Monday, September 10, 2007

Proper 18C

St. Andrew's School - Middle and Upper School Chapel

Deuteronomy 30:15-30; Psalm 1; Philemon 4-6

Sometimes, when you really look at what’s out there, the choices are overwhelming. And you know you’re going to have to commit sooner or later. Probably sooner. Once you commit, you’re stuck with your choice, until the next time you have to make a decision. So you narrow the options down, which usually means getting rid of some great things along with the not-so-great ones, until you’re left, finally, with just one option. And you commit.

I’d like mint chocolate chip, please. In a cup.

Thirty-one flavors of ice cream – more than that in some shops. An array of brightly colored toppings that you can have mixed in or sprinkled on your scoop or two or three of ice cream served in a cup or a cone plain or dipped in white chocolate or dark chocolate and rolled in nuts or sprinkles…who can decide?!

The truth is, though, once we start narrowing the options down – for instance, no ice cream flavor should include raisins or come in a color that can’t be found in nature – we begin to realize that most flavors are simply a variation on the two most basic and beloved choices of all – chocolate and vanilla. Thirty-one flavors. Thirty-one toppings. Thirty-one kinds of cones. A bazillion combinations based on a simple choice between chocolate and vanilla.

See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity, Moses said to the Israelites. I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.

I’d like life and prosperity, please. In a blessings-dipped cone.

Not a difficult decision, right? Life and prosperity, death and adversity – it’s a simple choice. So why is it that we so often find it hard to commit ourselves to what brings us the sort of life and prosperity and blessings that God offers us each and every day? Why is it so hard to choose life?

I don’t mean the same kind of life the world offers – the kind we see advertised everywhere, on TV, on billboards, in magazines, all over the web. It’s usually not too hard for us to choose that kind of life and prosperity, right? We work hard at school, we work hard at sports, we work hard at work, we work hard at everything – we choose to do what it takes to be successful. And that’s fine and commendable choice to make, one that will reward us along the way, lengthen our lives, and bring us blessings.

But the kind of life and prosperity God offers isn’t so much about being successful as it is about being fruitful. It’s about choosing to live our lives in such a way that the world can look at us and see an abundance of God the same way we might look at a tree and see an abundance of fruit. It’s about choosing to live our lives in such a way that not only makes the world available to us, but that also makes God available to the world through us.

Moses urged the Israelites that day to choose life by obeying the commandments of God, loving God, walking in God’s ways, by holding fast to God. Of course, there were not just ten but hundreds of commandments written down by the time it was all said and done. Jesus would later sum up all those commandments like this: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength; and you shall love your neighbor as yourself.

We choose life when we choose love. And I’ve been here just long enough to see that our St. Andrew’s community is full of life. I’ve seen it in the way you care about your friends. I’ve seen it in the way your teachers and coaches care about you. I’ve seen it in the way you all care about the world, about those who are sick or suffering or less fortunate or alone. This, my successful friends, is your fruit.

What makes choosing this kind of life and prosperity hard, I think, is that we are faced with so very many choices each day. What to wear, what to buy, to whom we will speak, how we’ll use our time… The world will ask us to choose only success, and at all costs. But this morning, we are asked to consider choosing God first, choosing love, choosing a life that bears fruit.

Every decision we make throughout our day is a new opportunity to choose life. There are a bazillion options out there – many of them are wonderful, full of blessings; others aren’t so good for us. But God has an abundant supply of those little pink plastic spoons, knowing full well that it can be hard for us to make up our minds, hard for us to commit. We choose life when we choose love, when we choose the One who first chose us, loved us, gave us life, and sprinkled us with blessings.

Let us pray in the words of Julian of Norwich, “God, of your goodness, give me yourself, for you are enough for me. If I ask anything that is less, I shall be in want, for only in you do I have all.” Amen.

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