Saturday, February 18, 2017

What does it mean to choose life?


Choose life….

On the night we first went to Ground Zero following 9-11, I looked around the 17 acres. I witnessed for the first  time the power of deconstruction. De-creation. Nihilism. Death. And I also realized  the power of creativity. Creation. Life.  And that we have a choice. It also changed forever how I understood creativity. That the act of creating is itself an act of resistance. The banners Chris Shelton created for us. Declaring  Beauty and justice. Ethics and esthetics. 9-11 haunted my consciousness. For nearly a year, I think every sermon i preached was somehow influenced by 9-11.

Our President has used 9-11 as justification for his executive order on immigration. Even though no one from any of the countries listed was involved and the three countries where they did come from, Egypt, Qatar and Saudi Arabia…were left off..

Meanwhile, my neighbors have now put up signs on the corner deli run by Yemenites that say…STAY STRONG…We love & support you! We have your back!#NOBANNOWAY!! Your neighbors!

I’m just back from Berlin…I went to church last Sunday…in coffee hour, I was asked endless questions…about life in the United States the days and what did I think.

it’s funny….that the closest experience I’ve had to the weeks after 9-11 have been these weeks after the inauguration..and every week it seems ti impact my sermons…

So the question before us today is what does it mean to choose life?

The answer from Jesus appears to be: 
Loving the Lord your God
Walking in his ways
Observing his commandments

(Note…he says not a word about believing…or doctrine….it’s a way of life…

….and to not be led astray to bow down and worship other gods…and that to is not about belief systems or doctrines but life choices, making other things, realities, your principle commitment…like money or power or security or nationalism….what you worship…because if you make anything else the center of your life, it will already be lost..

…loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you …

With all we are hearing, we need to pay very close attention, listen very hard for Jesus’ word..Comentator JiIl Duffield has said:

I am convinced that the only way we will hear and heed Jesus in these chaotic and difficult times is to listen carefully and in community. I am convinced that the only way our outward actions will match our inward hopes will be through prayer, worship and mutual accountability.

These, plus action, are the very qualities we are seeking to build a community on..we need communities of resistance who do this in plain sight, countercultural communities…

”Ministry requires seeing others and letting others see us for who we are." McCray pointed out that in our culture of social media we do a lot of looking, but very little seeing. 

Andrew Wilkes writs of Howard Thurman:

Thurman’s take on self-deception is especially important to retrieve in a society where self-righteousness lurks in a thousand places, including our own hearts. Deception, he argues, is a hound of hell that tracks the trail of the disinherited, its barking away the complacency of the gilded and impoverished alike.

And here is where our language deceives us. We cloak the color-coded stratification of wealth and opportunity in America, for example, with terms like “racial disparity” or “differential outcome.” Deception. Disparity rightly suggests that a problem exists, but the term leaves unspoken the degree and duration of the problem. Black and white unemployment has created two social trajectories of earning power for decades, a legacy carried forward by slavery, the strange career of Jim Crow, and a service economy that looks increasingly like an on-demand, servant economy. Overcoming these problems requires that we name them accurately, even if our problem-solving abilities are outstripped by the enormity of our challenges.

The price of deception, Thurman continues, is to become a deception.

When we talk about obedience, Jesus makes it clear that it’s more than about rules…he goes to the heart of the matter. Don’t turn his words into another set of commandments..

With the 10 commandments…I’m convinced that two through ten  are all related to the first…to have no other gods before you….the rest are all about having other gods…and in the end, they are about community, not individual righteousness..what it takes for us to live together. 

At the center of his conversation, Jesus says:

If you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.

In an age of alternative facts, Jesus says Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.”

Deception….if we deceive, we become deception embodied…

Our communion is a sign of community and inclusion…openness and acceptance, sharing bread together…as my Yemenite friends say, Our culture is hospitality…If community is broken, if there are broken relationships, perhaps to be true to Jesus and the wholeness, we should leave and go take care of business before we share the bread…but instead, I’ll ask that as we break off a piece of bread today, we remember our broken relationship, meditate on what it might take to bring, or even move towards reconciliation, only then will the body be whole…

so….Choose life….

First Reading Deuteronomy 30:15-20

15See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the LORD your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. 17But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, 18I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. 19I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, 20loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

Psalm 119:1-8
1   Happy are those whose way is blameless, 

          who walk in the law of the LORD. 

2   Happy are those who keep his decrees, 

          who seek him with their whole heart, 

3   who also do no wrong, 

          but walk in his ways. 

4   You have commanded your precepts 

          to be kept diligently. 

5   O that my ways may be steadfast 

          in keeping your statutes! 

6   Then I shall not be put to shame, 

          having my eyes fixed on all your commandments. 

7   I will praise you with an upright heart, 

          when I learn your righteous ordinances. 

8   I will observe your statutes; 

          do not utterly forsake me.

Second Reading 1 Corinthians 3:1-9

3And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, 3for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? 4For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?

5What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. 6I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. 9For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Gospel Matthew 5:21-37

21“You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ 22But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. 23So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. 25Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. 26Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

27“You have heard that it was said, ‘you shall not commit adultery.’ 28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

31“It was./ ‘also”?/ said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

33“Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’ 34But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.”.;/////

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