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Choose Life – Sermon, 12th February

Article posted on 14 February 2017 Leave a Comment



I would like to focus this morning on the passage from Deuteronomy. The passage is part of the final address by Moses to the people before they enter the Promised Land. It is part of a manifesto for a nation and not just individuals. It asks of the people a deep and significant question – ‘What kind of society do you want to live in? What is your vision, your purpose, your core values, for without these you are lost; there will be nothing wholesome and good that will hold you together and contribute to the flourishing of a nation.’

I accept you may see differently, but I maintain I see no intention by God to enforce and punish here at all. What I see is God placing a clear choice to the people, ‘I set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity.’

What then follows is educating the people on the consequences of the choice they make. I do not see punishment by a wrathful God, but a forecast of the consequences if certain paths are chosen. I see not a God of vengeance, but a God of love suggesting the best course of action; one that is entirely in tune with the God we see in the New Testament.

Jesus said, ‘I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly’ ‘I am the way the truth and the life’. ‘I am the bread of life.’

‘Choose life’ God says, not to spare them from his wrath, but to spare them from themselves. He is not saying choose life otherwise you are punished, but choose life because He knows it’s the best way for them to survive and prosper as a nation.

By now you realise that the terms life and death here are not simply about physical life but a specific quality of life that comes from our choice to live by, (or not), the word of God.

Life and prosperity is not just about material possessions but about a wholeness and inclusiveness of all aspects of living in close relationship with God; a deep sense of wellbeing- the Jewish shalom, in essence what is willed to the other as we share the peace, and what is alluded to in our gospel. ‘Peace be with you’

Choosing life is not just some mental assent in favour. It is not about ‘I prefer this dress to the other one.’ It is a life choice. It is a lifetime process of obedience to God, which is not about doing as we are told but involves a deep listening in our inner selves. It is a constant discernment process allowing God to shape our character, our personality, our views and how we see the world. It is about making daily choices about life and prosperity or death and adversity.

Perhaps our resistance to this kind of disciplined and continuous choosing has less to do with what God may think but our wish to live as though God was not so attentive to the choices we make.

Not all choices involve us directly, but should cause us to ask ourselves the question, ’Is that the choice we would have made had we been choosing life and prosperity or death and adversity. Is what we are seeing the consequences of making a choice for life or death?’

A few weeks ago, an Oxfam report on income inequality stated that 8 of the worlds billionaires have the equivalent wealth to the poorest 50% of the world.’ 8 people!

Is this the consequence of choosing life and prosperity, or death and adversity?

This week, the government decided to close the invitation to accommodate 3000 orphaned children from the migrant camps after only 350 have been accepted.

Is this a choice of life and prosperity or death and adversity?

Over the last 6 months we have seen UK judges branded as ‘Enemies of the People’ and in the US a challenge to the independent judiciary of ‘so-called’ judges.

Is this a choice of life and prosperity or death and adversity?

It was a decision made by America which created the conditions for the collapse of the Bretton Woods system which had at its core an ethical purpose. It was founded after the Second World war to bring stability and prosperity for all. The system regulated monetary matters and exchange rates. The collapse of Bretton Woods following a deliberate decision by the US, gave rise to the monetary freedom we saw developed through the 80’s and 90’s and which so spectacularly went wrong in 2008. It is this neoliberal economic theory which has given rise to an unprecedented rise in materialism and debt.

There is a growing body of economic opinion which see that decision not as one for life and prosperity, but death and adversity.

In his book Postcapitalism, Paul Mason makes a startling critique of this neoliberal ideology which has governed western economic theory since the 1980’s. He states ‘A single Mum on benefits, forced into payday loans and buying household goods on credit, can be generating a much higher profit rate for capital than a car industry worker with a steady job.’ In other words, there is more profit to be made from the poor and vulnerable than the productive worker.

Is this the consequence of choosing life and prosperity, or death and adversity?

Archbishop Justin Welby in his Lent Book ‘Dethroning Mammon’ states quite clearly, ‘materialism is not the answer to the challenges we face. Rather we need a deep sense of the priority of the human person.’

Let me outline just some of the trends we will face in the near future in order for to be able to influence the right choices.

There will be a 30% rise in over 65’s by 2030, a 100% rise in over 85’s, an 80% increase in those living with dementia. What kind of decisions do we need?

Millions of jobs worldwide will be lost to technology. Income inequality will continue to grow. There will be an increase in anxiety and a breakdown of trust in all symbols of authority. What are the choices we will be faced with?

Dealing with even these issues will demand big choices about what kind of society do we want. What will be our core values, our vision, our purpose? How do we influence the decision makers; the movers and shakers of this world; the politicians, economists etc. to make the right choices.

As Moses said to the Israelites, ‘I 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.’


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