Sunday, January 09, 2005

Southern Nazarene University - Sermon Ideas

SNU Sermon Planning Workshop
November 2006

http://snusermons.blogspot.com/


The Following Ideas are intended to “prime the pump” for your thinking as you work through these Biblical Texts. Suggestions are just that, suggestions – tailor ideas to your unique choice, personal study and congregational needs.

Please be aware that these sermon ideas are not “complete.” There can “always” be more study or more illustrations.

Please be aware that there are many other great sermons and many other important theological passages found in this portion of Scripture. I encourage you to take some time to read the around these sermon ideas in their context and discover other ideas from God’s Word. Also, this format does not allow for detailed study of the many historical and cultural issues at work in these Biblical books so let me encourage you to use some of the excellent commentaries/resources available in published books.


Depending on how many of these sermons ideas you want to use – feel free to choose “mini-series” out of these ideas. Or, you could begin with sermon idea number one and move straight through the books in the Biblical and Chronological Order. (While many books in the Old Testament appear out of chronological order, these books are part of a unified history and are correctly arranged chronologically.)

Historical Time Period:
Exodus from Egypt (circa 1350 B.C.) to Conquest of Canaan (circa 1280 B.C.)

Biblical Books:
Exodus, Deuteronomy, Joshua

Some Sermon Mini-Series Suggested Titles:
Becoming God’s People
Allegiance to God
God’s Design for Nations
The Kind of People God Uses
Worship: Women and Warfare


God’s Grace and Peace to you and your congregations.

~ marty michelson

mmichels@snu.edu
snu office: 405 . 491 . 6695

Sermon Idea Number - 1 -

Suggested Titles:

Naming Powerless Ones.
Who God Uses.

Passage:

Exodus 1

Passage Overview:

In the entire story of the Exodus, Pharaoh is never named for us, but these two midwives are. What do we know about Shiprah and Puah?

They “feared God”
They helped give birth to life, when Pharaoh commanded death.
They reflect God’s intention for life for people – even (especially!) small children.
God was kind to them – they made good decisions that God blessed with life.

This Biblical story names them for us, because their allegiance to God is significant. Their allegiance to God is more significant than their willingness to obey Pharaoh. They, in a sense, engage in “Civil Disobedience” for the sake of maintaining life for Israelites. Interesting, the name Israel means to “struggle with God” and here the two women struggle for God and for the children.

Important Specific Concepts:

The Pharaoh of Egypt was probably Ramses II, but this story is more concerned with telling us God’s story than naming the Pharaoh for us.

Note that the way Pharaoh tries to do away with the Israelites “turns back on him” when his “boys” (charioteers) are drown in the Red Sea (Exodus 14-15)


Ideas for Illustrations:

Christians persecuted in any period of history, even today around the world.

While a “hot-topic” or “sensitive issue” - the idea of giving life versus aborting babies.

While a “hot-topic” or “sensitive issue” - the idea of extending life to prisoners (prison ministries) where the systems decree “death” and imprisonment.


Ideas for Wrapping Up - Response - Call:

What kind of name do we want to possess?

What kind of persons get named by God?

How can we model “fear of God” in our country/world today?

Sermon Idea Number - 2 -

Suggested Titles:

What God Does
Who is God
God is not ignorant

Passage:

Exodus 3

Passage Overview – some highlights:

The start of this passage is where God calls Moses at the Burning Bush. Since God does much of the speaking, it is interesting to note how God defines the nature of who God is. That is, it is not Moses describing God, it is God describing God. You could perhaps preach more than one sermon on this passage one week – and the next. One would use the ideas found here – the second sermon could talk about the fact that Moses responds to God’s call and does what God tells him to do. He sets an example for us in responding to God’s call in spite of his doubts and fears. But this sermon focuses more on these issues:

Important Specific Concepts:

God of ancestors (not some new or unknown God)
God who keeps promises
God who sees (not blind) misery
God who hears (not deaf) cries
God who knows (not ignore-ant) suffering
God who comes down
God who sends

Ideas for Illustrations:

The difference between knowing about Disneyworld and “going down” to Disneyworld to see, hear and know it personally.

Getting involved in any project too big for yourself and needing to ask someone else to help you finish the task.

God’s constant care for those who cry and suffer in the world.


Ideas for Wrapping Up - Response - Call:


How might God be sending us?

How can we hear and see like God does?

What area of the world might God be “know” today because he does not ignore the world?

How can we join God where God is?


