Yr A ~ Pentecost 23 ~ Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25
I know you’ve done it. I’ve done it too. Someone official asks you a question and you know what the answer is supposed to be and you give that answer even though you don’t believe it, or you haven’t actually done the thing they’re asking but you say you have. Or maybe you have some doubts about something but you’re standing in a crowd and rather than go against the crowd you go with the flow.
Too often our actions belie our words.
We don’t practice what we preach.
We may not like to admit it, because it demonstrates a lack of integrity on some level, but we’ve all done it. And the sad truth is that we usually get away with it.
However, if the person asking the question is a good reader of people they’ll know what you’re up to and call you on it. You’ll probably deny it at first, but they’ll know, and sooner or later you’ll probably realize you’re not getting away with it and then you have a choice to make – double down and continue to misrepresent yourself, or admit the truth and come clean.
And the sad truth about that is that we usually choose to double down because it’s uncomfortable and humiliating to own up to a shortcoming.
I call it the mirror moment. It’s that moment when you look in the mirror and you realize that you can’t kid yourself anymore, that you see the thing you’re doing or thinking is wrong, that you can’t keep doing it, and that you’re going to act or think differently from that moment on.
In today’s passage from Joshua he has a wonderful way to describe that mirror moment. He says that the people are witnesses against themselves. Isn’t that a great way to say it? When you’re looking in that mirror you are a witness against yourself. But let me go back a bit and say more about what they were doing wrong that needed a mirror moment.
After their 40 years of wandering in the wilderness the Israelites entered the Promised Land. Moses had led them that far but he did not go with them into the new world. He passed the leadership on to Joshua. Today’s reading comes from the end of Joshua’s story, long after he’d fought the battles, and it shows that he may have failed in his most sacred duty. The people of Israel had drifted away from the One God, Yahweh, and were worshipping other gods.
So Joshua calls them on it. The entire nation of Israel, all the various leaders and key people, everybody is gathered together and Joshua rises up before them and says that they are supposed to be serving or worshipping God like he does. It’s one of the most famous lines in the bible,
“As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!”
But the people aren’t following suit, and Joshua tells them they’re not.
They answer back, “Yes we are!”
He says, “No, you’re not!”
They say, “Yes, we are!”
He says, “No, you’re really not, and you know it.”
And they say, “Yeah, ok, you got us. No, we’re not. But we will now!”
(I may be paraphrasing a little.)
What it actually says in the end is this, Joshua 24:22
Then 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.”
Joshua makes them look hard at themselves in the mirror and become witnesses against themselves, realize that their actions are proving the case against them, and they finally admit, “Yes, we are witnesses.”
In church we have a name for the mirror moment. We call it confession. Did you know that you make a confession every Sunday when you’re here? We don’t call it that because some people find the word problematic, maybe because it’s been used poorly in their past, but a few minutes ago we shared a prayer of invocation and transformation and in the end part we all say,
“Standing in your light, hearts broken open, acknowledging our humanness, seeking transformation, savouring your Holy Presence, we pray.”
That’s confession. That’s a mirror moment.
Hearts broken open, acknowledging our humanness – meaning that we realize that we’re not perfect – and seeking transformation – seeking a new way and leaving behind an old way.
So yes, we do confession every week here. It’s a critical part of a disciple’s faith journey. read on