THE JOURNEY ENDS
Over the past six weeks we’ve been travelling with the people of Israel as they made their way from Egypt to the Promised Land. Today they arrive on the doorstep of their inheritance. This forty day journey for us has taken them forty years and in those four decades they have grown in their relationship with God and have learned what God would have them do. And most of all, they have learned to trust God.
But this is a new generation of Israelites. Those who came out of the slavery of Egypt have mostly already gone to be with God. For them the slavery of Egypt is only a story. The same holds true of the quails and manna and the water from the rock. The Ten Commandments are still quite real, etched in stone in the tabernacle. But this is a very different people than those who left Egypt. They’re journey has been long but as they approach the Promised Land they have learned to trust God for their every need.
A NATION MOURNS
Today we come to a pivotal point in the life of the people for while they are just about to enter the Promised Land, it is the end of the line for Moses. We’ve skipped a fair chunk of the story but what happened in the interim is that God had had already brought the people to the Promised Land once but the refused to enter because they were afraid of the giants who lived there. And so God decreed that that generation, because they refused to trust God for victory over the giants, would never enter the Promised Land. Moses was included in that number but God made him a deal. He said that unlike most of his generation, Moses would be able to see the Promised Land but would not be able to enter it. That is where we are today.
In Deuteronomy 34:1-4 (NIV) we read, “Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the LORD showed him the whole land – from Gilead to Dan, all Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the city of palm as far a Zoar. The LORD said to him, ‘This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, “I will give this to your descendants.” I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over into it.’”
This is the Promised Land that God had promised to Moses and to the people of Israel. God takes Moses up to the top of a high hill. As he looks west, he sees the Jordan River and beyond that is the Promised Land. You might wonder at the names of the places – Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, Ephraim, Manasseh and Judah. These are not the Canaanite names of the people who currently dwell there. They are the names that the Israelites will give the land after they conquer it, names mostly of the twelve tribes of Israel.
Moses is old, very old. It is time for him to go to be with God and so we continue in Deuteronomy 34:5-8 (NIV) which tells of his death: “And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, as the LORD had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days until the time of weeping and mourning was over.”
Moses dies on Mount Nebo with God by his side. Before he dies, from the top of the mountain, he looks across the Jordan River to the city of Jericho. That is significant because Jericho is in the Promised Land. Moses sees it from Mount Nebo. He can almost taste it. But at God’s command, Moses will never enter the Promised Land. A younger generation is about to take up the call and God has chosen someone else will lead them into the Promised Land.
We find out about him in Deuteronomy 34:9 (NIV) which says, “Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the LORD had commanded Moses.”
Who is Joshua? Joshua is one of only two men – the other being Caleb – who were willing to face the giants and enter the Promised Land when God first called the people to do that many years earlier. That happened way back in Numbers 13-14. Moses had sent men to spy out the land. They returned to report that while it was a good land, it was already inhabited by giants and they were afraid to proceed. Only Joshua and Caleb had the faith to say that God would give them victory. Because of that, years later, only Joshua and Caleb would be allowed to enter the Promised Land with a new generation of Israelites who had no memory of Egypt and no fear of the giants.
PASSING THE MANTEL OF LEADERSHIP
When Moses dies and Joshua takes over, the mantel of leadership is passed from one generation to the next. That has always been the case with nations. It has always been the case with peoples and tribes. It has also always been the case with the Church. That’s where we are going today. To be faithful to God, the Church must trust God to raise up leaders to take on the mantle of leadership as it passes from one generation to the next.
How do we do that? What did Moses do? Within this verse are two important things that we need to consider as we prepare to pass on leadership in the Church.
The first is this: the Church needs to pass on leadership to those who are filled with the Spirit of God. Joshua was. We know he was. Why? Because he acted like he was. He alone with Caleb had the faith to follow God into the Promised Land. He and Caleb alone were willing to face the giants. He and Caleb alone had the faith to know that if God truly wanted them to enter the Promised Land and attack the giants that God would give them victory. Joshua was a man of faith. He was a man who was willing to face the giants alone if need be because he knew that God would deliver him.
We need leaders who are filled with the Spirit. The trouble is that in the past the Church has not always been so diligent in choosing its leaders. Sometimes we’ve been happy simply to get a warm body to fill a position. The Bible, however, has some interesting things to say about leaders. Listen to what it says in Titus 1:7-9 (ESV): “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.”
Clearly, God has high standards for the leaders of the Church. Warm bodies are no longer good enough. We need people who are filled with the God’s Spirit, who are above reproach, slow to anger, not violent or greedy but are good, upright, self-controlled, holy and disciplined. That sounds like a pretty long laundry list and it is. But I am also convinced that if God wants us to put those types of people in positions of leadership that we can trust God to provide them because we need those Spirit-filled people of faith to be the next generation of leaders.
