RIPPED FROM THE HEADLINES:

4 A BETTER CHOICE

SCRIPTURE:  Deuteronomy 30: 11-20; Luke 10:38-42

                 In the name of the God who creates us, redeems us and gives us life! Amen.

 

          Today’s sermon is about choices.  A little girl looked at her mother and asked, “Why are

some of your hairs white, Mom?” Her mother replied, “Well every time you make a bad choice and do something wrong and make me cry or unhappy, one of my hairs turns white.” The little girl thought for a moment and then said, “Momma, how come ALL of grandma’s hairs are white?”

          We are free to make choices. Some of our choices are good. Some are bad. Some of our choices not only affect us, they may affect others as well. Those others then often have to make choices. The Christian doctrine we are considering today is freewill, or choices.

          Our news story is from the January 31, 2006 CBS NEWS. The trial of the top two executives of ENRON began. Just to recap the ENRON Scheme, scam, whatever you would like to call it, caused ENRON employees to lose not only their jobs, but also their 401K funds, and in some cases, their life savings. It is estimated the ENRON scheme affected over 200,000 people with financial loses over $70 billion.

          Listen to what one former ENRON employee had to say about the situation. “It was a bad time when Enron closed its doors. It was so sad watching everyone empty out their desks. My department was among the last to go. Everybody had been laid off. I watched my 401K account – worth approximately $175.000 at one point – dwindle to nothing. I was left without a job, no insurance and no retirement savings. When I was finally issued my walking papers at the end, I was relieved actually. I had the chance to decide what I would do.”

          We are free to choose. In a given situation we may choose to be angry, resentful and seek revenge. Or we may choose to let go, go on, and make new decisions in light of new circumstances.

          Several weeks ago, when I started this sermon series, I said there are several views of God in the Old Testament. One View is advocated by the Deuteronomic historian, who compiled or edited a significant portion of the Old Testament literature. He suggested among other ideas, a god of consequences. Our passage today from Deuteronomy, is in the consequences tradition. Job and Psalm 139 represent another view that God stands with us regardless of the circumstances of life.

          Our Deuteronomy passage is part of Moses’ third address to the people. It is a call to renew the covenant with God. This is the task which Moses states is not beyond their understanding or ability. They can do it. Theirs is a simple choice: life and prosperity on the one hand, or death and adversity on the other. If they obey God’s commandments they will live, become numerous, and God will bless them in the land they are entering. If they don’t obey God, they will not live long in the land. In fact they will not live period. They will die. The choice is between blessing and curse, life and death.

          This is a “Come to Yahweh” talk. Come to Yahweh or you will die. Though we question some cause and effect relationships, much of this point of view still stands in our Christian theology today. Remember a few weeks ago I mentioned in the sermon regarding the doctrine of sin that “sin” is separation from God. If we separate ourselves from God our spirits die.

          Do we understand the concept of consequences in the Bible? We are not punished for our sins but by them. If we speak harshly of another person, God does not say, “I will hurt you because of what you did to your neighbor.” If we speak harshly to our neighbor, that relationship is damaged if not broken. We have a choice in how we relate with each other.

          The story of Mary and Martha, our New Testament lesson today, furthers our understanding of some of the choices we make.

          Martha gets a bad rap and she shouldn’t. The Martha’s of the world are necessary. We have multitude of Martha examples in our congregation. The ministries of this congregation depend on many Martha types: our custodian, communion stewards, ushers, choir and music and councils.

          It is all our Martha types that keep the congregation going. Martha was necessary and she wasn’t doing anything wrong. Jesus makes it clear: Mary’s choice was “the better part.” That doesn’t make Martha’s the bad part.

          Martha is described as distracted by many tasks. Her work was good but Mary had chosen the better part. We all should do the dishes from time to time but no one should only do the dishes. Mary’s choice of the better part was to be with the life-giving, life-generating source, to be with Jesus, to not let the busy-ness of life cut her off from the source of life.

          Orderliness is good, but one can’t let orderliness insulate us from God.

          The story of the Good Samaritan is right before this passage in Luke’s account. The Samaritan has chosen to give life to another. His is a good choice. With the story of Mary and Martha, Jesus illustrates how we know to make such a choice. We spend time with the life-giving source.

          The vast majority of decisions you and I make today are not choices between death and life. Most often they are choices between good and better. We all know the better, those that give life, when we have chosen a stronger connection to the giver of life. We model the better choice when we say, “Lord Speak to Me” and “Lead Me Lord.”

          We have all chosen to be part of this congregation. I pray it is a life-giving choice for each of you. We have come to understand that there are many ways we receive life in our involvement in this community of faith. We receive the most when we regularly are involved in worship, in prayer, in serving others, giving financially, and inviting others to Christ.

          Let me say an additional word about the last one, “inviting”. We have had discussions at Ad-council meetings, among ourselves about what we can do to bring new people in to the life of the congregation. If we are going to grow numerically we need to receive more people. The chief factor in any “inviting” ministry is you. In a few minutes when you come before the altar of God to receive the elements of the Lord’s Supper, ask yourselves, “What more can I do to invite others?” “Who can I ask?” “Who do I know needs contact with the source of life?”

          This is a choice for every one of us. The better part is to choose to share Christ with others by inviting them to be part of our community of faith.

          Many of you in this congregation have made the choice to care for a parent, spouse, brother or sister, or child, and in so doing gave up part of your life. You probably have gained so much. Yours was the better choice in what you offered and in what you received.

          Nathaniel Hawthorne, the American author of the 19th century, in his last published work, Our Old Home, tells of a very proper man who while going through a factory was followed by a wretched child “so awful looking the man could not decide what sex it was.” The child followed him about and finally put himself in front of the man seeking to be held.

          The gentleman paused long, then finally picked the child up and held it. Hawthorne commented, “So I watched the struggle in his mind with a good deal of interest, and am  seriously of the opinion that he did a heroic act and effected more than he dreamed of toward his final salvation when he took the loathsome child and caressed it as tenderly as if he had been the father.

          What Hawthorne does not write in this piece, is that he was the man who did this.

          We are free to make choices. Whenever we offer compassion, we have made the better choice for we have done the will of God.

          MAY THESE THOUGHTS GIVE YOU STRENGTH