24 Pentecost, Year A: Nov. 12
It has been said that repetition is the mother of all learning. To state the obvious, this principle is put into practice through liturgical worship, in which actions are repeated and words reiterated. Moreover, the liturgy has within it concise and memorable summations of our faith: the Summary of the Law, the Lord’s Prayer, the Nicene Creed, the Eucharistic Prayer. Occasionally, the appointed readings function in a similar way, stating all that we believe in a few telling lines.
Joshua, addressing the people as they prepare to enter the Promised Land, reminds them of an old story. “Long ago your ancestors — Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor — lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan and made his offspring many. 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” (Josh. 24:2-3, 14).
Hearing these words, the people offered their wholehearted consent, to which we may add our own. “Far be it from us that we should forsake the Lord to serve other gods; for 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 all along the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we have passed” (Josh. 24:16-17). We have been grafted into this story. Christ has liberated us from the false gods of this age and set us on a path toward the New Jerusalem, and in the time of our pilgrimage, Christ is with us, in us, protecting us.
In Christ, we are set free, and we live in the exuberant hope of new and eternal life. Can we state this simply and clearly? To use the words of St. Paul, “For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For 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. For 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 will rise first. Then 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. Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:14-18).
This is our hope — to be with the Lord forever and ever! As we wait, we do so as wise bridesmaids. We light our lamps and carry an extra supply of oil. We are vigilant, alert, and hopeful.
The Christian life is a universe. We cannot hold it all before our attention, and thus we need brief reminders that are easily learned and repeated: (1) We are the people God has called and set free from the false gods of this age. (2) We will rise with Christ in the joy of everlasting life. (3) We persevere in hope, being vigilant and alert. Prayerfully, we tell the same story over and over again!
Look It Up: Psalm 78:3-4
Think About It: We will recount to generations to come.