Epiphany 6, 2017
"Life or Death?"
Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
Your belly is full of spaghetti as you exit the Princess Cafe. So full that if you were to lie down, you might fall asleep in a post-Thanksgiving-style nap. To keep awake, you decide to take a walk along Indiana Ave.
It's early evening and the sun is setting over the farmland west of town, painting a gorgeous array of pastel oranges and pinks. The warm soft breeze bring back memories of days gone by on the farm when you were a youth.
You miss those day. The days when you could do or be anything you wanted. It was an easier life; a fuller life; a joyful life. Now the weeks blur together, hardly changing. It's always the same-old same-old, and you wonder if there will ever be a sense of adventure in your life again.
As you walk back home you notice the doors are standing open at the top of the stairs to the old Zion Lutheran Church building on Elliott Street. To go up the stairs and peek inside turn to page 15. To keep walking home turn to page 23.
When I was in junior high I used to love the Choose Your Own Adventure books. I would read the book over and over again picking all the different choices. Sometimes I'd look ahead to make sure that my choice wouldn't suddenly end the story right then and there. Many think that this is how life is lived...as if life is just a big Choose Your Own Adventure book. Many might think that this is what is taking place in our Old Testament lesson.
"See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you today, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his rules, then you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to take possession of it. But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you today, that you shall surely perish. You shall not live long in the land that you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them." (Deuteronomy 30:15-20)
Sounds just like a Choose Your Own Adventure book! Choose life and its blessings or choose death and punishment. The only thing missing are where to turn the page to after you make your choice. But in this life... we don't get to look ahead to make sure we make the right choice. In this life we don't get to start the book over...and over...and over again until we get the right ending. In this life....like the Israelites...we only choose death. Think you'd make a better choice since you know how the Israelites ended up? They did too... only... they knew the results from another story in Scripture... one that we know too.
"The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." (Genesis 2:15-17)
From the very beginning mankind has chosen death. Adam and Eve chose death. The Israelites chose death. When we choose our own wants and desires ahead of God's Word...we choose death. When we ignore God and His Word we choose death. When we lie, cheat, and steal we choose death. When we disobey our parents, teachers, and others God has placed over us we choose death. When we ignore the sin of this world, when we fail to share God's love, when we are afraid to call that which is wicked and evil; that which is contrary to God's Word a sin we choose death. When we fail to call sinners to repentance we choose death. Every time we sin...we choose death.
But God chose life. "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I set you apart..." (Jeremiah 1:5) "For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11) "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10) "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)
From the very beginning God chose life. He chose life for you. He chose life for you knowing that it would cost the death of His only begotten Son. He chose life for you even though you sin often. He chose life for you because He loves you. Jesus willingly went to the cross, knowing the wrath He would endure, because He loves you. God loves you. He chose life for you. He gives life to you in this place. He gives life through the Holy Waters of Baptism. He gives life in His Word. He gives life in Jesus' very body and blood given this day.
By faith we choose life as well. By faith we choose life as we come to this place week after week to receive God's gifts of life. We choose life as we bring our children to be baptized in this place. We choose life as we confess our sins and receive forgiveness. We choose life as we forgive those that have sinned against us. We choose life as we share the wonderful message that God loves all people and sent His Son to die on the cross for the sins of the world. We choose life as we love others as Christ has loved us.
In a world that is numb to sin and death... in a world that values their best life now rather than the best life to come... in a world that devalues life in the womb as well as life that draws closer to its end... know that God chose life for you! He chose eternal life for you! He chose your life even as He gave up the life of Jesus for you! Life. It's already yours in Christ. It's yours for eternity. Amen.
Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. Amen.