Sermon Idea Number - 3 -

Suggested Titles:

What God wants.
Worship of God
God’s Sign

Passage:

Exodus 3 – 4 (generally include all signs & wonders / plagues)

Passage Overview – some highlights:

After God calls Moses, God will give several signs to Moses to demonstrate or prove God’s purpose and power, but the first and foremost sign God proclaims is that people would come to worship him.

Important Specific Concepts:

Exodus 3:12 “This will be the sign . . . you will worship God”

Exodus 19 ff. they actually DO gather to worship God and they build the tabernacle where, according to Exodus 40:34, God literally lives in their midst.

God does not free the Israelites just so they can be “free” – as if freedom is the issue. They are freed from Pharaoh’s sovereignty in order that they might choose to submit to the benevolent and good sovereignty of God who provides a way out for them (Exodus 14-15), provides water and food for them (Exodus 15-17), provides justice for them (Exodus 19).

God’s call – his “sign” is a worshipping community.


Ideas for Illustrations:

Getting caught up in the “business” of some individual details in ministry that we forget it’s about worship of God.

A story of a person more caught up in selfish ambitions than worship of God.

Ideas for Wrapping Up - Response - Call:

Let’s become a people who Worship God.What things can we do to be more attentive to worship today – on Sunday and during the week?

Sermon Idea Number - 4 -

Suggested Titles:

Standing Still
The Lord Himself will . . .
Freeze!

Passage:

Exodus 13-14

Passage Overview – some highlights:

On their way out of Egypt, the Israelites are put in a tough position where they must trust God and hold true to their renewed allegiance – it takes courage and faith.

Important Specific Concepts:

The people come out “armed” but Moses instruction is not about gearing for war, but about trusting God.

In 13:18 we are told specifically that the people were “armed” or “prepared for battle.” In other words, they had weapons, the feared Pharaoh might track them down.

Ironically, when Pharaoh comes, the people don’t turn to their weapons, or their worship – they turn to weep and wail! (14:11 ff.) Moses command is to “not be afraid” to “stand firm” to “be still” to use a modern expression, to freeze. Why, because God would bring about a “mighty deliverance”

The Israelites don’t’ have to fight, battle, they only have to trust. (By the way, this same kind of trusting, allegiance to God in faith, is what is consistently and constantly expected of Israel – see Joshua 6, Judges 6 as sermon series to connect with this sermon.)

I love God’s reply in this passage, “Why are you crying to me? Move on . . .” God’s call to “keep on keeping on” as it were.

Why does God do this, to show that (14:18) so people will “know” God and give him “glory.”

Ideas for Illustrations:

“Have you ever tried to get all the preparations ready for some event (camping, church, vacation, event), only to find you didn’t need to because . . .”

Any illustration from a long/hard journey that “begins with the first step.”

Imagine the Ancient Chinese building the Great Wall . . . they had to just “move on” and start – if someone would have told them the huge task from the start, they may have never started!


Ideas for Wrapping Up - Response - Call:

Stand Still and trust that the same God of the Exodus is the same God who enters into your journey of faith, even when it is scary and you are afraid!

Sermon Idea Number - 5 -

Suggested Titles:

Becoming God’s Kind of People
National Holiness

Passage:

Exodus 19 - 20

Passage Overview – some highlights:

After having been called in Exodus 3 to become the people of worship, now God defines that more clearly as Priestly Kingdom and Holy Nation – and by giving them laws to follow. (Note: Jesus uses very similar ideas when he preaches about the Kingdom of God.)

Important Specific Concepts:

The people are called to be a Priestly Kingdom and Holy Nation. It’s important to highlight that they will be a “nation” and a “government” – that is, God wants them to have some form of rules, regulations, and laws. But they won’t be “like other nations”. They are to be a kingdom that mediates God’s “holy” presence – they are to be priests to other nations and to the world.

When God freed the people from Egypt, it wasn’t simply so they would be “free” to do as they wanted. To free them to “nothing” might be to free them to anarchy. God frees them in order that they might submit to God’s sovereignty. God’s rule in the world is NOT anarchic! It’s embodied in 10 Commandments that shape the identity of what it means to be God’s people. The commandments, while they can be taught in many ways, understand care directed towards God (commandments 1-4) and towards others (commandments 5-10). Unlike the Egyptians, the Israelites are to “love God” and “love each other.”

Further, the people, while “free” from Egypt are not “free” to do as they please – they are to become God’s people of worship. Worship means they need to have a place of worship, so God gives them instructions on building a place of worship, the Tabernacle – starting at chapter 26. In fact, it’s interesting that the instructions for building the place of worship (more or less chapter 26-40) take up as more textual space in the book of Exodus as the “plagues.” The concern of God is really more about a worshipping community (see Exodus 3 sermon) than “plagues.”

