“Therefore, Choose Life” February 12, 2023
“Therefore Choose Life”
1 Corinthians 3:1-9
Hear with me one more time the words of Christ from perhaps the most famous sermon of all time: the Sermon on the Mount. (Matt 5:22) “But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister[b][c] will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’[d] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell”
First off, I have to tell you: I have had this passage rattling around in my subconscious most of my life.
No, it’s true. You see, when I was seven or eight years old going to Sunday school, I remember being told these words from the sermon on the mount: “And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fires of hell” I also remember this passage being a bit more absolute. In other words, my little 8 year old brain Took it to believe that if I were ever to call someone a fool, then that would be it. I would be banished to eternal damnation. Pretty scary stuff; And the worst part of it was I spent days and months wracking my brain trying to remember if perhaps, somehow I might have made this terrible mistake by calling someone a fool. I still can’t decide if you would call this guilt based fear or fear based guilt.
But you know, one of the blessings of being a kid, I believe, is that the tragedies of the world don’t seem to last long And that was the case with my anxiety About using the ‘fool’ word. You see, I finally came to realize that the word fool was just not in my toolbox when it came to name calling.
I preferred more colorful insults; words like meathead, Ding a Ling, or maybe even fish face if the situation called for such drastic measures. But to call someone a fool? No, I wouldn’t have done that. Not my style. But I worried nonetheless.
Looking back I realize, of course, that I was missing the point completely. Our God was not supplying me with a detailed list of magic words that I must never speak. After all, if that was true, then I would be fine if I continued insulting and trash talking my friends as long as I didn’t slip up by using the word fool. I might add that that kind of thinking has a certain attraction for an ornery 8 year old kid. If we dig deeper into Matthew’s gospel for today, We will see that Jesus Wasn’t getting hung up in the specifics. Instead, he is simply warning us to quit trashing each other because that trash builds up and before you know it you’ve got a real mess on your hands. there are better ways of doing things and the word of God along with the life and ministry of Jesus Christ have been provided to help us make that happen. simple right? but history has proved otherwise. We just can’t quite seem to get it right.
The theme for this, the 6th Sunday after epiphany, is the importance of God’s word, God’s statutes, and God’s commandments. In our reading from Deuteronomy, Moses is busy telling the nation of Israel that they are about to reach the promised land. All the pain and struggle is over. But, if they don’t do this thing right it will all blow over backwards. (Deut 30:15) “See, I have set before you today life and good, death and evil. 16 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.
17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 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. 19 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, 20 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.”
“See I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.” we have a choice, and here’s the thing: we have always had a choice. God never promises to strike us dead if we break his commandments.
I had to laugh at the time when we invited Dana libonati and his adult jazz choir to use our sanctuary for rehearsals. At our very first get together, his son Anthony was setting up a drum set here beside the pulpit when he looked at me and said, “I’m not going to get struck dead by a bolt of lightning am I?” I assured him, that’s not how it works. that has never been how it works.
“See I have set before you today life and good, death and evil.” One of the great blessings of a life in Christ is that this is not a life of crime and punishment. it is a life of loving, of compassion; it is a life of worth.
And it is a life of choice: the choice to study scriptures without the intent of proving them wrong, but with the heart of proving them worthy and beneficial and good.
John Wesley once wrote, “,” it is dangerous to depart from scripture. Most of the controversies which have disturbed the church have arisen from people’s wanting to be wise above what is written, not contented with what God has plainly revealed there.”
You know, I can’t help but to think that this congregation here at Amity United Methodist is maybe about to start a new chapter. We will always cherish This building that we care for just as we will always cherish each other’ We have the tools, we have the road map, And we have the blessing of what God has plainly revealed not only through scripture. but through each other. Thank you for welcoming me as your pastor for another year. I am confident, After the ordeal I have just been through, That because of our mutual love and affection you might certainly understand why it is these words of Moses have captured my heart: “19 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, 20 loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days”
May we continue to choose life; Life in the light of Jesus Christ.