That’s the first thing we need to look for as we search for new leaders in the Church. The second thing that this story tells us is that we must also equip our leaders to lead. That’s what the imagery of the Old Testament tells us in Verse 9 where it says that Moses laid his hands on Joshua. Laying on of hands was a sign that not only did Joshua had the right character and spirit, he also had all the tools and talents that he needed to do the job. And why wouldn’t he? After all Moses had been mentoring him for the past forty years.
Sometimes, I think we could do a better job of that in the Church. Too often we just take someone and put them in a position and expect that they will know what they are doing. And then we wonder why they get frustrated and sometimes fail. Here is what the army taught me over my past thirty years of military service. Yes, there are some people who are naturally better leaders than others but leadership can be learned and, once it is learned, it can be enhanced. All it takes is for the current leadership of the Church to mentor the younger ones on how they can faithfully operate when their time comes.
Joshua had the both the faith and the training to be the new leader of the people of Israel. What that tells us in the Church is that if we are to be faithful to God, we must trust God to provide those leaders and then we must train and equip them for success.
LEADERS FOR TODAY
Here’s something else to think about. What kind of leaders does the Church need as we step into the future? That’s a great question because I think the kind of leaders we need now is different than what was needed in the past. In the past, it was good enough for our leaders to be managers. The Church was an established part of the community. It had programmes and resources that enabled it to do what it had done for a long time. Being a Church leader in the past was I think an easier job than it is now.
No longer is it good enough for our leaders to be managers. What we need are people who are creative and are able to see where the Church can go in the new realities in which we live. Wayne Gretsky once said something like, “I good hockey player always knows where the puck is but a great hockey player knows where the puck is going to go.” The same thing can be said of Church leaders. They need to be able to see the Church needs to go.
In the past, we led from the centre of the community. But as churches are being pushed further and further out of mainstream society – in fact, in many ways have become counter-cultural – we need people who can lead from the margins of society. That takes a different type of person. It takes more imagination and more courage. It takes an ability to do some careful analysis of what is going on around us and discover those areas of our communities where there are unmet needs that the Church can fill.
That should not be all that surprising because we see in Moses and Joshua two very different types of leaders whom God called to lead in two very different situations. Moses was the one who led Israel out of Egypt. He was raised in Pharaoh’s court and knew how to operate in that environment. No wonder that God sent him to tell Pharaoh to let the people go. Moses would have been given the best education as a child in Pharaoh’s court. No wonder God used him to establish the law, the commandments and the temple rites and rituals. His background made him good at those sorts of things.
But as the people of Israel moved out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land, they needed someone with a different skill set. The needed a military leader who had the courage and the strategic vision to defeat the giants who still inhabited the land. If Moses was the Prime Minister of the nation, Joshua was its military general. Joshua could not have accomplished what Moses did and Moses could not have done what Joshua was being asked to do. But God knew that and God puts people in the right places to do the things that he needs them to do. Our challenge is to recognize them when they come our way and then train and equip them for success.
THE CHALLENGE OF LEADERSHIP
I’m challenging this congregation to think about these things now because if we wait, it will soon be too late. Here at Cottam we are ahead of the curve in many ways when it comes to the United Church of Canada but we will only stay there by being diligent and intentional in developing leaders.
The day will come when all of the people who currently lead this church, like Moses, will climb mount Nebo, gaze off into the Promised land that they will never enter and then go to be with God. That includes every person currently on every church board. It includes all of the chair and secretaries of all the committees. It even includes me. The day will come when none of us will be in positions of leadership in Cottam United Church. When that day comes, who will take our place? That’s a question that we start to ask right now because, like any organization, the Church will only go as far as its leaders are able to take it. The key to success in any organization is always seen in its leadership.
The book of Deuteronomy is the last book of what is called the Torah, the first five books of the Bible. They are sometimes called the books of Moses. Some people mistakenly think that this is because they were written by Moses. That’s probably not true. In fact, the evidence is pretty clear that they were written by a number of people over a longer period of time. But what we do know is that they contain Moses’ story. The first book, Genesis contains the stories that Moses ensured that the people would remember; the stories of creation, the tower of Babel, and the building of the nation of Israel through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The next four books, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy tell directly the history of the Israelites in the wilderness and how they learned to trust God under Moses’ leadership. And so at the end of Deuteronomy, we find a fitting epithet to the life of this great man: Deuteronomy 34:10-12 (NIV) says: “Since then no prophet has risen in like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, who did all those miraculous sings and wonders the LORD sent him to do in Egypt – to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel.”
he was a leader for the age in which he lived. Through him, God laid the
foundation for the people to thrive even to this very day. And after him, God
raised up leaders to be trained and equipped to lead the people into whatever
God placed before them, into the Promised Land and beyond.
PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE
God of Heaven and Earth, you have been our refuge in every generation.
Before the mountains were brought forth, you were there.
Before the earth and the world were formed, from age to age, you are God.
We, your human children, are frail in your sight.
For a thousand years in your sight are as yesterday
a day in the past, a watch in the night.
In every age, O God, you are our refuge.
Hear our prayers, O God, for your world. There is much conflict and destruction. In the midst of pain and struggle, we need to hear your message of peace. We need the reassurance of your constant presence and your unfailing love.