The story of Exodus is about being freed from forced rule of Pharaoh to the free choice of a loving, beneficial, gracious, sovereign God who wants God’s people to be Priestly and Holy to the Nations.

Ideas for Illustrations:

When America was founded it was founded on Christian principles, by people originally trying to form a new community that was “pure” – the Puritans. There are lots of stories from this era about becoming a new nation.


Ideas for Wrapping Up - Response - Call:

How might God call us to reflect his Priestly/Holiness today?

Sermon Idea Number - 6 -

Suggested Titles:

Moving forward without God
How to make a god
Gold Stew

Passage:

Exodus 32

Passage Overview – some highlights:

Probably a familiar passage, the Israelites worshiping the Golden Calf. But note in our framework of stories, how quickly and easy it is for the people to begin to NOT reflect the kind of kingdom and nation God wants them to be. Note how when a few days pass without guidance, they fall away. The issue of daily faithfulness will become more important as we continue in our sermon series.

Notice as well that the people quickly become a worshipping community – they want gods and Moses hears them singing, but they quickly worship the wrong thing. And the text suggests they do this because they fear the future that they want to move toward. We need to be reminded from this text as we move forward to be a worshiping community as we move toward what Gods wants for us and not what we want for ourselves.

Important Specific Concepts:

I use the title “Gold Stew” because of the reference in 32:20. It’s unlikely they drank the gold, of course, since it would have sunk in the water.

Notice that the people’s motivation in this passage is not “sinful” in a sense that they “want” to leave God directly, as much as it is rooted in their fear of their future. Verse 1 tells us they want someone to “go before us” and they “don’t know” what to expect. In that sense, this passage isn’t so much for “idolators” as it is for all of us when we fear our own future and when we “don’t know” what to do.

But, notice what Moses sees when he comes down the mountain, not a worshipping community praising God but people “running wild” (verse 25). It may be a little bit of a theological jump, but sometimes we tend to “run wild” with our own agendas, our own thing, our errands or commitments, but the call for this community is not to run wild with their own agenda into the future, but to worship God and trust God with their future. Even when Moses appears to have left them, and God, neither have. In fact, there might be room to suggest, that not only are we called to not “run wild” like the people, but like Moses we need to “go up the mountain” at times to be with God. (Jesus did this after the people pushed in on him!)

There is some important theology in this passage on the power of Moses prayer and intercession. He cries to God and God listens to him and God “relents.”

Ideas for Illustrations:

Have you ever had plans for a kids classroom or a kids party – and when the kids got there they took over and ran wild?

Describe a time in your own life when you “went up the mountain” with God and you found clarity.

Have you ever felt like you ran, ran, ran all day – and it still felt chaotic?

Ideas for Wrapping Up - Response - Call:

How might we look to what is “before us” without fear if we take God with us?

Sermon Idea Number - 7 -

Suggested Titles:

The Lord, the Lord.
The Lord proclaims . . .
Who is God (part two, three . . .)

Passage:

Exodus 34, especially 34:6-7

Passage Overview – some highlights:

This passage set in the larger context of Exodus 34 following the famous “Golden Calf” incident is, like Exodus 3 (see notes there), one of the few places in the stories of Exodus where God describes God’s own identity. God speaks to Moses here – it’s not Moses telling God who God is. It’s God describing God! And, these verses of Ex. 34:6-7 are repeated several other places in the Old Testament showing us that they become a sort of “Credo of Faith” that summarizes who God is. Note as well that since this story comes after the Golden Calf incident, it “proves” in its larger context that God really is a God who forgives and shows compassion.

Important Specific Concepts:

The verses themselves say more than can be summarized here, but note that the larger emphasis is on the “loving” side of God – compassionate, gracious. And yet, the full declaration of God includes rules and obligations and commitments. As we’ve already seen in Exodus – God doesn’t set them free to be do whatever they want or to enter anarchy – God’s rules have demands and expectations and while the first and larger identity of God is “compassionate, etc.” – and that to the thousandth(!) generation – there is also punishment for the “guilty,” but notice – only to the third and fourth generation.

In a sense, God is “both” loving” and “punishing” but the larger context of this story and the “thousandth” generation over against “four” generations shows what God is “more like.”

Also, note that when Moses responds to God he “bows to worship” as all Israelites should do –and, what is more, in Ex. 34:11 he is told to “obey the commands.” This idea of obeying commands will become important because we’ll see God expects the same thing of Joshua (see Joshua 1 or Deuteronomy 6 sermon ideas.) God’s expectations for God’s people don’t change – God consistently expects obedience/allegiance.

