Choose Life

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, 2015 December 24, 2015 Christmas Eve Isaiah 9:2-7, Luke 2:1-20
Advent 3, Year C December 13, 2015 Third Sunday of Advent, Year C Philippians 4:4-7, Luke 3:7-18
Advent 2, Year C December 6, 2015 Second Sunday of Advent, Year C Malachi 3:1-4
Advent 1, Year C November 29, 2015 First Sunday of Advent Luke 21:25-36, I Thessalonians 3:9-13
Christ the King, Year B November 22, 2015 Christ the King Sunday, Year B Revelation 1:4b-8, John 18:33-37
Pentecost 25, Year B November 15, 2015 Proper 28B Daniel 12:1-3, Hebrews 10:19-25, Mark 13:1-8
Pentecost 24, Year B November 8, 2015 Proper 27, Year B I Kings 17:8-16, Mark 12:38-44
All Saints’ Day November 1, 2015 All Saints’ Day, Year B Psalm 137, Psalm 6, Psalm 56, Isaiah 25:6-9, Revelation 21:1-6a, John 11:32-44
Pentecost 22, Year B October 25, 2015 Proper 25, Year B Jeremiah 31:7-9, Mark 10:46-52
Pentecost 21, Year B October 18, 2015 Proper 24, Year B Isaiah 53:4-12, Mark 10:35-45
The Feast of St Francis October 4, 2015 The Feast of St Francis Matthew 11:25-30
Pentecost 18, Year B September 27, 2015 Proper 21, Year B James 5:13-20
Pentecost 17, Year B September 20, 2015 Proper 20, Year B Wisdom of Solomon 1:16-2:1, 12-22, Psalm 54, James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a, Mark 9:30-37
Pentecost 16, Year B and Baptism September 13, 2015 Proper 19, 2015 Mark 8:27-38, Psalm 116:1-8
Pentecost 15, Year B September 6, 2015 Proper 18, Year B Isaiah 35:4-7a, Ps 146, James 2:1-17, Mark 7:24-37

 

Choose Life

Sermon Date:February 13, 2011

Scripture: Deuteronomy 30:15-20; 1 Corinthians 3:1-9; Matthew 5:21-37

Liturgy Calendar: Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A


A favorite and perennial joke in my extended family begins with this line

“It was spring time in Paris—it was a time for love.”

I’ll spare you the joke.

Spring time hasn’t arrived here yet, and we are in the throes of winter here in Virginia, but

This is the time of year in America when we celebrate Valentine’s Day. 

It is a time for love. 

Two signs of love in our culture are red roses, and big red heart shaped boxes of chocolate.  People wear red to celebrate this season of love.

But the color red is not always about love. 

Have you ever seen red because you were angry?

I’ve only seen red once in my life.

My young daughter, like many girls, took ballet.

And at the dress rehearsal for the big spring show, another girl in her class intentionally slugged my daughter in the stomach.

When she  came to me in tears, I felt an anger of an intensity I had never felt. 

I shut my eyes and literally saw red. 

With all my heart, I wanted to kill the child who had done this to my daughter.

Over twenty years later, when I think about this fleeting incident, probably long forgotten by my daughter,

I can still feel the powerful intensity of emotion that washed over me at the moment I saw red—

The intensity of the love I still have for my daughter, and the intensity of the hatred I felt for the person who had hurt her

Red, after all, is not only the color of love,

But it can  also  be the color of hate.

Red is the color of passion.

And God created us to be passionate. 

And God cares deeply about how we use the passion that we have been given.

Moses reminded the Israelites, just about to enter into the Promised Land, that they must make a choice—both individually, and collectively, because they were the chosen people of God.

God said

“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity….”

And God makes it very clear what choice God wants us to make….

“Choose life!”

Why?

“ so that you and your descendants may live, loving me, obeying me, holding fast to me…..” 

Because loving God and obeying God and holding fast to God means life to us.

Choose life!

Choose love and obedience to God.

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? 

And yet all of us know that the decisions we make about how we deal with our passions are the hardest decisions we will ever have to make as we live out our lives.

That’s why we, as Christians, gather together as often as we can to study God’s word, these scriptures with which we’ve been blessed,

Because the Bible itself is the story of passion—our passions and God’s passion

If you have even a passing acquaintance with the Bible, then you know that God is full of passion

The Bible opens with the story of God’s passionate and imaginative love for all of creation as we see a formless void become the magical universe in which we live—the sun, the moon, the planets in their courses, and this fragile earth, our island home—our breathtakingly gorgeous and live giving earth, our Promised Land, containing all that we need for abundant life. 

