Commencement

Journey Through Life Week 8

A sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto - May 18, 2005

  1. Introduction
    1. Conclusion of the "Journey Through Life" campaign
      1. Slavery in Egypt
      2. Burning Bush
      3. Crossing the Red Sea
      4. Bitter Water & Water from the Rock
      5. Manna in the Wilderness
      6. Battles on the Way
      7. The Ten Commandments
    2. From the letter, the journey of the children of Israel is only just beginning.
      1. They need to send spies into the land and be frightened by the giants, but enticed by the milk and honey.
      2. And because of their lack of trust in the Lord's ability to lead them past the giants and into the land, they have to stay in the wilderness until everyone who lived in Egypt had died (except Joshua and Caleb).
      3. They still need to build the Tabernacle.
      4. There are other enemies to fight along the way.
      5. They need to gradually shed the old ways of acting and thinking so that they will be ready for the new life that awaits them in Canaan.
    3. In some ways, it's a lot like a High School graduation.
      1. From their point of view they are fully adults ready to take on the world.
      2. From the point of view of their parents and grandparents they are just children who have learned enough to begin learning about the world - and thus we call it "commencement" because it's not an end, but a beginning.
  2. Since we are marking the end on journey which implies embarking on a new journey because we're not at the goal yet, it seemed obvious that some farewell messages from the Word might give us some guidance about how to go on when the state of having a leader comes to its natural end. And since our focus has been on the book of Exodus, it seems appropriate to see what Moses had to say at the end of his life.
    1. First, he explains why he has to step down as leader.
      1. (DEU 31) Then Moses went and spoke these words to all Israel. {2} And he said to them: "I am one hundred and twenty years old today. I can no longer go out and come in. Also the LORD has said to me, 'You shall not cross over this Jordan.'
    2. Next, he reminds the people that they do not have to fight by themselves, time and time again the Lord has shown His willingness to fight for them. All they need to do is remember this, and keep up their part of the covenant.
      1. {3} "The LORD your God Himself crosses over before you; He will destroy these nations from before you, and you shall dispossess them. Joshua himself crosses over before you, just as the LORD has said. {4} "And the LORD will do to them as He did to Sihon and Og, the kings of the Amorites and their land, when He destroyed them. {5} "The LORD will give them over to you, that you may do to them according to every commandment which I have commanded you.
    3. Yes, Moses tells them, it can be scary out there. But look back at all the times the Lord has been there, all the times He defeated your enemies for you and go forward with that sure and certain knowledge in your heart and mind.
      1. {6} "Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you."
      2. He will not leave you nor forsake you.
    4. Joshua: the perfect leader. The harshest criticism that can be levelled at Joshua is that he allowed himself to be fooled by the Gibeonites when they disguised themselves in old garments and pretended that they had travelled from a far country.
    5. We should also remember that when the name "Joshua" carries over into Hebrew, it becomes "Jesus." It's not a coincidence.
      1. (Josh 24:13-28) '[the Lord has] given you a land for which you did not labour, and cities which you did not build, and you dwell in them; you eat of the vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.'
        1. An appropriate reminder for us to count our blessings, all the gifts which we receive for which we did not labour, all the wonderful things that we just enjoy that are just there.
        2. And don't forget that all these natural gifts should also remind us of the spiritual gifts that they represent that we also receive without money and without price.
          1. Cities represent the human mind.
          2. Food and drink represent gifts of good and truth from the Lord; and so on.
        3. But here's the bottom line - there is a cost.
      2. {14} "Now therefore, fear the LORD, serve Him in sincerity and in truth, and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD! {15} "And if it seems evil to you to serve the LORD, choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."
        1. The price is that we have to put aside those really delightful, attractive, and fun idols.
        2. We've started the journey with enthusiasm and excitement. We've made some measurable progress. But will we hold the course when things get rough? It's hard, and many fall by the way, so Joshua pushes the people (and us) even harder.
      3. {22} So Joshua said to the people, "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD for yourselves, to serve Him." And they said, "We are witnesses!" {23} "Now therefore," he said, "put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD God of Israel." {24} And the people said to Joshua, "The LORD our God we will serve, and His voice we will obey!" {25} So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made for them a statute and an ordinance in Shechem. {26} Then Joshua wrote these words in the Book of the Law of God. And he took a large stone, and set it up there under the oak that was by the sanctuary of the LORD. {27} And Joshua said to all the people, "Behold, this stone shall be a witness to us, for it has heard all the words of the LORD which He spoke to us. It shall therefore be a witness to you, lest you deny your God." {28} So Joshua let the people depart, each to his own inheritance.
        1. What's going to be the stone, the memorial, that keeps us on the course?
        2. The "witness," the knowledge that falling back to our old ways is going to actually hurt someone or something we love can be a useful thing, something that gives us courage and strength.
        3. For many, it's the Holy Supper.
          1. A contract, a physical activity to give reality to the spiritual.
          2. The taste of the bread and wine, the memory of kneeling at the Lord's altar, serve as a witness and a memorial to your determination to live a new life.
    6. Jumping ahead 500 years, is there anything we can learn from David's final words to his son Solomon?
      1. (1KI 2:1-4) Now the days of David drew near that he should die, and he charged Solomon his son, saying: {2} "I go the way of all the earth; be strong, therefore, and prove yourself a man. {3} "And keep the charge of the LORD your God: to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His judgements, and His testimonies, as it is written in the Law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn;
        1. Be strong, prove yourself, walk in His ways, keep His commandments and you will prosper in everything you do, and everywhere you go.
    7. Finally, jumping ahead another 1,000 years, what were the Lord's own words when He rose into heaven 40 days after the resurrection?
      1. (MAT 28:16-20) Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. {17} When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted. {18} And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
        1. They were still struggling with the idea that Jesus was Divine. It was a big idea.
        2. It's a big challenge for us too. It's a challenge for us to come to the realization and heartfelt acknowledgement that there is someone out there who knows better than we do, who knows what's best for us.
        3. There's somebody out there that we have to submit our will to.
        4. And what does He want us to do (after keeping the covenant by obeying the commandments)?
      2. {19} "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, {20} "teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen.
        1. Baptism is one of the two universal gates into the church, so by baptizing is meant introducing, letting people know about the Lord.
        2. Once they know, they need to know how they ought to behave, so the second step is to teach them to "observe all things that I have commanded you" - to live the life of charity because the Lord asks it of you.
        3. And what is the promised result? His continual presence with each one of us. "And lo, I am with you always."
  3. Conclusion
    1. So we've come this far in the process. There has been the book and the support of friends to keep up the motivation.
      1. We can look back with pride on what has been accomplished.
      2. And we need to look forward to the work that still needs to be done.
        1. But now, unlike the slaves in Egypt, we know that the Lord is with us, He will guide us, He will fight our battles for us. He'll take care of all the big things for us.
        2. So, what's left for us to do?
    2. (Micah 6:6-8) With what shall I come before the LORD, And bow myself before the High God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, With calves a year old? {7} Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, Ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression, The fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? {8} He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God? Amen.

