You Must Choose!
February 12, 2017
Do we have a choice in how our lives turn out? Or is life more like a pre-determined Drama that has been written for us by somebody else and we simply must learn to accept our role and play it the best we can?
People, in full possession of their faculties don’t routinely choose negative outcomes for their lives. However what you hear (more and more lately) from people is they simply have no choice in the matter “I can’t get out of poverty,” “I can’t hold down a job,” “I can’t control my anger,” “I can’t avoid being sexually impure It’s who I am,” “it’s how I was raised, it’s where I’m from.” “It’s because of things that happened to me in my past!” “It’s a powerful desire inside me.” “I’m not in control.” “I’m driven to do what I do what I have done by an unseen force.” “My hands are tied.” That’s what people say, as they bring ruin to their own lives.
But the reading from Deuteronomy today seems to say that we CAN make choices; that we are able to choose what’s behind door number one or door number too, The red pill or the blue pill. Life is not is not so deterministic and fatalistic as people claim it is. We actually CAN make choices…choices that make all the difference in the course of our lives.
“See I set before you today life and good, death and evil.” says Moses. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that Command you to day, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his just decrees then you shall live and multiply…. but if your heart turns away, you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other Gods and serve them… I declare to you today that you will surely Perish.” And then finally, after Moses had made it clear that he was talking about Life and Death, He finally says “Therefore Choose life.” Choose life.
I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking that Moses does not appear very Lutheran here. We Lutherans believe, teach, and confess that we are saved by Grace through faith in Christ Jesus…. not by some choice that we make! So this verse, this idea that we can choose life or death doesn’t smell right! No it doesn’t. Especially when you don’t read it in context.
The context is Deuteronomy. Moses is an old man and nearing the end of his life. As His people stood on the cusp of a whole new life in the land of Promise. Moses had reminded the people of God’s Grace towards them, and all the things the Lord had done to bring this to this most auspicious moment. How he broke the grip of pharaoh, how he provided for them and protected the with miracle upon miracle and with an abiding presence of his love, how he led them and guided them and opened doors for them. . In other words, he made it clear how God had chosen them for this new life they were about to receive. In short he’s saying , “My People, God chose you, now how about you choose him!” God chose you, now choose him!
Imagine that you were out at sea for a three hour tour, and the weather started getting rough… and your tiny ship was lost. In the darkness you are swimming and swimming with all that is in you. After a couple of hours you are physically spent, and you resign yourself to the fate of drowning and you relax and begin to sink. Just then, you hear a plunging splash, Some arms embrace you. You have no energy to fight; and you are pulled are pulled out of the water. There are blankets, hot beverages, kindness and finally sleep. You sleep for hours and you wake to walk through a door and see a table full of food and good company. Everyone smiles as you walk through the hatch. The captain gets up and helps you take a seat. You are introduced to the one who jumped in the water to save you; his face still beaming with pride for saving you. He tells you the name of the boat you are on and the awesome place that you are all heading…The whole crew agrees they want you on board and want you to complete the journey with them.
So what do you do? Do you choose to remain in their good company and look forward to the paradise the captain is steering the ship towards? Or do you abruptly stand up, run to the the side of the boat and jump overboard and sink in the depths.
As it turns out you can make choices that take you away from the Lord. This is exactly where Israel was at as Moses addressed them. “I set before you life and death, good and evil. Choose Life!” Would they enter the promised land or would they go after other Gods and fall away from the Lord.
And this is also exactly where we are at this moment. We have been rescued by Christ, forgiven and saved in him. Jesus jumped into our world and wrapped his arms around us and pulled us out of our sins. Shall we not choose him? Shall we not choose life? Shall we live according the good word and will of the one who put his life on the line to save us? Or shall we live according to the word and will of the evil one would see us drown in the darkness of sin? Every day in many ways we are presented with this choice. Good or evil. Remain in the Life or go Dark.
And it’s not as if we are not able to make the right choice. Right before this text in Deuteronomy Moses says “This command that I give you today is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will ascend to heaven for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 13 Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, ‘Who will go over the sea for us and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’ 14 But the word is very near you. It is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.” (Deut 30:12-14) Moses says it’s not that hard to make right choices because of something you’ve been given: the word. “It’s very near to you it’s in your mouth and and in your heart so you can do it.” Whenever God commands us to do something, with the command there comes with it the ability to actually start doing it. That’s because with his word there comes his Holy Spirit who awakens and tunes our hearts to what is good and right and true so that we begin to desire that instead of darkness. With his word there is also Christ Jesus who cleanses our hearts and our lives so that we are not overwhelmed in the darkness.
So despite what people of our time are saying: Our lives are not predetermined. We are not living out some script that was written by someone else. We are not compelled to do anything because of how we are born, or the things we have seen or experienced, or because of what we feel. Yesterday’s bad choice or your own personal history is not an unbreakable contract to which you are bound. Christ Jesus forgives and cancels any contracts you may have made with the darkness. If the son of man shall set you free, you shall be free indeed. Free to choose. Free to choose life. AMEN
Thanks to Robert J. Warren/ Rector of Christ Church in Clermont-Ferrand for a little article that became a great thought starter for this sermon.