Ideas for Illustrations:

Tell a story about someone describing themselves over against someone else describing them. How is a person better qualified to describe themselves.

Perhaps tell a personal story about how in a certain position (parent, teacher, preacher) you (or someone you know) exemplifies certain qualities or characteristics – but at other times has to exemplify seemingly opposite qualities. For example, a fireman is notably kind, helpful, but in certain situations of crisis, when a fireman yells/demands, it’s not that the fireman is no longer kind, but certain situations require a different “kindness.”

Ideas for Wrapping Up - Response - Call:

If God expects obedience from all the Israelites, from Moses here, and later from persons like Joshua, no doubt he expects the same from us.

This sermon would no doubt conclude well with a call to faith for God’s grace.

Sermon Idea Number - 8 -

Suggested Titles:

When God moves in.
God lives with people.
Preparing a home for God.

Passage:

Exodus 40

Passage Overview – some highlights:

In this passage, the tabernacle – the place of worship – which has been detailed and constructed in all its intricacy for some 15 chapters – is finally set-up. All of the details of the tabernacle that appear in the preceding chapters are overwhelming for a Sunday sermon, but some emphasis should be given to the fact of the details. Matters of worship are not a place where things can or should be left out. God has called these people to be a worshipping community and then they construct with God the tent of worship. Note, they construct with God the place of worship – and details of it are important, the place of worship is not a haphazard “thing” – it’s intricate and detailed. Their allegiance to God is manifest in this special, unique place. It’s sacred space for sacred time events!

Important Specific Concepts:

Exodus 40:17 The tabernacle is set up on the first day of the first month – “New Years” if you will.

More than “New Years” though, the day that God moves into the Tabernacle, corresponds liturgically to the first day of creation. In a theological sense then, God creates the world in Genesis 1 on the first day of creation and here, on the first day of this New Year God creates for Israel, and Israel constructs with God “new creation.” The tabernacle, in a sense, represents God’s continued act of creating in the world – and he creates here for worship!

A couple other comments not here in Exodus 40, but part of the larger narrative. The tabernacle was literally the building at the heart/center of the tribes. They literally camped around it – with God at their center!


Ideas for Illustrations:

Our culture often makes “New Years Resolutions” to do things. Tell a story about something like this and show how the “New Years Resolution” for the Israel is about God living in their midst, in their place of worship!

If you’re like me, you’ve built small Lego or erector-set or tinker-toy buildings or objects, compare the ones you may have built with some of the professional/huge buildings built by others. Think about the intricacy involved in some of the “life-size” Lego constructions you may have seen (or look up on the internet) to compare to the intricacy of this tabernacle.

Ideas for Wrapping Up - Response - Call:

How should we make God central in our lives?

How can we “create” with God his goodness for creation?

What must we do to prepare our lives/homes/sanctuaries to be places where the Glory of God will reside?

Sermon Idea Number - 9 -

Suggested Titles:

How to listen to God.
Listening to God.
What God wants us to hear.

Passage:

Deuteronomy 6

Passage Overview – some highlights:

This passages, beginning at verse 4 is as important to Jews as John 3:16 is to Christians. The passage is called “The Shema” because “Shema” is the Hebrew word for translated “hear” or “listen” at verse 4. The world can also be translated as “obey” and as such, it relates to the sermon ideas in this series for how we “pledge allegiance” to God by “obeying” – by listening to what he wants for us.

What God wants for us is, in many ways simple – though perhaps complex to live it all out. Space constraints here on this paper restrict me from the many ideas found in this passage, but they are pretty clear upon a close reading of the passage – highlights include:

Love God. Love God alone. Love only God.
Love with all your being – heart, mind, soul, strength.

Remember and do not forget God.
Recite – retell – talk about these things!
Create generations of people who listen in this way – tell your children!


Talk about them no matter what you’re doing – at home, not at home, standing, sitting, lying down!

Write these things down – put them around you – encircle all aspects of your life.
Make all the transitional places of your life opportunities to remember God in your midst.

Important Specific Concepts:

This passage is particularly important with regard to keeping allegiance with God. To stay true to God, we need continual conversation, recitation, worship!, of God.

Ideas for Illustrations:

Families (particularly husbands and wives) that grow apart because they don’t love each other exclusively and don’t talk to each other illustrate how easily we forget love/commitment if we are not intentional about it.

In Communist Russia or Saddam Hussein’s Iraq there were images of certain leaders in every major square. Do we have reminders of God around us?

