Saturday, 15 February 2014

The Devil we know

Deuteronomy 30:15-20
See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If 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. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I 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. 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, loving 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.
1 Corinthians 3:1-9
On Divisions in the Corinthian Church
And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for 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? For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?
What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

Choose life! Moses exhorts the Israelites in our passage in Deuteronomy. Choose life!
It sounds like a no brainer doesn't it?
Choose life!
But Moses has journeyed with these people through all the trials of the wilderness.
Moses was with them when they fled Egypt and crossed the Red Sea.
Moses was with them when they complained about having no water.
Moses was with them when they complained about only eating manna, when they longed for all the variety of food they enjoyed back in Egypt.
Moses was with them as they tested the patience of God and worshiped idols.
Moses was with these people as they stumbled and grumbled their way from the Exodus to the promised land.
The promised land is now within sight.
And he still has to remind them to Choose Life.
Throughout the book of Deuteronomy, we find clear definitions of what it looks like to choose life.
Moses lays out for the people time and again that choosing life involves working on their relationship with God.
Here, in this short passage, is a powerful summary of that teaching.
In v 16: love the Lord your God, walk in God's ways, observe God's commands.
And, in case that isn't clear enough, Moses states again in v 20: love God, obey God, hold fast to God.
Moses, chosen to lead Gods people at a critical time in their history, a time when they have been forced to flee all that was familiar to them - and let's face it, even when the familiar is oppressive, sometimes we'd rather stick with that than leave it for the unknown.
What is it they say? - better the devil you know.
There were many times as the people of God journeyed with Moses in the wilderness that they longed for the comforting familiarity of their life in Egypt.
Even though they were discriminated against and made to work in appalling conditions, there were times, as they journeyed, when they longed for that life that they knew rather than continue on to a life they didn't know.
As Gods people today, we often find ourselves in the same predicament.
We know that "the way we used to do things" no longer works.
We know that the old ways are no longer serving the gospel.
But we don't want to venture into the unknown.
We long for things simply to go back to the way they were so that we can be comforted by their familiarity.
I love to walk.
And everyone knows that walking, especially around here, needs a good pair of boots.
I've had a wonderful pair for a few years now.
They are so comfy.
I put my feet in them and they just feel right.
But I've known for a while that they would need replacing.
The miles have taken their toll.
They are much more flexible than they should be.
They don't offer the same kind of ankle support that they used to.
The soles have become quite worn - they don't grip as they used to.
And, to cap,it all, a hole appeared on the top of my boots, so even reproofing couldn't stop water getting in.
But, even with all those faults, I kept on wearing them because the hassle of breaking in a new pair just seemed like too much trouble.
Even though my feet were constantly getting soaked when I went walking, that was the choice I made over replacing my boots.
How crazy is that?
I'd rather put up with the UNcomfortably familiar than do the work of walking in new boots!
Gods people through the ages have struggled with a similar dilemma.
As the world around us shifts and changes, as we have to cope with more and more change in our daily lives, we want just one thing to remain familiar: when we come to church, we want to feel comfortable. When we share our faith, we want to do it in ways that we know - the old, familiar ways.
Even when we recognise that our mission is no longer effective we would rather go with what we know than embrace what is strange or new.
Choosing life involves us making those hard choices but making them in the knowledge that we have the unfailing love and support of our God who not only leads us but accompanies us, every step of the way, into an unknown future.

Moses knows that the people of God, with whom he is travelling to the Promised Land, are struggling with their fear of the unknown.
So, he attempts to remind them of the basics.
The foundations on which their faith is based.
Loving God.
Walking in God's ways.
Keeping God's commands.

How can we, in this place today, on our journey with God, recover and embrace those foundations for our life together and for our outreach in the communities we serve? How can we choose life?
Loving God.
Walking in God's ways.
Keeping God's commands.

Loving God - In Deuteronomy, we are reminded that loving God is much more than a Valentines day type emotion. Remember the teaching: You shall love The Lord your God with all your heart, with all your mind and with all your soul?
Loving God involves every part of ourselves, body, mind and soul.
Choosing life involves the same kind of commitment. It's not just an intellectual choice or an emotional one, it involves all that we are and all that we do.

Walking in God's ways, involves being tuned in enough to see where God is leading us and then having the commitment to follow in those ways. It involves discernment and obedience. Seeing where God would have us go and putting our hand in God's as we step out to follow, catching glimpses of where God is already at work in our community and pitching in to lend a hand. Being reassured that Gods ways are at once new and familiar and that God continues to lead us on comfortingly familiar paths and on scary new journeys.

Keeping God's commands is not intended as an inhibiting exercise but as a freeing way of life, a way that involves us considering how we relate to God and to one another. A way that enables us to show in this place and beyond these walls, that God is all about relationships, that God loves us and wants us to love one another. Living in love that frees us and fuels us to follow the dream that God plants in our vision.
Keeping Gods commands involves risks taken bravely because we are assured of the safety net of God's love underneath us.
Loving God.
Walking in God's ways.
Keeping God's commands.

These three are our way of Choosing Life.

The apostle Paul, in our reading from Corinthians, outlines the choices laid out for the folk around him, folk struggling to practice faith in their day, folk struggling to witness to God to their contemporaries, folk confused by all the different directions in which they were being pulled.
And like Moses, he cuts to the chase. It's not about who did what or how.
It's not about historical loyalties.
It's about everyday relationships based on love.
The mission is God's and God calls and equips us to get involved.
Answering the question: What does God require of us today?
As Paul says: We are Gods servants, working together.
Choosing life today involves us getting to the root of our faith - the love of God, being witnesses to that love in our fellowship here and in the communities we are called to serve.
Choosing life involves us discerning and then following the path God calls us to walk today, even though it is vastly different from the path we know.
Choosing life involves us stepping into an unknown future, hand in hand with the God of love.
Choose life!
Thanks be to God.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

1 comment:

Sharon said...

Love the "new boots" story! This is so very inspiring.

Thank you!