Remember these words of Jesus explaining and radicalizing the Law as the great teacher, while we step much further back in time to Moses’ speech - his ‘last will and testament’.
You recall the book of Deuteronomy is one day long... Just one speech....It is Moses' farewell address to the Israelites as they are about to enter the ‘Promised Land’ It’s his final gift to his people.
This speech was most likely written down many years later when Israel was conquered and exiled to Babylon. Knowing the dire situation of exile, we can understand why they would look to the words of Moses when they were at their lowest point.
And These are inspiring words about choosing life.
But I never hear this story without thinking of my friend Paula.
Paula had a long daily commute. From Nokesville into Maryland. One day she noticed a slightly bad smell in her car.
- The next day it Got worse.
- Soon the smell was really bad.
You know that smell...It was death.
Something had crawled up in Paula's car and died.
By the end of week, she had to choose - between heat and stench because turning on the heat made the smell so much worse.
. . Like a dead mouse in a small car, death/despair can fill a nation.
Israel knew that smell. Death and despair was a real experience over and over in their history. How natural for them to turn to the inspiration of Moses as he implored those who would enter the Promised Land to choose life!
How natural for us to turn to these words to seek inspiration for our living today.
What do you think of when I say, Life!?
What does ‘life’ mean to you?
More than a beating heart?
And what does death mean?
For us, death is an end. Regardless of how we view what comes next; an afterlife, heaven, reunion with loved ones, oneness with God...death is still an end.
Moses knew there was the possibility that the Israelites long partnership with God and their Journey To The Promised Land could all end after his life. But he also held onto God’s faithfulness to this people.
There would be NO END to God’s love..unless the Israelites themselves chose death over life. .
"Death would mean that all human activity would be devoid of the Divine Presence."
Do we ever think of defining death this way?
It May seem strange to us, but Moses idea of life was the 10 Commandments. ....Not your first thought?
We struggle to remember that the message of the commandments are "Laws meant to preserve covenant..."
.. The covenant with God and right relationships among people.
(You recall the 2 sections - The 1st; To love God and God alone, with no other allegiance allowed. And the 2nd; some specifics about how to be in relationship with others.
- Honor your father and mother
- Don’t kill
- Don’t be an adulterer
- Don’t steal
- Don’t lie about your neighbor
- Don’t covet your neighbor’s spouse...or any possessions.
These “laws” are "Not restrictive but prescriptive..."
in nature. They require obedience in order to preserve LIFE, real life, LIFE AS GOD INTENDS.
What do you remember of our discussion about obedience in January?
(you spoke out quite clearly about how you obey God, how you walk each day and what it takes, what did you say and hear that day?)
Obedience is more than obeying certain rules. It’s a way of walking in world. Walking God’s way is how we CHOOSE LIFE. It really is a life-long struggle to learn how to live. Sometimes it’s learned in the midst of struggle.
That mouse thought he was choosing life the day he crawled up into Paula's car to make himself a home. We don’t know how much he struggled.
- According to the world’s standards, he did all the right things.
- He struck out on his own to make his way in the world,
- he committed to a place - and he did so, w/o knowing where his journey would end.
- It sounds like a proper leap of faith...?
but it ended
In death. . .
How easy it is for us to follow, to be CONSUMED with the world’s ideas of life without realizing they too will end in death.
How easy it is to spend our precious life stressing to meet meaningless deadlines
Or missing key opportunities for real relationships.
How common it is to be too busy to do things right -
- to pay the fair-trade price,
- to demand a living wage for others.
How easy it is to NOT get involved in someone else’s struggle for justice and equality. . In the workplace, in marriage, in housing.. Why? Because the struggle is painful, or we don’t have the time, or we are afraid of the conflict it will stir up? . . These are only my reasons for avoiding the struggle..what are yours?
How easy it is to fill our days . . . But is this LIFE?
. . .pause. . .
That dead thing was so far into the bowels of that engine that no simple service station stop would get rid of it. Paula would have to choose to be without the car for a couple days so a mechanic could disassemble piece after piece to find the center of the awful smell. It was going to cost a lot of money.
Inevitably it would be a dead mouse, whose only lasting legacy was an odor so terrible that breathing the air felt like poison.