A simple reminder to remember when you have a coin/dollar bill in your pocket to remember it’s reference to “In God We Trust” as a memory aid.


Ideas for Wrapping Up - Response - Call:

Encourage people to do “one thing” this week to better remember God in the way this text calls us to remember God – there are lots of options to choose from and an infinite number of ways to make our allegiance to God more deliberate in our daily lives.

Sermon Idea Number - 10 -

Suggested Titles:

Finding Life
You get to choose

Passage:

Deuteronomy 30

Passage Overview – some highlights:

The Exodus is long over, the Israelites have had several opportunities to commit their allegiance to God. Now, before Moses dies and turns over leadership to Joshua, he reminds the Israelites that God is not a tyrant, nor one who enslaves. He doesn’t do like Pharaoh and “take life” – God gives life – and the people get to choose. But their choice for living in relationship with God is not something they have to travel to receive – but there are things they must do – they must commit, covenant, and obey.

Important Specific Concepts:

“Choose life”

Notice the ideas in this passage about how God will return a people and love them again – consistent with what we have heard about God from God (see Sermon on Exodus 34).

Notice as well that there is a need for people to respond in this passage – perhaps even to make the “first move” towards God when they “return” (a word that can also be translated “repent” or “turn around) that God does much of the rest – extends compassion, grace, makes prosperous, circumcises hearts and more.

Note that several conditional clauses are in this passage, “If” is a common phrase – there is a responsibility and the need for response-ability by the people. They must respond so God can respond.

Note the choices “life and death” – these could be preached in a “serious” way – this is a “life or death choice!” or more emphatic of how God offers us life! . . . but its our own fault if we choose death because, as Moses says, this word is not far off and it’s not impossible to obey. “Now choose life!”

Ideas for Illustrations:

Do you remember on the playground when you got to choose teams and you were the captain and you knew you had the winning team and you got to tell others to join your team.

Remember as a child getting to choose who you would invite to your best birthday party ever?


Ideas for Wrapping Up - Response - Call:

It feels great to be chosen, but we, like the Israelites, have to respond.“Choose Life” – this sermon could end with a “pledge” to commit our “allegiance” or “obedience” to God – maybe something “more serious” (written documents?) to commemorate the moment.

Sermon Idea Number - 11 -

Suggested Titles:

New Day, Same God
Strength Conditioning Training

Passage:

Joshua 1

Passage Overview – some highlights:

This story has a verse in it that might be familiar to many in a congregation – it’s the word to Joshua that states he should “be strong and courageous.” But, the word to Joshua needs to be understood in its context. Joshua is instructed by God to “be strong” only in light of his commitment to “be careful to obey” the commands. There is a three fold repetition (not verbatim) of the idea of strength, but strength for Joshua is based upon, finds its foundation in his and the peoples’ willingness to obey God.

Note how in this passage, this “new day” in Israel’s life with this “new leader” the call and command of God doesn’t change. It’s not as if God is adding new precepts or expectations to what God expects. And notice, that within this passage itself, as we saw in the Shema (see sermon on Deuteronomy 6) that the “simple” way we keep faith with God is in daily practices.

Important Specific Concepts:

I think it’s important in this sermon to highlight the “dailyness” of being obedient. Many people in the Bible, and here Joshua, are not great people of faith because of some specific event, rather, they become recognized as great people of faith for their ability to simply be faithful, day-in-and-day-out. See especially verse 8 of this passage.

I also think it is important from this passage to communicate to our world that the promise of God for strength and courage is not a carte-blanche statement – it’s not a promise made to everyone at every moment. Rather, this promise made specific to Joshua reflects God’s larger promise made specific to God’s people and in that general sense, to us the promise is for strength and courage, IF we maintain the daily-devotion of keeping faith, meditating, remembering God and remembering who we are in the sight of God.

The passage ends with Joshua saying “Get your supplies ready.” Joshua trusts God will be true and if you look forward a few chapters into particularly chapter 3-4 and chapter 5, you’ll see that Joshua will further tell the people to “consecrate themselves” and he’ll remember holy days (Passover specifically) and call the people to the hard task(!) of circumcising themselves as God’s people.

Strength and Courage are promised, conditioned upon obedience.

Ideas for Illustrations:

An Olympic athlete becomes one after daily, daily, daily, for years training. That is how they receive their “strength and courage” and we must do the same with things of faith. Numerous athletes from history could be cited.

Ideas for Wrapping Up - Response - Call:

How can we move from this moment and “get our supplies” ready to daily serve God.

