Joshua, nearing the end of his life, called the people together to tell them what God had said to him. He began by telling the story of their ancestors and their relationship with God, beginning with Abraham and ending with their time in this Promised Land.
The entire story is about God’s relationship with his children. God never left their side. He was always with them even when they weren’t able to sense his presence.
This very last chapter in the book of Joshua reminds the people of Israel who they are and whose they are. It’s a reminder of their covenant with God.
Thinking of all that, we might very well ask ourselves who we are. What gives us our identity? What gives meaning to our relationships?
I’m going to tell you my story. Some of you may know some of it and many of you don’t know anything about me other than what I’ve shared through our worship of God together.
My story really begins with my paternal grandparents, Fred and Ruth. Fred grew up in Hancock and Ruth grew up on a farm by McClelland. I never did hear the story of how they met. They married and moved to my great-grandfather’s farm west of Hancock. Together they raised 2 sons and 1 daughter on 160 acres. Also during the early 40’s they fostered children from the Children’s Home in Council Bluffs.
That’s how my mother met my dad. She was an orphan at the Children’s Home and became a foster child with my grandparents.
My grandparents were charter members of the Silver Creek Evangelical United Brethren Church west of Hancock on what’s now known as County Road G30. Grandma was a very active member in that church teaching Sunday school up into her 70’s.
Mom and Dad were married in ’45 and I was the first born in ’47. In 1949 I was run completely over by a Model L Case tractor. It had steel wheels. Somehow as it moved forward my body was squeezed between the lugs on the rim of the tractor.
I can’t imagine the horror my Dad must have felt when he stepped off the platform of that tractor and saw my bloody body lying there on the ground. He never did tell me his feelings or the emotions that he felt then.
He did tell me that he just carried me in the house and called Dr. Huntley in Avoca who told him to get me to Jennie Edmundson Hospital in Council Bluffs. On the way the car quit and a Good Samaritan gave Mom and Dad a ride to the hospital. Dad never knew their name.
As you can see I survived that accident. The part of the story I want you to know about is what my Grandma Ruth told me years later. She told me this, “David, God has something for you to do. I think that’s why you’re alive.” Dr. Huntley classified it as a ‘miracle.’
So, that’s how my life began. My baptism happened 2 months after the accident. Even though Grandma was a regular at church my parents weren’t until after.
I don’t remember ever missing a Sunday of worship unless the roads were too muddy or the snowdrifts too high. I learned all the Old Testament and New Testament stories, first from my Grandma Ruth and then from the other women in the church.
I was confirmed when I was in junior high school and gave my heart to the Lord then for the first time. I say ‘first’ because I’ve given my heart to God a few more times since then.
My life through high school and college were pretty much what everyone else’s was like, I think. What may have made mine different was that I believed God had a plan for my life. I didn’t know what it was but I trusted that he would reveal it to me in his good time.
I spent 3 years in the U.S. Army, came home, and began farming with my Dad who died almost one year later from a heart attack. He was 49.
That was hard. I farmed for 10 years and then quit because the economy was against me with high interest rates. That’s when I began my second career in manufacturing, which I was in for over 27 years.
In all that time God never left my side. I wasn’t always a faithful follower of Jesus but in his grace he never abandoned me.
It was during this period that God was in the lead and I just followed. He opened doors that I never knew were there and closed a few that I wanted to go through but couldn’t.
Mom died in 1993, I received my BA in ’97, and then a door opened giving me the opportunity to study to be a pastor. I completed that work in 4 years. I had no idea what was coming next, but God knew.
The pastor of our home church left and one of the elders asked me if I would serve the church as their pastor. It took a while, maybe 6 months, and then I was commissioned to serve Walnut First Presbyterian Church as their pastor. That was in May 2004.
In all that time God has been with me. I’ve probably made some terrible mistakes but the congregation and I have made it through them and God is still with us.
I made a decision to listen to God and follow in the way of Jesus. It hasn’t always been easy but it has been easier than my life was when I wasn’t.
So, my friends, look at your life and consider this day who you are following. Are you following in Jesus’ footsteps trusting in God’s grace or are you following other gods?
May God fill you with his love, peace and grace. Thanks be to God. Amen.