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Living in the Light: Choose Life! 

Epiphany 6, Common Lectionary Year A

Deuteronomy 30: 15-20

©2014 Rev. Elisabeth R. Jones

Here we are, still under feet of snow, and still in the Season of Epiphany, the season where we use the lectionary texts to explore what it means to live in the light of Christ. That child whose birth we celebrated just under two months ago, whose life, ministry, death, and resurrected ongoing life has changed this world in ways beyond our imagining. What difference does his life make to ours?

Living in the Light, we’ve discovered, means being able to thank God for one another, and for the abundant blessings of being alive in God’s amazing creation and grace. Living in the Light gives us a particular, life-giving way to manage human conflict – as the Middle Zone so ably showed us with their take on Cedar Park’s Covenant for Harmony. Living in the Light of Christ means being able to hear in Jesus’ teaching a truth so often submerged under the trials of life, that God delights in us and calls us  “blessed.” Living in the Light, knowing we are blessed, gives us the grace we need to live as Christ’s light ourselves, seasoning the pot, like small grains of salt, making a God-graced difference.

Which means that when we come to this week of the Season, one wonders, is there much more to be said? Isn’t Moses shout-out  “Choose Life!”  a bit redundant? Everything so far in this season has been a call to “Choose Life!”

Moses makes it look really easy, this choice, because he sets up the choice with such binary, polar opposites that no-one would choose his alternative – “death and what’s wrong” (CEB)“death and adversity.” Of course no one would make such a choice! So why is all this ink spilled on getting the people to make what seems so obvious?

Well, here’s the kicker we don’t immediately hear in this passage. Although the text tells the story of Moses with those most ancient of Israelites just emerging from the wilderness, still bright-eyed, peering at Canaan for the very first time, hearing it as a call to them to go down there and make wise choices, (kind of like we’d send off our kids to college), it was actually written down centuries later, by the descendants of those Israelites, who over the generations it seems had done a repeatedly awful job of choosing “life and what’s good.” At least that’s the conclusion that the writer drew, something about their choices was badly out of kilter; how else do you explain the fact that now their descendants are huddled in a new slavery to a new empire in Babylon. This was a defeated, hopeless generation, ready to give up on themselves, their God, their future, their hope, their very collective existence as a  people.

It seems that “choosing life” isn’t so straightforward after all, why bother choosing life if it still leads to disaster? If it didn’t work for Moses’ generation, why would it work for the generation weeping by the rivers of Babylon? For that matter, why would it work in ours? Does choosing life really guarantee a rock-free road? We know it doesn’t.

After all, didn’t we as an industrial society choose life when we invented spray pesticides to help us produce bumper crops sufficient to feed the planet? But instead, we’ve killed off the bees, poisoned the rivers, rendered soil sterile.

Didn’t we choose life by creating food preservatives to be able to  transport stable, affordable food for the world’s  working poor? Instead, we’ve created generational spikes in morbid obesity, diabetes, hyper-allergies, gluten intolerance, cardiovascular disease in children?!

To say nothing of our insatiable thirst for the apparent blessings of a connected world -now too hot to handle, now polluted by oil spills, mountains and lives crushed to dust in mineral mines to fuel our cellphones,

If these are our choices for life,  why have they brought us death and destruction, curse, and “what’s bad”?

I confess this text has been a blight on my week, causing deeper and deeper depression. As I struggled more than ever to find some glimmer of lively word of hope for us in it, I realized I’d been guilty of shallow reading.

I’d been dazzled by the bright lights of the 2 words, but only them: Choose life! But they are defined by everything that comes before it in this passage: those discomforting, grey, ugly words of  “commandment” “decree” “way” “statute” “law,” “obedience.” Words barely improved by adding the word “God” to them, as if that makes them somehow holy, hopeful.

But hang in there with me for a minute, because alongside the grey words are others, little pinpricks of light: “hear, observe, walk, love, heart, bless, live, thrive.”

Add them all together and you get a continuous, daily, ongoing holistic way of life, shaped by…. well,  ……

While we may be uncomfortable with the ancient Biblical language of Torah, law and obedience; we are more at home with the language of “God’s Dream” – they are the same thing: God’s Dream, and its accompanying promise or commitment to a creation whose abundance is cherished by its creatures as well as by God. God’s Dream of a people who will share with God in the tending and caring of the ‘fertile land’ and its inhabitants, especially those least capable of taking care of themselves. God’s Dream, capable of feeding our spirits, firing the imagination, stirring the heart, pushing human possibilities, calling forth from us the will to shape our souls, and lives by its promises….. a different way of saying obeying God’s Torah, God’s Way.

Choosing Life, to this Deuteronomist, indeed to us, is about shaping all our choices in all our walking, hearing, loving and living, in ways that seek to mirror the shape of God’s Dream, a Dream we can observe, hear and follow in the pages of this book – the collective testimony of communities shaped by God, in both the breach and the observance.

Our call today is to bring this ancient text home, Choosing, for example to exercise our individual and collective power to do our salty best to  choose life as God would choose: for example, to choose life by protecting the vulnerable,  -bring supplies for the Native Womens Shelter -join the Suzuki foundation backyard bird count this week -donate to CAC so the hungry of Pointe Claire are fed. We can choose life by choosing to foster dignity among and between communities, -come to hear Nakuset speak on the resilience of urban aboriginals  – support the UCC M & S Fund. We can choose life at home by feeding and clothing ourselves, and by shopping in ways that support the human flourishing of others,  buy birthday, valentine gifts, coffee, tea at DMV.  buying eco-friendly, pesticide free products  buying locally.

Such choices, as history and Scripture amply demonstrate, are no guarantee of unblemished wellbeing, but that is not the point. The consequences of our choosing life shaped by the Dream of God for creation’s sustainable wellbeing and flourishing, are what will bring life and light into the world. And that’s what matters. And we can. Choose Life.

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