“Covenant and Choices” Joshua 24:1-26
Rev. Sean Weston
Lyonsville Congregational UCC, Indian Head Park IL
October 14, 2018
They were free. They were finally free.
The last few weeks we have been journeying with God’s people Israel as they were freed from slavery in Egypt, ushered through the Red Sea, and given the Ten Commandments. As the story goes, they spent 40 years in the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land. Joshua picked up the mantle after Moses died. When the time was right, they came to the Promised Land, the land of milk and honey. That is where we find God’s people in today’s reading from Joshua. God won battle after battle for them against their enemies. God had led them to freedom Now their leader, Joshua, was about to die. Before he did he gave a dramatic speech. He challenged the people to commit 100% to this freedom-bringing God. And they did.
This is the joyful end of the story we’ve been exploring the last few weeks: the Exodus story. The story of God freeing the Hebrew slaves and delivering them to the promised land. This is one of the most important stories in the Bible, especially for those who have been enslaved, oppressed and discriminated against.
About six decades ago, this story became especially important in the world of theology. Theology is a big word that is often confusing, but it simply means “God-talk.” Theologians are people that learn and teach about God. Many theologians started putting this story at the center of their work. Especially those who were Black, those in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, for some women: the Exodus story was key. It taught of a God that is always on the side of those most pushed aside.
But not everybody was on board with this story. Osage Native American scholar and theologian Robert Allen Warrior made a big splash when he wrote in 1989 that this story was no good for Native Americans who wanted justice and freedom. “The Exodus,” he said, with its picture
On Monday this nation celebrated a holiday. Some people had the day off. What was that holiday called? Well, it depends who you ask. Some call it Columbus Day, after Christopher Columbus. Columbus is the Italian explorer who traveled to North America over 500 years ago. His so-called discovery began the process of European nations traveling here, brutally conquering and enslaving those who already lived here, engaging in genocide, and stealing their land and resources for themselves.
Columbus did this with the full blessing of the Church. God wanted them to have the land. As Congregationalists, our spiritual ancestors were among the first white Europeans to come to this nation. And they were convinced that God wanted them there. They might have had today’s Bible story from the book of Joshua in mind: “I, God, gave you a land on which you had not labored….” The book of Joshua is the story of God’s people, the Israelites, conquering the Canaanites and taking their land with God’s blessing. Warrior’s people were also conquered violently by people who said God wanted it.
This is hard stuff.
So other people call the holiday we celebrated on Monday “Indigenous People’s Day.” Remembering and honoring those who lived here before the Europeans came. Those who support this holiday – and I am among them – believe that it is not right to celebrate someone who engaged in such violence and cruelty. That we – especially those of us who are white and who benefit from that long history of slavery and genocide – must face the past with honesty. We must acknowledge that the past affects the present. Only then can we be free to seek a better future for us and for all people.
So, where does that leave us? What is there to learn from today’s story? What is there to help us in our life of faith?
fought battle after violent battle to take control of the land God promised. The book of Joshua is not an easy book: it is bloody and violent, it tells the brutal story of one people conquering another with God’s help and blessing.
Robert Allen Warrior is an Osage Native American scholar at the University of Kansas.