God’s love for us is passionate, so passionate that in the Old Testament we find that God certainly sees red when the people worship other gods, when the people wander away. 

We read of God’s passionate wrath,

And yet, the passionate wrath that God feels when we go astray is always balanced by God’s passionate mercy.

Our readings today bless us with insights from both Paul and Jesus about how we are to deal with our human passions so that ultimately we can choose life and blessings rather than death and curses. 

Paul tells us that as long as our passions lead us into anger with one another, we can’t open ourselves to God’s passionate love for us. 

We’re too caught up in quarrelling and jealousy, arguing about who does what, when in reality, Paul tells us that as human beings,

“we are God’s servants, working together;  we are God’s field, God’s building.” 

In other words, when we live passionate lives of love for one another, holding fast to one another because we hold fast to God, obeying God by living united to one another, even in our diversity,

We become the part of creation that God intended us to be way back in Genesis.  We become a field in which God can plant the seeds of love, love that will grow so abundantly that others can see the kingdom of God being realized on earth here and now.

Now Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, is teaching us, his disciples about how we are to use our passions if we  want to be the field in which the seeds of love can grow.

In the passage we just heard, Jesus takes six examples of teaching from the Torah, and elaborates on them—and what is happening here is that Jesus is taking the written text of the people and now giving these same words a new context, his own authority. 

He is teaching about these examples based on the experience of God’s presence in his own life as a human being.

We will hear the last two next week, but these six teachings that Jesus elaborates on all have to do with the passions we feel as human beings.

For each of the six, Jesus talks how the law says we should deal with our passions, because we need help controlling our passions—If we don’t control them, they can and will destroy us. 

And then he explains how our understanding of how we manage our passions gets transformed when we, the disciples, live passionate lives with God present and active in our lives.

No wonder the list begins with how to deal with anger and ends with how to deal with enemies—

In his discussion of these six specific teachings about murder, lust, adultery, swearing, and what to do about evil doers and enemies,

Jesus is very specific. 

When we feel  passionately angry, instead of quarreling and giving into jealousy, Jesus tells us that we are to be reconciled to the person who has made us so mad.  Jesus tells us  to go be reconciled to that person before we come to the altar with our gifts for God.

When our passionate love turns into lust, and the person that we desire becomes an object we want to possess for our own selfish pleasure, we diminish ourselves. 

When we give into passionate lust, we are no longer able to see clearly.  We lose our sight.   Instead of reaching out and selfishly clutching another person as a possession, Jesus teaches us to open our hands in love to others, using our hands for healing rather than grasping. 

When our passions turn into hatred, we want to seek revenge and to conquer the people who are our enemies.  But Jesus tells us, the disciples, that we are to love our enemies. 

Jesus, the Son of God, chose life by living the life that he teaches us to live. 

Jesus was the most passionate human being ever to walk on this earth.    He used his passion, not for anger, lust, or hatred, but to plant seeds of love in the people—by teaching, by healing, by loving his enemies, even when his enemies killed him.

At the beginning of this sermon, I talked about red heart shaped boxes of chocolate and red roses and about seeing red

Red is the color of passion.

And red is the color of blood.

Jesus’ trial and death at the hands of his enemies was a bloody mess.

Blood ran down his face from the crown of thorns that was jammed down onto his head.

Blood poured out of his hands and feet as his enemies nailed him on the cross on which he died. 

And yet, even as he was dying, Jesus lived out what he taught us.

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” 

Jesus prayed to God, who seemed to be nowhere.  Matthew tells us that Jesus cried out

“My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?”

I’ve lived out your loving presence in my life.  Why have you forsaken me?

God responds to Jesus in passionate mercy,

by bringing  Jesus  into the new life of resurrection!

And God brings us into a new life of resurrection as well, a new life through which God’s kingdom is planted and grows

A new life which we are reconciled with one another,

a new life  in which we know and love one another as fellow human beings instead of objects to be possessed,

a new life in which we want to give to those who beg from us,

and a new life in which we choose to love our enemies.

God’s love for us is the red blood of his son, dying on a cross.

God’s love for us is passionate mercy.

And God’s love is timeless—lasting throughout eternity, the timeless love for that God has for God’s infinite, mysterious, gloriously unfathomable creation—the timeless love that God has for each and every one of us, we who are tiny bits of that creation. 

Today is a time for love—by living in obedience to God

and by holding fast to God

as we hold fast to one another  as the disciples that Jesus teaches us to be—

by living passionately  for God

in the ways that we live passionately for one another. 

Choose life!

Amen

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