First Presbyterian Church

IN WESLACO

709 SOUTH IOWA AVENUE WESLACO, TX 78596 PH. 956.969.1535

“Choose This Day”

“Choose This Day”

a sermon by Pastor Sonja Dalglish for Weslaco FPC

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25, Psalm 78:1-7m 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Matthew 25:1-13

November 6, 2011

 

  1. Introduction

The Old Testament text from Joshua is one of my favorites.  “Choose this day whom you will serve — as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”   These words create a wonderful joy within me.  To serve the Lord who made heaven and earth. The two texts today have to do with our choices, with our time, and how we live our lives.

 

  1.  Choose This Day — OT Passage

The Israelites have been traveling now for forty years in the wilderness.  On the brink of their entry into the Promised Land, they are called to choose.  Even after all this time, some people must still have with them some trinkets that remind them of other gods, perhaps small, easy to carry idols.  Joshua reminds them of Abraham and his covenant with God, then of Isaac and Jacob, Joseph and Egypt and their release from captivity and their safe travel through the dessert, and then tells them to leave behind their dependence on other gods.  This is a day to choose the true and living God or to choose the dead handmade idols.

 

How much of our lives are we willing to trust God?  If we, like Joshua, declare that from this day forward we will serve the Lord, then we will spend our lives learning and doing what will glorify God, what it means to love God and love other people.  Joshua was asking the people to make the big choice – God or gods.  And, yet we know, that even when the big choice is ours, it is made up of many, many small choices.

 

Joshua gives them a warning.  He says to beware if they choose God because God is jealous.  Now, that has bothered many people, that image of a jealous God.  I looked up jealous in the dictionary.  It can have a different connotation than the angry girlfriend or boyfriend.  Someone who is jealous is protective, such as someone who is jealous of their time so that they have enough time with their family, enough time for exercise, enough time for prayer.   God is protective of the relationship with us and does not want to share that relationship with any false gods.  After the choice, comes the living out of a life of faith, a life where many many actions reveal who we really choose.  Just as when we say we choose to lose weight and yet do not alter what we eat or what we do — we could also say we serve the Lord and yet live the same way as anyone else.  This is living as what Craig Groeschel has described as a Christian atheist.  To say we believe is not enough.

 

  1. Oil for Our Lamps — NT Passage

 

Turning to the New Testament, we can see that choice and time figure into this parable.   I love the image of the bridegroom coming and inviting us into the party.  What a wonderful image of the second coming, a celebration!  Not a time of warfare, but a celebration of life and a future.

 

This is the first of several judgement parables.  In this parable of the wise and foolish virgins, the virgins seem to represent the church.  The bridegroom is Christ.  All the virgins are waiting, but when Christ comes, only some have enough oil in their lamps, only some are ready.  Now, one thing that bothers many people when they begin to study this parable is that the virgins with enough oil do not share.  We have been so conditioned to share that perhaps you, like I, wonder why they did not.

 

However, there are things we cannot transfer to another person.  If the oil in the lamps is indicative of faith and the life that flows from that faith, you cannot give your love of God, your prayer time, your study time, your kindness and compassion for others to another person.  You can encourage and teach but you cannot live another person’s life for them.  Remember God acts first, reaching out with love to us and invites our response.  Each person must make his or her own response.  You cannot live or die for another person.  You cannot be so very good that you have enough goodness left that you can siphon some off and give it to another person.  Knowing who Jesus is and calling on his name is not enough.  You must learn from him and live according to his teachings.

 

Another troubling thing is when the bridegroom shuts the door and says no to those virgins who have gone and gotten more oil.  I was introduced to an interesting book this week – Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey.  He points out that the Middle Eastern culture is somewhat different about the word ‘no.’  He says that instead of ‘no’ being an answer and the end of the discussion, instead, it is simply a pause.  Think about this.  God gives us many second chances and has throughout the history of the faith.

 

Remember when the Israelites had Aaron build a golden calf?  God was not happy.  The calf was destroyed.  God continued to be with the people providing food and water.  Now on the entry to the promised land, they have another chance to throw down their idols and again choose God.

 

These foolish virgins, like many of us, were not prepared when the bridegroom came.  They had to go and find more oil.  By the time they returned, the door had been closed and locked.  Although they knew his name, the bridegroom said he did not know them.

 

Kenneth Bailey says that the story is not over.  Jesus lets us finish it ourselves, somewhat like the famous short story of the lady and the tiger.  Can they convince him that he knows them?  Do they have enough oil now to last until they can get him to open the door?  Or, because they they are not ready, will they be left outside the door?

 

I hope for the best for them and for us because Jesus comes to us everyday.  And we are not always ready.

