don’t progress quite as we hoped they might – whether that’s in our professional life, or in our domestic life, or in our spiritual life – we can get quite ‘down’ on God, can’t we?  

 

THE VITALITY OF GOD’S PROMISE

Anyway, what about Joshua – the book that we remember in our old hymns whenever we sing about crossing the Jordan river – for example: ‘When I tread the verge of Jordan, / Bid my anxious fears subside: / Death of death and Hell's destruction / Land me safe on Canaan’s side.’

And specifically, what do we think of the opening verses of the account of Joshua?  OK, so let’s begin right at the beginning, with verse 1: ‘The Lord said to Joshua, son of Nun, Moses my servant is dead.’  Not so promising!  A funeral.  But what a funeral!  Moses, the great servant of God.  Moses, the great deliverer of God’s people.  Moses the great law-giver.  Dead.  

But it’s precisely this moment of apparent tragedy that becomes a time of new beginning, fresh challenge, for God’s people.  So God says in verse 2: ‘My servant Moses is dead. Now proceed to cross the Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the Israelites.’  It’s as if while Moses was there, there could be no further advance, no further appropriating of God’s promises.  Despite all the good things that had come through Moses, they needed to be released from his presence, from being tied to his apron strings.    

So – what do you have left when everything you’ve been preparing for ends in a funeral?  You might hope for something comforting – but here in Joshua chapter 1 it’s the continuity of God’s promise that’s to the fore.  So God’s word to Joshua isn’t: ‘Moses my servant has died, so you must wait.’  Neither is it: ‘so you must weep.’  Not a bit of it.  Rather, it’s: ‘Rise, cross over…into the land.’  Moses may die; but God’s promise lives on.  There’s the passing of an era, but the endurance of the promise.  God’s faithfulness doesn’t depend on our human achievements, however gifted we may think ourselves to be, nor does it evaporate in the face of obstacles like funerals or mighty rivers. 

 

THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF GOD’S PRESENCE

So, after the vitality of God’s promise, the next emphasis in this chapter is the encouragement of God’s presence.  And it comes again and again: ‘I will be with you’.  God will be with you.  

A simple enough promise, but in the Bible it’s a promise with history!  Because the last time that promise had been given was in Exodus 3:12… Back in the time of Moses – poor, reticent, backward, excuse-making Moses – at the moment when God called him to face both Israel and pharaoh.  And if you look on in that chapter, Exodus chapter 3, you can see that the holy name of God, Yahweh, is given a meaning, a theological and devotional meaning: ‘I am who I am’, or equally (because Hebrew grammar doesn’t work like English), ‘I will be who I will be’.  And this God – this Yahweh – is the great I AM who promises to be with his people – always.

It’s because of this assurance that God can exhort Joshua to be ‘strong and bold’ (e.g. in verses 6, 7 and 9).  And he’s to be strong, for what reason?  Because God likes people with the gift of the gab?  Or was it because God likes people who are positive thinkers?  No, he’s to be strong for no other reason than that God is with him.  God – is – with – him.

And of course, that promise, that truth, has always been the yearning, the hope, of God’s people – through the gospels, with Jesus calming storms, while riding the storms of opposition, right through to St Peter and St Paul showing the same determination to live their lives as if… as if this one promise might actually be true.  

I love these words, towards the end of our Bibles, that seem perfect for an ordinary Christian like me – a promise for ordinary Christians – Hebrews 13.5-6:

Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said, ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’  So we can say with confidence: ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.  What can anyone do to me?’

I love the simplicity of that: God’s abiding presence as the solution to our covetousness and our discontent, which in turn leads to the great freedom of life without fear!  ‘I will not be afraid!’  Because the promise of God’s abiding presence which is offered in Joshua chapter 1 is still there in every situation, for each one of us.  You know, there’s nothing more essential, more vital, for the people of God than for us to hear God repeating to us, in all our strange changing circumstances, ‘I will be with you’, and ‘I will not forsake you.’

 

THE CENTRALITY OF GOD’S WORD (vv.7-8)

The third theme we have before us is the centrality of God’s Word – God’s faithful, reliable, unchanging word.  That’s where we’re going to find the inspiration, that’s where we’ll find direction, that’s where we’ll find both the strength to carry on and the motivation when we’re weak.  It’ll be Joshua’s commitment to spend time with God’s Word that’ll make all the difference – testing it, yes; asking hard questions of it, certainly – but being open to the Holy Spirit so that we may be formed and fashioned as we absorb God’s Word.  There’s no short-cut – there’s no other way.  Joshua chapter 1 tells us that a life pleasing to God doesn’t arise from a whole gamut of mystical experiences; it has nothing to do with warm feelings, or the latest gimmick advocated at the biggest and best Christian event.  No, rather it comes from the Word God has already spoken, and from God’s determination to see it through, in each one of us.  So let’s give time to God’s Word – let’s read it, study it, focus everything we are on it, and allow it to form us, allow it to transform us.

