Choices

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One time we went to a restaurant and when I looked at the menu, there were a lot of choices. Under chicken, there were four choices. Under pork there were six choices. Then there was seafood. When I decided to order a steak, I was asked how I want the steak cooked. Then I was asked whether I would like soup or salad to go with it. When I decided for the salad, I was asked what kind of dressing I want with it. And then I ordered a drink. I was asked to choose what kind I want, and whether I want it in a bottle, can or in a glass, whether I want ice with it or not. Choices.

I think you agree with me that you and I are continually making choices daily. Some of them are very minor choices. Think of all the choices you made getting ready for church this morning. What kind of dress or shirt will you wear? What kind of shoes will you wear? Are you going to attend the 6:30 worship or the 9am, or the 4pm, or the 5:30 worship?

Some choices are really not choices at all. In a plane flight, the flight attendant announced luncheon choices: chicken marengo or beef burritos. After announcing these choices, she added this useful piece of advice: “If you do not get your first choice, please do not be distressed, as all our entrees taste very much the same.”

There was this man who went to see the Hopi Indians perform ceremonial dances. It was a long lonely drive to the reservation across a secluded desert terrain, and the last 65 miles of it was over very rough roads. Late afternoon after the dances, the man returned to his car only to discover he had a flat tire. To make matters worse, he had no spare tire in his trunk. But he remembered seeing a lone service station about five miles back down the road. After getting a ride to the service station, he found the elderly proprietor sitting in a chair, drinking. The stranded man asked, “Excuse me, sir, but do you fix flat tires?” The proprietor said, “Yep.” So the man asked, “How much do you charge?” The proprietor replied, “What difference does it make?” Obviously, the man was in no position to bargain. It was the only establishment for 65 miles that will fix a flat tire.

Then, of course, there are those life-changing choices. Like “will I go to college or not?” Or “what university do I want to go to?” Or “is this the right woman or man for my spouse?” Or “is this the job I want to have for the rest of my life?”

In the Scripture where Moses was saying concluding words to the Israelites as they were finally about to enter into the Long-Promised Land, they were asked to make a choice: will they choose life? Or will they choose death? Moses’ final words urged the people to do nothing less than “choose life”.

Deuteronomy is the last book of the Torah, the five books of Law and Covenant in the Hebrew scriptures. But Deuteronomy is the first book of the Torah to speak of a loving God, and a God who invites our love. You might even call Deuteronomy as God’s first Valentine card.

Choosing life, choosing obedience to God means choosing Love. Love for “the Lord your God,” love for life, love for each other, love for all creation stand as “witnesses” to this new covenant. The “witnesses” Moses “called” to formalize this covenant were “heaven and earth” – which makes the requirement to “love” about as widespread as it can get.

The “chosenness” of God’s covenanted people had nothing to do with their own worthiness, and everything to do with God’s unmerited love and commitment to the people of God’s creation. God chose to enter into a ridiculous relationship with the fractured, fragmented human creatures of his creation.

Why? Out of love. All we have to do is love back. That is how we “choose life”.

Our consumer culture says that our identity is found in the choices we make, the brands we buy, the clothes we wear. On the other hand, the Bible tells us that our identity is not found in our choices but in your “chosenness.”

God tells us, “You did not choose me: I chose you.” And because we have been chosen, we can be secure in who we are.

Our Valentine’s card in Deuteronomy tells us that even though we keep getting everything all wrong, God always keeps everything all right.

And finally, in the New Testament we are told that Jesus had taken away the barrier that kept love from being more than a Valentine. We have been offered life and love. And it is this life of love which we are to announce to the world. It is revealed through God’s chosen servants like you and me.

We are called to choose life by not seeking our safety and security, but in risking ourselves for those in need.

We choose life by not withholding ourselves from other people; instead, by giving of ourselves to others as we live among people.

We choose life when we speak the truth in a world of falsehood, regardless of the cost.

We choose life when we love God by doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with our God.

We choose life when we share our bread with the hungry, and give shelter to the homeless.

We choose life when we obey the commandments of God, the statutes and ordinances which the Lord has spoken and walk in the ways of the Lord God.

In choosing life, we obey the command of God to love the Lord with the totality of our lives in every day of our lives.

The call to choose life promises us that we shall live in a world free from hatred and contempt, lusting and lies, a world into which God in Christ continually calls us, and for which God’s love liberates us and empowers our obedience.

It may cost friendship, destroy peace of mind, and lay upon us new and unwanted responsibilities. But God calls us not to remain neutral.

A woman who was a member of the church where I served several years ago was crippled by arthritis that she had to be in a special wheelchair. She told me she was in pain most of the time. She was in and out of the hospital. Against the advice of her doctor, she would come to church with her family every Sunday if she was not in the hospital. She said that she may not be able to walk, but she feels better if she can be with others to worship God. All the members of the church, upon seeing her on Sundays were also encouraged. They said, if she can come to Church, there was no reason for them not to. She wrote letters and sent cards to visitors of the church, welcoming them to our worship. She volunteered to answer the phone in the office if the secretary was not in the office. Every Christmas, she sent cards to members of the church. Whenever there were activities of the church, she might not be able to physically do anything, but she was there to encourage others. When people visited her in the hospital, they would feel that instead of ministering to her, she was ministering to them. That lady in a wheel chair with a bent body had made a choice. She chose life because she was who she was, chosen by God to love others as she loved God.

You and I are God’s people because of the gracious love of God in Christ Jesus that has been poured into our lives in baptism. We are fed and forgiven when we come to worship, when we come to study together, or when we come at the Lord’s Table. We belong to the community of God’s people in which we are loved and nurtured.

Because God has loved us so deeply and dearly, we can choose life rather than death. We can be obedient in every day of our lives, as God calls us to choose faithfulness and service to God and to others in need. Our tomorrow hinges on the choices we make. Thus, my prayer is that we choose life.

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