Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
I ran across a cartoon the other day. It shows OT characters. A woman is introducing a younger man to an older man, “This is Joshua. Joshua fit the battle of Jericho.”
Most of us know a portion of that story or at least a portion of the song, but there is a whole lot more to Joshua than just the Walls of Jericho. In the book of Exodus we find out that God has chosen Joshua to be the second in command to Moses, the military leader of the just freed children of Israel. We alos know that Joshua was one of the 12 spies, representing the 12 tribes of Israel who were sent into the Promised Land to scope it out and determine how best to take the land which God had promised them.
When those spies returned to Moses, Numbers 13 & 14 tell us how ten of the spies returned shaking in their boots. They reported giants so big they felt like grasshoppers to them. The majority report scared the fool out the people and they began to grumble and shout.
From early on, we see the vision and the depth of faith which Joshua had because the minority report came from Joshua and Caleb who basically said, “This land is an exceedingly good land.”
In Numbers 14:8-9 he says, “If God is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land that flows, as they say, with milk and honey. And he'll give it to us. Just don't rebel against God! And don't be afraid of those people. Why, we'll have them for lunch! They have no protection and God is on our side. Don't be afraid of them!”
Unfortunately, the people rejected the Minority Report and went with the Majority Report. They were still stuck in Egypt. While it was true that they were slaves, there wasn’t any uncertainty. They didn’t have to worry where their next meal was coming from. But they missed the point didn’t they.
And unfortunately for the Children of Israel, when they accepted the Majority Report, it meant they would wander in the wilderness for another 40 years, until no one from the original spy expedition except Joshua and Caleb, would enter into the Promised Land. And none of those who opposed the Minority Report and failed to trust God would enter either. That was their punishment. They had forgotten what God had already done for them in freeing them from slavery in Egypt. And they didn’t trust God to keep God’s promises.
That brings us to our place in today’s Scripture. Moses has died, Joshua has taken over as the leader of the Children of Israel and they stand on the brink of entering and claiming the Promised Land. Joshua and the people of Israel are ready to cross the Jordan.
Joshua 1:1-9 (NRSV)
 After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' assistant, saying,
 "My servant Moses is dead. Now proceed to cross the Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the Israelites.
 Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, as I promised to Moses.
 From the wilderness and the Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, to the Great Sea in the west shall be your territory.
 No one shall be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.
 Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them.
 Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to act in accordance with all the law that my servant Moses commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may be successful wherever you go.
 This book of the law shall not depart out of your mouth; you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to act in accordance with all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall be successful.
 I hereby command you: Be strong and courageous; do not be frightened or dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."
How do you argue with words like that? “No one shall be able to stand against you all the days of your life.” Or “As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you.” Or “Be strong and courageous; for you shall put this people in possession of the land that I swore to their ancestors to give them.” Because of God promises, Joshua, always looked forward with Hope
I. OUR PAST:
A. And so do Joshua People. That’s the very first Joshua Principle. Joshua People Always Look Forward With Hope.
I’ve been here 10 years now and the one thing I have always admired about this congregation is its rich history of and it’s dedication to this Principle. The People of First United Methodist Church in Joshua have and will probably Always Look Forward With Hope.
Our newer members don’t know this but 8 or 9 years ago when we were trying to make the decision to relocate from the old building on 4th and Main, I began looking at all the old church records. I looked through old minutes and Charge Conference records and discovered that this congregation always built, renovated or expanded primarily for one reason, so they could reach more people for Jesus Christ.
When they added indoor plumbing to the old wooden church, the predecessor to the brick building on 4thand Main, they did so not so much for their comfort and convenience but because they realized that not having indoor plumbing was a deterrent to new people moving into the community. The same held true for the addition of Sunday School rooms and a Fellowship Hall. They could reach more people. This church and the people of this church Always Look Forward With Hope.
B. That same drive to reach out to the community with the Good News is what drove the relocation and building of these two facilities 6 years ago. Joshua People Always Look Forward With Hope.
II. OUR FUTURE:
A. It’s the same drive which fuels our ministry today and gives us hope for the future. There are some pundits who think the mainline churches and United Methodism are a thing of the past. Many of these people are still stuck in Egypt in the minds. They still see the church in its glory days and long for those times when the church had more respect, influence and power. Realistically those days are over and we can’t live in the past.
But does that mean there is no future? Absolutely not, we are Joshua People. Joshua People Always Look Forward With Hope. And when we truly look forward, the future is anything but bleak. Personally I’m filled with Hope because of our younger generations. They may not be coming to church, but they want to know Jesus. They don’t just want to know about him, they want to know him. And they are all about serving Him, not just on Sunday morning but 7 days a week. They want to make a difference and change the world.
B. Last October I had the privilege to attend Church of the Resurrections Leadership Seminar. And while we were there, we were challenged to raise up new ministers for a new generation. Not just preachers but ministers in every aspect of the life of the church. We were each challenged and asked to commit to at least 1 over next 10 years. We were called upon to encourage, support, assist these young people both spiritually and financially.
