Choose Wisely

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

          15 “Today I am giving you a choice between good and evil, between life and death. 16 If you obey the commands of the Lord your God,[a] which I give you today, if you love him, obey him, and keep all his laws, then you will prosper and become a nation of many people. The Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are about to occupy. 17 But if you disobey and refuse to listen, and are led away to worship other gods, 18 you will be destroyed—I warn you here and now. You will not live long in that land across the Jordan that you are about to occupy. 19 I am now giving you the choice between life and death, between God’s blessing and God’s curse, and I call heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Choose life. 20 Love the Lord your God, obey him and be faithful to him, and then you and your descendants will live long in the land that he promised to give your ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

Acts 10:34-43

Then Peter began to speak to them: “I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ — he is Lord of all. That message spread throughout Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John announced: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power; how he went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

John 20:1-10

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.

 

 

 

 

In the movie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where the adventurer is on the quest for the Holy Grail, he comes along with others including the villain to the place where the Holy Grail rests.

But instead of one cup there are hundred cups. Supposedly if you drink from the Holy Grail you will have eternal life and live for ever.

And testament to the fact there is a Knight standing guard who has been there for centuries.

He says to the villain: You must choose. But choose wisely, for as the true Grail will bring you life, the false Grail will take it from you.

       The villain drinks from one of the cups but it is the wrong cup and he ages and dies right in front of the others.

 

And the Grail Knight says. He chose poorly

 

Indiana Jones picks the plainest and humblest looking cup and drinks from it and doesn’t die.

 

The Grail Knight says of course. You chose wisely.

      

And Indiana Jones is able to save his father, who had been shot with water from the cup of the Holy Grail.

 

Of course that is only a fun movie, but the advice of the Grail Knight echoes down through the centuries and even millennia as good advice.

 

Choose wisely.

 

If you are going to spend your whole life with someone choose wisely.

If you are going to spend a good portion of your life in working career choose wisely.

If you have a lot of money to invest choose wisely.

If you are going to buy a house or a condo or a townhouse, choose wisely…

If you are going to elect someone to public office, choose wisely

 

In fact if you google Choose Wisely you will find there is an organization with that name which is about empowering people in consultation with medical professional to choose wisely about their health care.

They cite the number of unnecessary medical tests, the number of unnecessary prescriptions, the billion dollar wellness industry in supplements, treatments, diets, health equipment and physical regimes, with the vast majority of it having little medical supportive data.

 

So when it comes to your health, Choose Wisely.

 

Of course this is a major biblical theme, the matter of choice.

 

Way back in what may be the first story about human interaction with the world, in the story of the garden, there were lots of trees with lots of fruit.

And according to the story Adam and Eve did not choose wisely. They chose to disobey. They chose to try and know good and evil.

Now, you would think that knowing good and evil would be a good thing.

 

The problem according to the theologian and 20th century martyr Dietrich Bonheoffer is that Adam and Eve wanted to be the judge of what is right and wrong, and not trust in God to be the judge of what is right and wrong.

 

And so it began, the incessant need for Pharisees like us to judge every aspect of the world, every person and place and thing, as either good or evil.  It is how we live our lives, consciously and unconsciously, forever judging others and ourselves and the world around us by our own standard of good and evil.

 

Jesus says there is another way to choose. It is to choose to love instead of choosing to judge.

 

And then there is that famous passage from Deuteronomy where the Israelites are invited to choose life or choose death.

 

Today I am giving you a choice between good and evil, between life and death. If you obey the commands of God…

 

If you follow God’s way, then life. If not then death.

 

Again it seems like this is clear. But Moses wasn’t talking about literal life and death. Obviously that wasn’t the choice he was offering.

He was saying that you had a choice about what community you were going to live in, and how you lived your life. To choose God’s ways and God’s laws and God’s community was a choice for inclusion and justice and compassion and love.

 

But you didn’t have to choose to live in God’s community. You could make another choice and to live by power and might and selfishness and greed..

But Moses says…that is not a way to life… but a way to kill yourself and others emotionally, socially, and even physically.

For instance we know what this world can be like if we disregard God’s wish for us to live peaceably with all.

 

So choose God’s way for it is a way that leads to life.

 

Scott Peck in his seminal work “The Road Less Travelled” which went on to sell ten million copies, starts the book by saying that life is a series of problems and he asks:

Do we want to solve them or moan about them?

       Do we want our children to learn how to solve them?

 

Avoiding problems and the pain that is in them is the primary basis of mental illness.

And he goes on to give techniques for how to deal with them: dedication to the truth; delaying gratification; balance; and accepting responsibility.

 

In the section of accepting responsibility, he basically argues that we need to take responsibility for our lives. If there is a problem, we cannot solve it if we slough it off as someone else’s fault.