Sermon Idea Number - 12 -

Suggested Titles:

Foreign Women Who Worship
One woman speaks so well.
The Woman who welcomed Worship
How to confess our faith

Passage:

Joshua 2

Passage Overview – some highlights:

The story of Rahab is perhaps a familiar one, so it won’t be important to review it in detail here. Instead, note specific concepts below.

Important Specific Concepts:

It is very important in this story that (1) and woman and (2) a foreign woman knows how to speak correctly about God.

The “confession of faith” of Rahab beginning at verse 8 and with important expression at verse 11 is very important. Rahab becomes acceptable as a person of faith because of her “confession” – her “testimony” if you will about who God is. (See sermon on Exodus 1 for other uniquely confessional women.)

Time could be spent focusing on what Rahab says, including: she recognizes God’s activity in past events like the Red Sea, she recognizes how other enemies can’t stop God’s activity in the world, she “names” God as God of Heaven and Earth and not just some tribal or local deity, and she also recognizes that there might be opportunity for “being spared” by these people and this God.

Rahab, in many ways was a “marginal” character in her society – possibly a prostitute (the Hebrew might mean this, it might not) but she lived “on the wall” and clearly was not “in the heart of her city.” This marginalized, “walled” women speaks a word of testimony that changes her immediate future (see Sermon on Joshua 6) and the future of Israel (see Matthew 1, the genealogy of Jesus.)

Ideas for Illustrations:

Mother Teresa was a “foreign” women with a great confession of faith in a marginalized area of India.

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “confession of faith” about God’s grace for African slaves during the American slave trade – her willingness to write books like Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

Ideas for Wrapping Up - Response - Call:

A call for us to be people who, like Rahab, confess who God is.A call for us to, like the Israelites, accept the confession of “others” as truthful about who God, welcoming them as members of our faith community.

Sermon Idea Number - 13 -

Suggested Titles:

Consecration and Calling
The Living God in our Midst
God keeps on doing the same things

Passage:

Joshua 3-4

Passage Overview – some highlights:

In this great story, the Israelites cross another body of water, the Jordan here, and the same God who led them to be a unique community in the story of the Exodus is the same God who wants to lead them now. God keeps doing the same kind of thing in leading and guiding these people, but they must also, keep walking, being obedient and making themselves available to God.

Another important highlight of this sermon, really could merit its own separate sermon, is the question and answer episode that takes place after the Ark and the people cross the Jordan. Note how stones, memorial stones, are set up not just arbitrarily, but uniquely, specifically, to mark what God has done in the past to remember for us, and for our children! The only way this community of faith, called to be a Priestly Kingdom and Holy Nation can become a kingdom/nation is if they teach their children about God –if they remember God in their midst not just daily (see Sermons on Deuteronomy 6 and Joshua 1) but specifically for their children (see Sermon on Deuteronomy 6).

Important Specific Concepts:

God will show them how to go in a “new land” where they have not been before.

The people must ready themselves – purify and consecrate themselves. The people must do something and here it might be uniquely important in our tradition to note that they can’t just “pack up their things” – it takes a “spiritual packing up” to get ready for God. When the people have consecrated themselves, then God can do “amazing things.”

God is the “living God” compared to other gods.

Note it is only when the priests feet touch the water that the flooding Jordan parts – what faith it must have taken. Note the specific connections to the Exodus story about it being “dry ground” they crossed upon. God’s miracle doesn’t leave people “in the mud and muck” but stable.

The text looks to the future, beginning at verse 19, and the future involves children who need to be told about who God is and what God has done. This story tells us how important and deliberate the Israelites needed to be in setting up tangible, physical reminders about God. And, like the Shema text, (see Sermon on Deuteronomy 6) it points to the importance of children as members of the community of allegiance to God!

Ideas for Illustrations:

Imagine the game of “chicken” that you might have played on your bike as a child. The priests had to walk until they “touched” the water before it parted – they were no chickens!

For what unique events do we consecrate ourselves – weddings perhaps, with all the make-up and dress, but how often do we go to this same attention to consecrate ourselves for God and God’s purposes.


Ideas for Wrapping Up - Response - Call:

A renewed call to step out in faith

A renewed call to keep faith for and be attentive to our children and their allegiance!

How we need to be more deliberate in stepping out into the future – but also looking back at God’s great work in the past. Perhaps we do both simultaneously.

Sermon Idea Number - 14 -

Suggested Titles:

Courage, Consecration and Circumcision
Full Commitment
This is what allegiance looks like.

Passage:

Joshua 5

Passage Overview – some highlights:

This text may be a “PG-13” or even “R” rated at some level – so you will need to be careful in considering your words and your audience. But, the idea of the Israelites taking flint knives to their genitals shows the seriousness of their consecration to God. In this passage the Israelites who are on their journey with God, continue in their obedience as has been commanded in many other places.