The point being, the church is aging and we need fresh blood. We need fresh faith. We need Joshuas who will come back to us with the minority report which says: "With God on our side we can do anything. We may have to do it different. We may have to open our hearts, minds and doors to others not like us. We may have to stretch our comfort zones. We may have to change. But with God on our side, with God leading us, we can do anything."
I’m not going to tell you their names but the staff and I have identified seven young people who we think have exhibited the gifts and graces and the potential for ministry. Some of them I’ve talked to, others we are simply praying for God’s will to be made known in their lives. We are looking to the future. We are Joshua People and Joshua People Always Look Forward With Hope.
C. Our new First Saturday Service “5:25 @ The Well” is part of that Forward Look With Hope. But it is just a first step. We have the potential for a Hispanic Service and a Recovery Celebration Service. We can only start one at a time, but I see potential for at least two more services.
So, 5:25 @ The Well is just the beginning. Even if grow and move to an every Saturday night service, I envision one of those being hand on, put your faith in action type of Worship experience which involves being involved in Mission Work.
You see, I believe, Mission Work may be one of the most sacramental forms of worship there can be. For through our hands, through our efforts, through our physical and spiritual witness the Word becomes flesh again. The church becomes, not just the metaphorical body of Christ but the physical body of Christ once again; feeding, healing, teaching, touching, reaching, welcoming, ministering to those in need as the hands and feet of Christ in the world today. And when the Church becomes the Body of Christ, it brings Hope and it also Receives Hope.
A. Joshua People Always Look Forward With Hope and Hope Always Begins With Trust. That’s one the things we’ve learned over the last 125 years as a congregation. That’s one of the things we’ve learned and seen bear fruit over the last 10 years and especially in the last year.
How do we live with Hope in tough times? How do we look forward with Hope when the world is in turmoil? How do we maintain Hope when there is so much despair? Sadness? Hopelessness? We do it with the same spirit of Trust which Joshua had when God told him it was time to take the Children of Israel in to the Promised Land.
We do it with the same spirit of trust which the founders of this church had when lead them to form this congregation 125 years ago. We do it with the same spirit of trust we had when God to lead us to relocate 6 years ago and build phase 2, 5 years ago.
You see, you can't have Hope without Trust. Can't have Trust without Faith. But that’s exactly why the faithful always have hope. Because through their faith, they trust God.
B. A number of you probably remember one of former youth directors, Carmen Rickel. Carmen is now Pastor at St.Paul’s UMC in Henderson, TX. You had a hand in training her up. You had a hand in deepening her faith. Do you know what Carmen has been doing lately?
Remember the challenge I made right before Thanksgiving, to look at how much you spent on your Thanksgiving Dinner and then out of thanksgiving for our blessings, give an equal amount to missions? When I made that challenge I talked about the group from Texas who delivered over 855,000 bed nets from Nothing But Nets to Cote d”Ivoire.
I didn’t know until last week that Carmen was on that trip. In a daily journal she kept, which she shared with me through Piano and Bob and Marty Wells, I want to share a little of what she wrote.
“In this village as well as many of the other of the 3,000 distribution sites moms walked for miles with kids on their backs and in tow to receive these medical service and to receive a net. Many siblings, boys and girls, as young as 7, walked the long journey to bring their younger siblings while the moms were at home preparing for the next meal. They weren’t just walking miles and waiting for hours in line to receive vaccinations and a net; they were waiting in line to receive life. Everyone who we were able to talk to through an interpreter knew someone who had died from Malaria. Many do not even name their children until they are a few years old because they do not want to become attached to them in case they are to die. That is when it sunk in why we had been treated like celebrities…we weren’t just bringing them nets, but we were bringing them hope. Hope for a brighter future. Hope that their children would live to have children of their own. Hope that possibly in their lifetime malaria would no longer be a threat to their lives.”
Then at the very end she writes: “We came to save the lives of the Cote d’Ivoire children. We came to share Christ’s love with the people of Cote d’Ivoire. Vaccinations, medications and nets may save their worldly bodies, but we accomplished more than that. By reflecting His glory, we revealed to these children and their parents that God cares about them. One group told this story: A Muslim man brought his child to a site for care. He stood and watched for a long time, as the team cheerfully greeted each child with a smile and a blessing. The next day, he returned to the site with a small gift for the team. He asked for a Bible. He said that when he saw the Methodist devotion and dedication to the people of his country; he wanted to be a part of that love, a member of that religion.”
Joshua People Always Look Forward With Hope. AND Joshua People Always Enable Others To Look Forward With Hope.
We do it through Faith and Trust in God through Christ. Like Joshua, we look at the situation in the world and say: “If God is pleased with us, God will lead us.”
our faith and trust in God through Christ we can be “be strong and courageous” because we know that God promised “to be with us.” And God promised “not to fail us or forsake us.”
We are Joshua People. We've already made that trek. We've looked to the future, we see the hope the message of Christ has for us and for the world.
How’s your faith? How your trust level? Are you one of the Joshua People Who Always Look Forward With Hope AND Who Always Enable Others To Look Forward With Hope.
This is the Word of the Lord for this day.
Other References Consulted