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Choose Life!

Third before Lent Deuteronomy 30:15-20
Matthew 5:21-37

I am going to take the opportunity of preaching mostly on the OT today. The first thing to address is that we live in a grey world whereas God lives in a Black and White world, He is not an old man in a white dress who just wants to bless us whatever we choose to do.
Life is full of choices. From the time you get up in the morning until you go to bed at night, you are faced with all sorts of choices. Most of these choices are for a short duration. What clothes do I wear today? What job do I do first? What do I want to eat? What TV program do I want to watch?

Then there are those choices that are for a longer time. What am I going to do with my life? What college or university will I attend? Where am I going to live? Whom shall I marry? Where shall I plant corn next year? What projects around the house have to be done this year? I am sure that you could add to the list, choices you have made and some yet to come. The vast majority of choices that you make have little or no real consequences to them. It doesn’t make a whole lot of differences whether you eat peas or carrots or which job you do first as long as you do the rest. Certainly the vast majority of choices that you make have no eternal consequences.

In today’s reading, we hear what was believed to be the final words of Moses before he died.
The people had been wandering the dessert for 40 years, facing trials and tribulations, good times and bad. After such a long journey they’re about to cross the Jordan River and enter into the Promised Land. Before they do, Moses has gathered them on the banks of the river Jordan and he gives them this final message.

He recounts the journey they have made together, the ways in which God chose them, took care of and loved them.
Moses reminds them about the laws and commandments that God has given them so they could live, flourish and be blessed.
Moses tells them that they are to make a choice: choose God.

In essence, Deuteronomy is an extended Valentine’s Day card to the people God has loved, continues to love and will love forever more. And it’s a love story that does not follow the rules. In ancient times it was believed that the gods only showed divine favour to the leaders and important people. They did not care about ordinary people.

But our God was different. The Israelites believed that God did care about them. They claimed that God had “set his love” upon them, not because of any greatness or merit on their part, but simply out of God’s choice.

Even when they constantly showed themselves to be a rebellious, cantankerous bunch, God still loved them, just as God continues to love us.

This love is a powerful, holy love, a love that produces life and brings blessings that reach out beyond the spans of time.

But it is also a love that God will not force upon the people. As Moses tells the Israelites, God has chosen them, but they are free to choose God or to choose other gods to worship.
They are free to be blessed or to live a life outside of the love of God. There is no grey area it is a black/white choice.

God will not force their hand or make unfair demands.

Before the feet of Moses the people are asked to make a choice: will God be their Valentine or not? The choice is theirs.

There’s a sense of timelessness to the Bible and to this reading in the book of Deuteronomy. The people are standing on the bank of the Jordan and they are given a choice, but they are not the only ones who are there.

For so are we, and our children, and our children’s children.
These are words that will appear again and again.

Choice is one of them; love is another. The words of Moses are the words of God for us today.

Before the feet of Moses we are not just hearing a message about the ending of one journey, but about the beginning of many others. We are not only hearing about the past, we are being asked to participate in the future.

And we are being assured that our past failures and present mistakes will not rule our future, because that is how much we are loved. But we have to choose. Are we going to choose God or not? Are we going to embrace life or are we going to continue living the ways of death?

Moses, lists the things God has done for them:
Once you were enslaved; God set you free.
When you felt like you were lost, God lead you through the wilderness.
God fed you when you were hungry, God fought your fights, and it was God who carried you as a parent carries a child.
“So choose!” Moses says, speaking to each and every one of us. “Choose God - Choose life so you can live it!”

I am sure most of us here today have chosen God, or we have a deep desire to choose, otherwise we wouldn’t be here, as there are so many other things we could be doing; so many other gods we can be worshipping, like golf, shopping or staying in our warm, cosy beds.

But we have chosen to be part of this Church community, to stand at the feet of Moses and to hear his words, and the words of Jesus in the reading from Matthew. We may listen to his words and think we have escaped, especially if we just listen with half an ear.

But how many of us this day, or this week, or this month, have really chosen God, and have really chosen life?

Many people carry grudges that they would rather hold onto than apologise and how many of us have found ourselves caught up in gossip; the whole ‘he said/she said/ mentality’ that can really tear a group apart?

Sadly, many people have decided that they would rather stay in the wilderness than to cross the Jordan River and enter into the Promised Land.

We have to acknowledge that as Christian as we try to be, as much as we try to pray, go to church and try to do the right things, we still fall down, we still make mistakes, and we still allow our ego-driven selves to get in the way.

So often we prefer to hold onto anger, assuming it gives us power and all the while it prevents us from having to address our own flaws and issues. We linger on the river bank afraid of what it will mean if we let go of these things and step into the Promised Land that God has prepared for us. But here is the Good News: God already knows all of this- all that we have done, all that we have felt, all that we’ve experienced. God is not surprised; God knows all about it and chose us and loves us regardless of our failings.

At Christmastide we welcomed the light of Christ into our lives, and today and every day we can do it again.

And it gets even better - in the presence of Jesus -we have the gift of choice and the gift of forgiveness. Jesus knows we are human, we have hurts and we make mistakes, and He forgives us. Whatever we have done the past, if we come in repentance it will be forgiven, the slate made clean again with everything wiped away.

Forgiveness: the most wonderful Valentine gift which says “Guess what? Today is a whole new day with a new chance to make your choice.”

It is the forgiveness of God that Jesus demonstrated on the cross.
We just have to reach out, and to accept that gift; and to share that gift of forgiveness with others when they need it most; and possibly the hardest thing, to ask for forgiveness from people when we have done the hurting.

So, before the feet of Jesus we are given choice, every day, every hour, each and every minute, to choose God and to choose life.
When we do choose God, we bring healing to our past, hope to our present and our future becomes laden with possibilities.

May God bless you as you make your choice; may Jesus show you how to receive the gift of forgiveness; and may the Holy Spirit guide your feet through your earthly life and into your heavenly future.

Moses preaching 1
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