It’s painful to breathe in death.
When surrounded by that deadly smell, (the stench of sacrifices made to lesser gods... How do we choose life?...
We love having choices.
WE value our freedom to do so.
“I did it MY way!” is an old beloved song because the theme resonates with our love of independence and CHOICE.
Are you choosing the way you want to live right now?
Are you living the way you CHOOSE?
Moses Knew his people and their own streak of independence. He knew their tendency to choose the latest fad and sacrifice to whatever local god seemed helpful, at the time.
But Moses’ heart was wrapped up in love for the ONE God AND love for his people. . . .(He was often torn between the two.) He loved those people so much that he begged them to see and hear the wisdom in choosing life - real life.
We know what life smells like, don’t we?
How do you describe the smell of life?
We know life’s smell. We know it when we see, hear it or smell it. Even if other priorities cloud our senses.
What was true life for the Israelites is true life for our community, our world.
- Choosing life meant/means blessings for entire community -
not just for some. (God’s people are blessed to be a blessing.)
- Choosing life meant (the promised land) a good home -
Not just for God’s people but for resident aliens as well
- Choosing life means economic policies that leave enough for everyone.
(they called it leaving enough in the field for gleaners, we might call it SNAP..food assistance programs, or living wages)
- Choosing life meant equitable distribution of their resources -
What would that look like for us? We live in a world where the richest 85 people have as much wealth as the poorest HALF of the WORLD!
They are called the ‘Global Elite’.
Just 85 people have as much money as 3 1/2 billion people!
. . .
Moses explained what it would mean to Choose Life.
Not restriction but the freedom to really experience life as God intends. ..........
He had to warn them that they hadn’t always chosen God
in their journey thru the wilderness.. And he knew their only hope was to keep walking with God. . .
. .Yet they must make the choice.
But We humans don’t always make the right choice.
We like to follow our hearts, but sometimes our hearts are in tension between our love for God and the desires that pull us away to other paths. . .
Or even the desires that keep us at home, secure and afraid of trusting and following God into the wilderness. . .
Is this boil down to a matter of the heart?
What does your heart call you to choose today?
God's love of Israel is an affair of the heart.
And God’s love of us continues that long tradition of The unstopable love, The unbeatable, undeniable love of God --- for all LIFE.
....And God wants this love to be reciprocal
God wants US to Choose Life.
Eventually the STENCH got too overpowering for Paula. You’d think over time it would lessen, but no, the smell of death just kept getting stronger.
So she made the choice to give up driving the car and pay the very large labor charge to have her car taken apart.. ...all to rid her car of death.
She Chose Life.
It’s our choice too. To leave the stench of death behind and to breathe deeply of clean sweet smelling LIFE!
Choosing life is always an option.
No matter how long we've allowed ourselves to breathe in death.
No matter how long we've allowed that slow - process - of giving - ourselves - over - to priorities - that - don’t - really - matter
...we can still choose life.
Listen to Moses’ encouragement again, a paraphrase, (know this!)
“Listen to what I have said today. I have laid it out for you, life and death, good and evil.
Love God. Walk in God’s ways. Keep the commandments so that you will live, truly live,-- passionately, joyfully, blessed by God.
I warn you. If you have a change of heart, refuse to listen, and serve little gods, you will die.
It is your choice, life or death, blessings or curses.”
Do we CHOOSE LIFE? (or)
Hear Moses’ plea to us, “Choose Life!”
1 Carol Dempsey Feasting on the Word - Yr A - theological (Louis:WJK,2010)340
3 Deuteronomy 5”16-21 or Exodus 20
4 Dempsey ibid
5 Brett Younger Feasting on the Word - Yr A- homiletical (Louis:WJK,2010)343
6 Graeme Wearden Oxfam http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/jan/20/oxfam-85-richest-people-half-of-the-world
6 Younger ibid
7 Younger ibid 342
8 Carol Dempsey Feasting on the Word - Yr A - theological (Louis:WJK,2010)342
9 Brett Younger Feasting On The Word - Yr A - homiletcial (Louis:WJK,2010)343
10 Brett Younger, ibid 341
(work on )We even get uncomfortable at a Divine being that " threatens our illusion of autonomy...F past-340