The story of circumcision connected with Passover and Manna and Quail all are important in this story.

Important Specific Concepts:

This passage lacks any specifics about the need or rationale for circumcision, it only says God told them to do it. You may want to look to texts in Genesis about Abraham for some clarification on this act commanded by God. Genesis 17 notes how the covenant God makes is to be in their “flesh”, hence not just a “circumcision of the heart” (see Sermon on Deuteronomy 30) but both inward and outward.

Verse 9 may be a reference to the fact that the Israelites practice of circumcision made them unique compared to other cultures that didn’t practice circumcision – but there is some debate about this.

This physical act of commitment is tied to a meal, a holy meal, in which they remember how God saved them in the Passover. And, the story points forward by telling us that the provision of Manna and Quail in the past, has ended. This passage then looks forward to how their act of consecration prepares them for the new things God can do in the land for them. It ends by telling us not simply that they no longer ate Manna and Quail, but that in a new way, with their new commitment, they eat anew “produce of Canaan” (verse 12).

This is yet another story of how they must commit in obedience and allegiance to God.

Ideas for Illustrations:

Getting a haircut to “fit in” or be “in style.”

How easy it is to recognize “new army recruits” after their heads are shaved.

Imagine what it would be like if . . . all Christians had to wear X in order to be Christian, would you do it?

Ideas for Wrapping Up - Response - Call:

These Israelites were willing to undergo painful, non-anesthetized surgery to commit to God . . . and we want padded pews.

To eat the produce of the new land – and all it’s bounty – we’ve got to give up “the bland” routine of manna and quail and adventure with God into God’s new thing.”

Sermon Idea Number - 15 -

Suggested Titles:

And the walls came tumbling down.
Worship brings victory
Worship or Warfare: What God Uses.
Worship or Worry

Passage:

Joshua 6

Passage Overview – some highlights:

This story needs almost no introduction – Joshua and the Israelites march around the walls and the walls come tumbling down. There is more to it than this, of course, though, so be sure to read the story carefully again!

Important Specific Concepts:

It is very important that preceding this story, the Israelites have done several things to prepare themselves for this great act of God (see Sermons on Joshua 1, 3-4, 5). This event didn’t “just happen.”

It is also important that the people didn’t worry about what to do, didn’t question God’s plan or didn’t over-analyze –they became people of worship, not worry and God brought victory.

It is also very important that while this victory is (1) a victory and while it is (2) over a people walled into a city it does not celebrate violence in swords, chariots or weapons of war. The victory comes from God (see Sermon on Exodus 13-14) as the people trust God to fight their battles for them.

When the Israelites are commanded to shout, the Hebrew word is “hallel” – from which we get a word very recognizable to us, Hallelujah. When the Israelites to use as the means of their entry into this land is a trumpet, the “shofar” in Hebrew, which was primarily an instrument of worship! (See Exodus 19:19 were God approaches with Trumpet blast or Lev. 23:24 or 25:9 where trumpets are used on holy days for worship!) So in this passage, the means by which the Israelites enter into God’s new future, and the means by which they declare their allegiance to God’s Kingdom is not with violence and warfare like other nations, but as the very kind of people God had called them to be, a worshipping community! (see Sermon on Exodus 3, 19-20). The only “guardsmen” in this “army” aren’t riding horses or protecting a king, but are protecting their most sacred object of worship, the Ark of the Covenant.

The Ark of the Covenant symbolically represented God in their midst so when they carry it, they symbolically bring God – not chariots, not swords, not spears.

They bring God, their instruments of worship and their hallel-uljahs . . . and the walls come tumbling down (and Rahab gets saved – see Sermon on Joshua 2). The story has elements of destruction, no doubt, but even persons like Rahab can be saved when God, Worship, and Hallelujah’s bring victory.

Ideas for Illustrations:

Ideas for Wrapping Up - Response - Call:

A call to praise.

Commitment to Worship God instead of Worry.

Sermon Idea Number - 16 -

Suggested Titles:

How quickly we forget.
One small mistake can cost a lot.
Possessing Stuff or Giving to God

Passage:

Joshua 7

Passage Overview – some highlights:

This story clearly follows on the heels of Israel’s success at Jericho. They had worshipped there, and in the preceding chapters had covenanted to be God’s people in full consecration/circumcision – but one person backs away and things begin to fall apart. Because Achan took possession (things) and because these things represented the foreign culture (other people with other gods and other practices) God is almost immediately not with God’s people in the same way.