Hear our prayers, O God, for our nation and our government. In spite of our prosperity, we sometimes live in tension. Give us the wisdom to see beyond race, language, gender, and colour to know that the person within is your creation deserving of respect and dignity and worthy of hearing the Gospel message.
Hear our prayers, O God, for the sick of our congregation and community remembering especially Sharon, Millicent, Don, Jacqui and Helen. We also remember Melissa as she is due to deliver a baby any time now. And be with Andy as he prepares for surgery on Wednesday. We pray for good recovery and a successful outcome. We lift them up in prayer and pray your blessings upon them and their families. Touch all of us with the power of your Holy and Healing Spirit in whatever areas we are most it the need. Soothe us, comfort us, and empower us for the ministry of Christ Jesus our Saviour.
Make us glad in spite of afflictions we may have suffered.
Show your servants your work and let your children see your glory.
Let your favour be upon us and prosper the work of our hands.
In every age, O God, you have been our refuge.
These prayers we offer in Jesus’ name. Amen.
WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE
October 29, 2017 / Pentecost 20 / Proper 25
Deuteronomy 34:1-12; Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17; Matthew 22:34-46; 1 Thessalonians 2:1-8
CALL TO WORSHIP
Before the mountains were lifted from the sea;
before the earth was formed;
before the winds blew over the face of the Deep;
before the breath of life was breathed into Creation;
God was there.
God is still here. Let us worship.
PRAYER OF APPROACH
We bow before you, Holy God, amazed at your awesome creative power. Your glory fills the skies. Your love fills our hearts. Your Spirit fills the earth with new hope and life. Breath into us and mend our brokenness. Walk beside us as we walk beside one another with the love and compassion of Christ. Meet us where we are and lead us to greater heights than we could ever possibly imagine. Amen.
PRAYER OF CONFESSION
God of Love, our Heavenly Father, enable others to see your glory and character demonstrated in our lives in all that we say and do. Enable us to be compassionate rather than selfish, forgiving rather than vengeful, patient and understanding rather than impatient and harsh. May your Spirit lead us and guide our steps so that we can maximize every opportunity to bring others closer to you. Amen.
ASSURANCE OF PARDON
In Jesus Christ, we are set free from the anger that consumes us and the wrath that overwhelms us. Walk without fear and be at peace. Jesus Christ has purchased our salvation on the Cross of Calvary. Our sins are forgiven and we are renewed, given new life as a gracious gift of God.
DEDICATION OF OFFERING
We have the means to be generous, O God, whether in our material possessions of in our ability to care for others. We bring all of our gifts to your table confident that, with your grace and guidance, we will use them to be a blessing to others. Amen.
God’s blessings are around us. God’s love surrounds us. We, who are fortunate enough to know the Good News of Jesus Christ have the responsibility of sharing it with others. May our lives be testimonies of God’s redeeming love. Let us honour God as we leave this place, examples of the transforming power of Christ.
The Rev. Kim Gilliland
October 29, 2017
A NATION MOURNS
The people of Israel come to a pivotal time.
Moses comes to the end of his journey.
Then Moses climbed Mount Nebo from the plains of Moab to the top of Pisgah, across from Jericho. There the LORD showed him the whole land – from Gilead to Dan, all Naphtali, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the western sea, the Negev and the whole region from the Valley of Jericho, the city of palm as far a Zoar. The LORD said to him, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, saying, ‘I will give this to your descendants.’ I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over into it.”
Deuteronomy 34:1-4 (NIV)
After seeing the Promised Land across the Jordan River, Moses dies.
And Moses the servant of the LORD died there in Moab, as the LORD had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days until the time of weeping and mourning was over.
Deuteronomy 35:5-9 (NIV)
PASSING ON THE MANTEL OF LEADERSHIP
Joshua succeeds Moses as the leader of Israel.
Now Joshua son of Nun was filled with the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him. So the Israelites listened to him and did what the Lord had commanded Moses.
Deuteronomy 35:9 (NIV)
Leaders must be filled with the Spirit of God. They must people of faith.
The Bible gives high standards for what Church leaders should be like.
For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. Titus 1:7-9 (ESV)
Church leaders must also be equipped and trained to do the job.
That’s why Moses laid hands on Joshua as a
sign that he was ready and trained.
LEADERS FOR TODAY
The Church today needs a different kind of leader than it needed in the past.
The Church today is on the margins of society.
The Church needs creative people who can lead from the margins.
They cannot stand on tradition and be content to do things the way they were always done.
They must stand on the truth of Scripture and be willing to be led by God into the unknown.
The day will come when all of our current leaders will be gone.
We need to trust God to provide new leaders and then train them to take up the mantel of leadership at the right time.
Since then no prophet has risen in like Moses, whom
the LORD knew face to face, who did all those miraculous sings and wonders the
LORD sent him to do in Egypt – to Pharaoh and to all his officials and to his
whole land. For no one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome
deeds that Moses did in the sight of all Israel. Deuteronomy