Take responsibility for your life. Make a choice to act in your best interest and in the best interests of others.

You choose how your life will go.

If you are in a bad relationship you can choose to go to counseling or you can choose to end it.

It does no good at all to be unhappy and say it is my partner’s fault.

Take responsibility and choose.

 

And that is what Jesus did.

Jesus chose life, Jesus chose love. Jesus chose forgiveness. Jesus chose grace.

Jesus chose to love the whole world even when the whole world was killing him.

Jesus chose justice in a world that was profoundly unjust.

Jesus chose to be selfless in a world that was very selfish.

Jesus chose peace and non-violence in a world that was violent.

Jesus chose forgiveness even to the people who tortured and killed him

Jesus told us that we could choose joy even when things are difficult and painful.

Jesus said we could choose love even others chose to hate.

 

Jesus chose to stand up to political and religious authorities and challenge them to not hide behind laws and rules and social status and wealth and power and judging and police and soldiers and violence…

 

but to share and give and practice equality and egality and forgiveness and grace and compassion.

 

And he was arrested, tortured and killed.

And yet it never stopped him from loving….

From choosing love.

 

 

 

I have a friend Clare who is a yoga teacher. In a recent blog entitle “ on choices” she encouraged us to take responsibility for our live and our choices.

 

She closed with this:

~ Choose unconditional love. ~ Choose life. ~ Choose pleasure.  ~ Choose laughter. ~ Choose the friends that call you on your shit. ~ Choose your heart. ~ Choose your light.

~ Choose to sit in the lessons. ~ Choose growth over comfort. ~ Choose to rise up ~ Choose to be grounded. ~ Choose to smile. ~ Choose to be honest. ~ Choose to be YOU. ~ Choose to learn from your mistakes.   ~ Choose to vulnerable. ~ Choose to write a new story. ~ Choose to be authentic. ~ Choose to be still. ~ Choose to persevere. ~ Choose to be disciplined. ~ Choose to be kind to yourself even when others are not.  ~ Choose to be focused. ~ Choose your boundaries. ~ Choose what you will tolerate and what you will not. ~ Choose to forgive your Self first. ~ Choose to accept that you cannot control anything.   ~ Choose to accept that which you might not understand.  ~ Choose to leap. ~ Choose to trust the journey. ~ Choose to let go. ~ Choose compassion for others. ~ Choose to be present.   ~ Choose to move ahead. ~ Choose to wait for no one. ~ Choose to listen to your heart. ~ Choose silence. ~ Choose to observe without judgment. ~ Choose YOU because you deserve TOO. 

The next time you make a choice to hold someone else accountable for your emotions based on a choice that you made, make a new choice to heal instead of to hide. 

So today I invite you to choose… To choose wisely..

To choose life.

 

Victor Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist, who during World War 2 was deported to a Nazi Concentration Camp and later to Auschwitz.

He and his sister survived, but his parents, his wife and his brother died.

Sometime after the war he wrote a book which was translated in English and in English has the title Man’s search for meaning.

 

       It was an examination of his time in concentration camp from a psychiatrist’s point of view.

What he found was that even when things were at there worst and hopeless there was always choice.

       To quote Frankl:

 

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” 

 

One time when he was walking for hours with the guards yelling and swearing and hitting inmates with the butts of their rifles, in the winter, cold and icy and windy. Frankl thought of his wife.

This is what he wrote:

       A thought transfixed me: for the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which Man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of Man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when Man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way – an honorable way – in such a position Man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment. For the first time in my life I was able to understand the meaning of the words, “The angels are lost in perpetual contemplation of an infinite glory.”[10]

 

Even when you have nothing, and have nothing it seems to look forward to you can still choose to love.

 

Everything was taken from Jesus except his power to choose love, to choose life and to choose his way of being in this world.

 

Jesus chose love and life in the midst of torture and death…

And his choice was so strong, so powerful that we believe that he is alive and that he is with us and in us, still choosing love and choosing life.

 

The Resurrection wasn’t something that just happened to Jesus  ….like those stories you hear of people dying and the paramedics brought to life and when they are resuscitated they say: “What happened?”

 

No the resurrection didn’t just happen to Jesus. Jesus chose the resurrection.

IN fact he said: I am the resurrection.

 

Resurrection wasn’t a doctrine for Jesus, but a way of life.

A choice to love unconditional, extravagantly and universally.

 

So today I invite you not so much to believe the resurrection, but to live the resurrection, to be the resurrection…

For every time you choose to love unconditional, to forgive extravagantly, to accept and include unconditionally, then Jesus is raised in you and lives in you.

Amen.