 

First Lesson: AC 4572:2

Be it known in general that all the conjunction of good with truth is effected by means of temptations, the reason of which is that evils and falsities offer resistance and as it were rebel, and strive in every possible way to prevent the conjunction of good with truth and of truth with good. This combat takes place between the spirits who are with the man, namely, between the spirits who are in evils and falsities, and those who are in goods and truths, and is perceived by the man as a temptation within himself. When therefore the spirits who are in evils and falsities are conquered by the spirits who are in goods and truths, and are compelled to depart, the latter have joy through heaven from the Lord, and this joy is perceived by the man as consolation, and as in himself. But the joy and consolation are not on account of victory, but on account of the conjunction of good and truth; for all conjunction of good and truth has joy within itself, because this conjunction is the heavenly marriage within which is the Divine. Amen.

Second Lesson: AC 2338

The evil spirits who are then with the man and induce the temptation strongly inspire negation, but the good spirits and angels from the Lord in every possible way dispel this state of doubt, and keep the man in a state of hope, and at let confirm him in what is affirmative. The result is that a man who is in temptation hangs between what is negative and what is affirmative. One who yields in temptation remains in a state of doubt, and falls into what is negative; but one who overcomes is indeed in doubt, but still, if he suffers himself to be cheered by hope, he stands fast in what is affirmative. Amen.