Important Specific Concepts:

It was important as these people went into the land that their allegiance and commitment to God was sure and secure. They needed to insure that the foundation of this new community was solid so that the community could grow on a solid foundation of faithfulness.

It is amazing in this story how one person acts poorly, but the text begins by saying that “the Israelites” using a reference to all of them. Sometimes religious communities excommunicate (and in this story they’ll stone him!), but at the same time this passage is not about our desire or zeal to do this. Rather, this story presents the graphic horror – the real pain – that is involved when people themselves choose not to be obedient. In that sense, this story doesn’t “revel” in Achan’s stoning, but reveals the pain of breaking covenant.

Note that in Joshua’s prayer, he is concerned with how God will look in the sight of the nations. From the time of Egypt, God wanted to be glorified and worshipped.

Note the speech of God to Joshua is very powerful and forceful, as if God is saying, “Hey! I didn’t fail to do my part! Israel sinned!” Notice as well that the language used to describe Achan’s activity is anti-ten-commandments “stealing,” “lying,” and not explicit early in the narrative, but in Achan’s speech he “coveted” the things.

Here, the call of God is no different than it had been before – because in the daily things the Israelites had not been the way God wanted them to be, they need to start over with “consecration.”

Note that what Achan had coveted was other cultural things – making him want to be like other nations, and not the Holy Nation God wanted them to be.

This text ends in pain and terror and “trouble” (the translation of Achor.) It does not glory in Achan’s destruction nor is it happy about it – it’s in fact remembered as a terrible event. This pile of stones is different from, but will stick around for children to remember. There is a redeeming part to this story in the prophets, where God says he will make the valley of Achor a door of hope. But here, we must be careful to point out that this text while it ends in trouble and destruction, it does not celebrate it. But there is a reminder that allegiance to God is “all or not at all.”

Ideas for Illustrations:

Any building project that fails because of a poor foundation. Or, alternatively, the need for a rock-solid foundation if someone is going to build an architectural giant building, like a skyscraper.

Perhaps the idea of how one person on a team can “throw the game” and all will lose – Pete Rose as an example (?)

Ideas for Wrapping Up - Response - Call:

A call to not seek possessions of the modern culture, but to be committed to God.

A reminder of God’s wisdom of the things we possess and the devotion God wants us to have to God “alone.”

A call to give our all to God.

Sermon Idea Number - 17 -

Suggested Titles:

As for our houses
Are we honest enough to serve
Honest to God!

Passage:

Joshua 24

Passage Overview – some highlights:

Moses called the people to recommitment, to covenant, before his death reminding them to “choose life.” (See Sermon on Deuteronomy 30), and here Joshua does the same. For each generation there is a need to renew covenant and become again God’s people. Joshua insures that he declares to the people truthfully who God is – that there are commitments at stake and a price to be paid for allegiance. It is not cheap or easy to follow God, but it is the way of life.

Important Specific Concepts:

Note how this story begins with remember who God has been. Oftentimes we need to remember the faithfulness of God in the past as we consider our future and here Joshua reminds them of God’s faithfulness.

While the word is not used here as it has been used in other passages, this is another “consecration passage” in Joshua. The idea of consecration and the need to do it over and over again is important in this book.

This passage recognizes that there ARE other options – either their gods, or their gods – or, the God. The same seems to be true in our lives as well. We all recognize that options exist for faith, but this God is the one who has been faithful.

When the people respond to Joshua, interestingly they reply that it was the Lord who brought “us” up. This is interesting because technically they should have said some thing like, “It was the Lord who brought our ancestors up . . . .” In this “testimonial statement” then, the Israelite people recognize that who God has been in the past to their ancestors is who God is to them. What God has done for “our ancestors” he’s done for us. They have, in this sense, owned the religious heritage of their ancestors . . . perhaps because of those stones at the Jordan (see Sermon on Joshua 3-4).

This text is honest – honest about demands and expectations of allegiance, honest about what it takes, honest about owning up to those expectations. No one there could have participated and after the fact said, “Well I didn’t know that!”

Joshua sets up stones yet again, and while not explicit, they remain for future generations about the commitment of this generation.

Ideas for Illustrations:

Any “legal deal” where papers are signed and commitments kept – marriage, land/home purchase.

The day the President is “sworn in” as an example of owning commitments and swearing to uphold, in that case, the Constitution of the United States.

Ideas for Wrapping Up - Response - Call:

Obviously, this passage is a call for us to acknowledge and covenant with God.
Not just with them, but with we who are gathered here today, God has done these things.