Joshua 1:6-9 – 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. (NRSV)
It is impossible to travel anywhere in Nova Scotia, Canada, without confronting a sign reading "Nova Scotia Strong". Nova Scotia has had to learn to be strong in the first months of 2020. With the rest of the country, we had to respond to the spreading pandemic, and for us, it focussed on Northwood Manor, where I had visited so many seniors while at the Presbyterian Church of St. David in Halifax. We encouraged each other with the words, "Be strong", and the community rallied to stand with staff, residents, and families facing sickness and death.
Then, the worst mass shooting in Canadian history shook the rural communities known for their peace and tranquility, and within hours, the entire province rallied to the call, "Nova Scotia Strong", and we were determined that this tragic event would not define us as a people. Then came helicopter and jet fighter deaths of Nova Scotians, and a young child swept away by a flooding river and … you get the idea. Yes, even through these tragedies, we called out to one another, "Be strong and of good courage."
Did you notice in today's passage that God encouraged Joshua not once, not twice, but three times — to remain strong in the face of the trials and tribulations that would come his way? The final encouragement actually comes as an order: "I hereby command you".
Friends, you may never have to face the trials and tribulations that have come to Nova Scotia in 2020, but the day is coming when you will need to hear the call to be strong and of good courage, to be neither frightened nor dismayed.
On that day, be confident that the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Let this be your watchword:
Psalm 27:13-14 – I believe that I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let Your heart take courage; wait for the Lord! (NRSV)
Prayer: God, You command us to be strong, but this is impossible without Your presence. Lord, fill our hearts with courage in the circumstances and situations that we face daily. In Jesus' name, we pray. Amen.
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