Sunday 8th November 2020
23rd Sunday after Pentecost

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25; Psalm 78:1-7;1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; Matthew 25:1-13

(Alternatives: Amos 5:18-24; Psalm 70)

These readings have powerful resonance with some key issues that our nation is facing at the moment. The passages in Joshua and Psalm 78 ask core questions of national identity and foundation. At a time when our relationship with Europe continues to be the subject of such debate, we are reminded that as members of God's Kingdom, we are called to place God at the centre of our lives. Whatever the decisions and debates of our politicians, our primary calling and identity is in Christ.

The passage from Joshua addresses a popular superstition that God's people would have been exposed to. There was a common belief that gods were somehow territorial, and success in any particular land required the appeasement of the deities that dwelt in that location. As God's chosen people, they had to re-orientate their thinking and recognise that theirs was the God of every time and place; there was no aspect of their lives, there was no place they could go that was outside of their God's influence. There is an obvious application to the world of work here. As contemporary followers of the God of Israel, we too need to embrace the reality that He is God of every aspect of our lives and being.

Those who focus on the passage from Amos find a powerful coupling of our worship and working lives in the final stanza of the set reading. This difficult and challenging words speak of a God who takes little interest in a faith which is expressed in religious ceremony and ritual alone. He looks beyond his people's acts of worship into the everyday society in which they live, expressing the desire that it should be a place where justice and righteousness overflow. This offers an obvious opportunity for reflection - how can we live out this commission in the everyday business of our own lives? What should we be saying to those who wield power and influence in our society?