 

CONCLUSION

Before we close, one more thought about the refrain that gets repeated time and time again in this chapter: ‘Be courageous!’  Now if you’re anything like me, you’ll be tempted to switch off when you hear this – it all sounds too much like macho posturing – men slapping each other on the back before going off to do something manly together – whatever that might be.  ‘Be brave!  Yo, be courageous!’  

But you know, it does come again and again, doesn’t it?  And of course, it’s not at first in the mouths of Joshua’s companions – it starts as God’s words, doesn’t it? – God’s words to Joshua.  The words of an all-knowing, all-compassionate God – a God who knows the inner thoughts of Joshua, and who knows what he needs to hear.  And it’s surely only a fearful person, isn’t it, who needs to be told to be courageous.  It’s only a weak person who needs to be told to ‘be strong’.  

So if you feel you’ve lost your edge, lost your desire to serve God, lost your hunger to see God at work, lost your commitment to spend time with his Word, let’s take a moment out now, and ask him in the quiet to come and minister to us his love, his power, and his vision…

 

A version of this talk in video format will be available on the St Andrew’s channel on YouTube, from later on Sunday 7 February.  

 

HYMN: We rest on thee, our shield and our defender 

 

PRAYERS 

Let us pray together. There is so much that we could pray about at the present time.

Let’s approach God with thankful hearts that we can come before him without fear and with courage that we can ask for anything in his name.

We pray first for the world, that leaders and governments may seek the best for their people and act in ahumanitarian way for the good of all. We ask especially today for the people of Myanmar after the military coup and for the unrest in Russia and China to be replaced by peace and justice in their lands. May Christian organisations be able to give a lead in helping the needy and showing your love to all.

Lord in your mercy,

All:        hear our prayer.

We thank you for the growing concern for the environment in our world. May the plans for the Glasgow summit be supported by every country and result in major change in attitudes and lifestyles. Help us to know what part we can play as individuals in the battle to combat climate change.

Lord in your mercy,

All:        hear our prayer.

Father God, we thank you for the rate at which the vaccine is being rolled out for those who most need it. Guide those who are afraid to have it and give patience to those key workers still waiting. We pray that staff in our schools and colleges will soon be able to prepare for children to return and begin to catch up on their learning. Give hospital and other NHS workers the strength to continue day after day in their stressful situation.

Lord in your mercy,

All:        hear our prayer.

Dear Lord, we pray for our parish of Eaton. May the magazines and Easter cards be a witness to our concern for this community as we seek to maintain contact in these difficult circumstances. Bless Phil, James and Lucy as they present your Word week by week on Zoom. May the Lent course draw us together in prayer.

We pray for the sick, housebound, lonely and bereaved, naming them in our hearts before God now…

Lord, bless each of us by your Holy Spirit and unite us all in your love. 

In Jesus’ name we pray.

All:        Amen.

 

The Collect for today

Almighty God,

you have created the heavens and the earth

and made us in your own image:

teach us to discern your hand in all your works

and your likeness in all your children;

through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,

who with you and the Holy Spirit 

reigns supreme over all things,

now and for ever.

All:        Amen.

 

As our Saviour taught us, so we pray:

All:        Our Father in heaven, 

hallowed be your name,

your kingdom come,

your will be done, 

on earth as in heaven.

Give us today our daily bread.

Forgive us our sins

as we forgive those who sin against us.

Lead us not into temptation

but deliver us from evil.

For the kingdom, the power,

and the glory are yours

now and for ever. 

Amen.

 

HYMN: Faith overcomes 

 

THE BLESSING

Leader:   May the Father

from whom every family in earth and heaven receives its name

strengthen you with his Spirit in your inner being,

so that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith,

and that, knowing his love,

broad and long, deep and high beyond our knowledge,

you may be filled with all the fullness of God;

cf Ephesians 3.15-19

 

and the blessing of God almighty,

the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

be among you and remain with you always.

All:        Amen.

 

Leader:   The peace of the Lord be always with you

All:        and also with you.

 

QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION AND REFLECTION

 

Look at the first paragraph of Phil’s sermon.  
What makes you feel full of hope and anticipation?

 

What experiences have you had that have led you to feel that you can’t go forward, that you can’t make any progress?

 

What might you do to ‘own’ for yourself these promises that God truly is with you?

 

 


 

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