 

  1.  Christian Morality

I am interested in how Christians live differently in the world than others.  I have recently bought a book by N.T. Wright on Christian Character.  The title is After You Believe: Christian Character and Why it Matters.  I am looking forward to reading and studying it.  This year as I have read and studied Matthew in preparing sermons for the community, I have realized how often Jesus tells us that what we do is important.  The actions we choose tell a lot about our heart and what is important to us.  And, according to behavioral psychologists and C.S. Lewis, our choices and our actions change us.

 

Listen to what C.S. Lewis says about our choices and Christian morality — Christian character.

 

“People often think of Christian morality as a kind of bargain in which God says, ‘If you keep a lot of rules, I’ll reward you, and if you don’t I’ll do the other thing.’  I do not think that is the best way of looking at it.  I would much rather say that every time you make a choice you are turning the central part of you, the part of you that chooses, into something a little different from what it was before.  And taking your life as a whole, with all your innumerable choices, all your life long you are slowly turning this central thing either into a Heaven creature or into a hellish creature: either into a creature that is in harmony with God, and with other creatures, and with itself, or else into one that is in a state of war and hatred with God, and with its fellow creatures, and with itself.  To be one kind of creature is Heaven: that is, it is joy, and peace, and knowledge, and power.  To be the other means madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness.  Each of us at each moment is progressing to the one state or the other.”  -from Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

 

  1.  Conclusion

 

Every day when we wake up and start a new day, we begin making choices.  Choose this day whom you will serve.  May every choice you make be a choice for life, for hope, for love and compassion.  May each and every choice we make help to turn us from the inside out into Christians – Christians through and through.  Not just Christians with our lips, not just Christians on the outside, but through and through, people who have enough oil in our lamps to weather the darkest storm.

 

Choose this day and may we all choose Christ and the way of life.  Choose prayer.  Choose acts of kindness and love.  I’ll see you at the celebration!

 

One of those celebrations will be next week.  After church, we will gather for a lunch together and have the church’s stewardship plan presented.  Then, at 2:30, we will come together again for the dedication of the Texas Historical Marker.  This community of faith is now over ninety years old.  It was the first Protestant church built in town.  The day it went up was declared a work holiday.  People in the town turned out.  Men were carpenters; women supplied the sandwiches and drinks.  And the buildings went up.  Come and celebrate.  Hear a bit of history.  Bring your memories.  Write down a memory for the memory book.  We will also have paper here to record a memory.  We will put them together and create a memory book of this event.  And we will gather afterward for celebration with cookies and punch.

 

In 1920, people said, like Joshua, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  And they created a worship space to praise God and thank God for life and all the blessings showered on them.

 

Choose who you will serve!  Choose God and life and love and hope!  I’ll see you at the celebration!
Revised Common Lectionary Readings for Sunday, November 6, 2011,

the Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

First Reading Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25

1Then Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. 2And Joshua said to all the people, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors — Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor — lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods. 3aThen I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan and made his offspring many.

14“Now therefore revere the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15Now if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

16Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods; 17for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; 18and the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”

19But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the LORD, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. 20If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.” 21And the people said to Joshua, “No, we will serve the LORD!” 22Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” 23He said, “Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.” 24The people said to Joshua, “The LORD our God we will serve, and him we will obey.” 25So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem.

Psalm Psalm 78:1-7

1   Give ear, O my people, to my teaching;

incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

2   I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will utter dark sayings from of old,

3   things that we have heard and known,

that our ancestors have told us.

4   We will not hide them from their children;

we will tell to the coming generation

the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might,

and the wonders that he has done.

5   He established a decree in Jacob,

and appointed a law in Israel,

which he commanded our ancestors

to teach to their children;

6   that the next generation might know them,

the children yet unborn,

and rise up and tell them to their children,

7        so that they should set their hope in God,

and not forget the works of God,

but keep his commandments;

Second Reading 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18

13But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. 15For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. 16For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. 18Therefore encourage one another with these words.

 

Gospel Matthew 25:1-13

1“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; 4but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. 6But at midnight there was a shout, ‘Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. 8The foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9But the wise replied, ‘No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.’ 10And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. 11Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12But he replied, ‘Truly I tell you, I do not know you.’ 13Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

 

Stephen Ministry

Stephen Ministry

Youth Connected

Youth Connected

Hosts groups traveling to the Rio Grande Valley

Hosts groups traveling to the Rio Grande Valley or Mexico to perform community service

Supports parenting education efforts

Supports parenting education efforts of Su Casa de Esperanza, family life center

Parent’s Night Out is scheduled four times a year.

Parent’s Night Out is scheduled four times a year. Children have supper and activities in the Fellowship Hall.

Christmas Play & Dinner

Christmas Cantata

Musical presentation

Parade Float

Weslaco Area Chamber Christmas Parade first Friday

Harvest Fest

Family fun with food and games