THEME: Choice, commitment and rediness
The common theme that unites Joshua 24:1-38, 1 Thessalonians 4:9-18, and Matthew 25:1-13
- is the idea of choice,
- and readiness.
- In Joshua 24:1-38, Joshua challenges the Israelites to choose whom they will serve: God or idols. It’s about making a deliberate commitment to follow the Lord and to reject all other false gods.
- 1 Thessalonians 4:9-18 speaks of the importance of brotherly love and holy living, urging believers to make choices that reflect their commitment to following Christ and living a life of love and holiness.
- Matthew 25:1-13, the parable of the ten virgins, highlights the need for readiness and preparedness for the return of Christ. It underscores the importance of making the right choices and being vigilant in our faith journey.
In all three passages, the central theme is about making choices that reflect our commitment to God, living in love and holiness, and being prepared for the Lord’s return. These themes emphasize the importance of our daily decisions as we seek to follow God’s will and fulfill our mission as believers.
How we can live out the themes of choice, commitment, and readiness as individuals and as a mission-focused Church:
- The Way of Choice – Joshua 24:1-38: “If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm and consume you, after having done you good.”
While Joshua’s intensity in our reading might make us uncomfortable, I wonder if there might be merit to what he’s saying. Joshua is warning the Israelites to not make a loose commitment.
Following the Lord, he explains, is not a commitment lightly made or easily broken; if they are to make the commitment, they must be fully invested.
The Israelites respond by ensuring that they are willing to enter into and obey God’s covenant. Joshua immediately called them to act upon their words, showing their commitment and dedication by no longer worshiping foreign gods and focusing their devotion on God.
Serving God is not just an intellectual exercise but also an intention coupled with action.
Choosing to serve God should not be taken lightly. We are our own witnesses to our faith and practice. We choose our own level of accountability, but Joshua warns us, as he warns the Israelites, that following God requires our whole selves.
- Emphasise the importance of making a conscious choice to serve the Lord. Encourage the congregation to reflect on their own choices and commitments.
- Share personal testimonies or examples of individuals who have made a significant choice to follow Christ, illustrating the transformative power of such decisions.
- Challenge the congregation to recommit to God, rejecting any “idols” that might compete for their devotion, such as materialism, pride, or worldly pursuits.
- Highlight the mission of the Church to be a place where people can encounter Christ and make the life-changing choice to follow Him.
- The Way of Commitment – 1 Thessalonians 4:9-18: Grief is a powerful emotion. It has the ability to rip us apart at the seams, connect us to the forgotten parts of ourselves, and anything in between.
It can be a messy and overwhelming emotion, affecting all aspects of our lives.
In his letter to the Thessalonians, Paul attempts to comfort the community on the loss of their fellow believers.
He assures them that their friends and loved ones haven’t missed out on Jesus’ return, the great event they are all anticipating.
Paul enjoins them not to grieve without hope. Just as Jesus rose from the grave, we too hope for our own resurrection.
We are confident that this world is not the end, and that we will be without pain and reunited with our creator in the afterlife.
We can’t escape grief, but we can know that God will be with us in our sorrow.
Grief will not have the final word.
As Christ-followers, we hope for a life to come – a life after death, and a life through grief.
- Emphasise the importance of brotherly love and holy living. Encourage the congregation to show deep love and respect for one another within the church community.
- Share practical ways to express love, such as supporting one another in times of need, forgiving one another, and being peacemakers.
- Challenge the congregation to live lives of holiness by avoiding sinful behaviours and seeking to reflect the character of Christ in their daily lives.
- Stress that the mission of the Church is to be a place of unity, love, and holiness, where people can experience the transformative power of Christ’s love.
- The Way of Readiness – Matthew 25:1-13: What a strange parable Jesus offers us.
Ten bridesmaids are waiting to accompany the bridegroom to the wedding banquet.
Five have come prepared with extra oil, knowing the possibility that they might have to wait. The other five do not.
They ask the wise bridesmaids to share their oil, but they say no. Now what happened to “girls supporting girls”?!
At first glance, there seems to be no solidarity among the young women – but it’s a bit more complicated than that.
The wise bridesmaids didn’t have enough to share, knowing it was better for five lamps to guide the whole way than for all ten to run out of oil partway through the journey.
Only five had the preparation and wisdom to get the task done.
The parable shows the importance of individual preparedness and personal investment in our communal creation of the Kingdom of God.
Your friend can have a sustaining prayer life and pray for you, but she can’t pray for you.
Your church participating in antiracist racial reconciliation work doesn’t mean you’re off scot-free on your own internal work.
Our relationships with the divine are our own, and our contributions to bringing the Kingdom of God are our own.
Our faith is to be lived out in community, but we cannot rely on others to prepare us for the Kingdom.
There is a delicate balance between communal responsibility and being a critical and active member of that community.
We can be ready, or we can be untrusting, unaware, and unprepared to do our part.
- Emphasise the importance of being vigilant and prepared for the return of Christ. Encourage the congregation to consider their spiritual readiness.
- Share the parable of the ten virgins and discuss the difference between the wise and foolish virgins. Encourage the congregation to be like the wise virgins, who were prepared.
- Challenge the congregation to be watchful in their faith, staying connected to God through prayer, studying His Word, and actively participating in the mission of the Church.
- Highlight that the mission of the Church is to be a place of preparation, where individuals and the community as a whole are actively getting ready for the return of Christ and are helping others do the same.
- The Mission of the Church:
- Emphasise that the mission of the Church is to be a place where people can make life-changing choices to follow Christ, experience deep love and holiness, and prepare for the Lord’s return.
- Encourage the congregation to actively engage in fulfilling the Great Commission, reaching out to those who have yet to make a choice for Christ.
- Share specific examples of how the church is actively serving the community and being a beacon of love, hope, and readiness in a world filled with uncertainty.
- Call the congregation to actively participate in the mission of the Church by using their unique gifts and talents to advance the Kingdom of God.
Incorporating these themes into a church message can inspire and challenge the congregation to live out their faith in practical and meaningful ways, both individually and as a mission-driven Church.