Some of you may remember that during the culture wars over abortion, some folks would have bumper stickers that said “choose life”. And while I am admittedly ambivalent on abortion, I wanted to honk my horn and yell whose life? As ambivalent as I am about it I believe there are times
when that choice should be made by a woman who consults with her doctor and not by anybody else. I just want to be clear. Further, there are many ways we chose life, or death. There are lots of choices we make every single day in which we are actually deciding what whether we will step deeply into life, or contribute to death. I want to name three: We choose life when we choose to steep ourselves in our faith traditions. We choose life when we refrain from death inducing words or actions. We choose life when we speak up in the face of death.
The lovely psalm selection we heard this morning speaks to the first instance. Psalm 1 starts out with: happy are those whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law they meditate day and night. They are like trees planted by water. Their leaves do not wither. In our culture, we hear the word law and we think: speeding ticket. We hear: thou shalt not. We hear restrictions, rules to follow. But that’s only part of it. It is true that the word law implies denying yourself things you may want to do. It implies self restraint. But in the context of the people of Israel, meditating on the Law referred to meditating on Torah-the first five books of the Old Testament. The
se include the story of their relationship with God. It is the story and stories of God’s relationship with God’s people. The story that is implied in our English translation of the Hebrew word, Law, is about all of life- identity, personal relationships, ethical guidelines, and the well being of the wider community. When the Psalmist says: happy are those who meditates on God’s law, he is saying happy are those who remember who and whose they are, who they belong to, and what that means about the way they live and behave. The psalmist is saying: Learn God’s word. Learn these stories. Re-learn them. They will nourish your soul and the soul of your community. It you meditate on the Law, if you study God’s word to you and you and you and all of us, you are like a tree that is planted by a river and you will remain strong and fertile even in times of drought and struggle. This Psalm also takes for granted the understanding that we are formed by what we love and reflect on continually. We are what we eat. I am only half joking. In one of our recent Gospel lessons, the Pharisees challenge Jesus because his followers don’t wash their hands before eating and Jesus says: what is in a persons heart is what makes them clean or unclean. That is one of the reasons we confess each week. But I digress.
A second way we can choose life is curbing our actions and words when we get churned up. All of us have said things or done things that as soon as they have escaped, we want to crawl under a rock in Fairmount park. I have done so too many times to count. I once had a heated argument with a friend in which I was over reacting to something that was going on. I blew. When I ran into her the next morning, there was awkwardness and she was almost too afraid to speak. I chose death the night before. And I had been so angry she was afraid. Oh my. Oh my. I breathed, yes, breathed, we all breathe death when we lash out with words and worse. We need to chose life. We need to do the things in our personal lives that reinforce life. That includes steeping ourselves in worship and word and learning and re-learning who and whose we are. It includes eating the right foods and getting enough rest and doing the things that restore us. We need to choose life. We need to choose it for the sake of our own souls and the sake of the world. There are too many angry people out there lashing out and whatever irks them. Too many people about to blow. Too many people who can do so much better. The world needs life and as children of God, it is our job to bring it to them. Really. This is not hubris. We are called to live the God news of God’s love for us. Live it out. We can only do that by steeping ourselves in it first and then embodying it in our lives.
Even more, we choose life when we fight for justice. Justice is love with its sleeves rolled up. Justice is work. And we choose life when we do that work faithfully. We choose life when we quietly but firmly point out racist comments, or language that is demeaning to people with disabilities or weight issues. We choose life when we fight for full and fair funding for public education. We choose life when we fight against the death penalty. We chose life when we actively seek out ways to support the Syrian refugees who feel the world, and specifically the United States have ignored them and their plight. We choose life every time we speak up when immigrants or people who speak other languages are pushed to the margins or told to go back to their own countries. We have to choose life.
Lastly, sometime in the next few weeks I am going to ask you to dream about ministries that you are passionate about. What types of ministry would you get excited about? Those of us who participated in the first small group session last Sunday starting talking about ministries that really feel critical, or resonate in a deep way within us. I want everyone to start thinking about that. At some point in the future we will be starting somewhere new. It is sad and scary but also exciting. The old ways are done. The old ways of being the church are done. It’s over. For everyone. Not just this church. It is really a new day. Admitting that is also freeing. We can go deep and get excited again and pour energy into doing the old thing in a new way, or we could spend our energy in being afraid and second guessing what went wrong and why and holding tight to the old thing the old way. So choose life. Think about what would inspire you. Think about what kinds of things would make you so excited about your church that you were the first one here every Sunday. Think about what was so exciting that you couldn’t wait to tell your friends and family about something going on in church. Write them down. Share them with each other. Make sure the Pastor knows what you are thinking about so we can choose life together. You know how when you claim a negative word or phrase and use it to empower you? Don’t be afraid of the phrase choose life. Claim it. Celebrate it. Use it in ways that are truly life giving for you, this church, the world. It is not so narrow as the right would have us believe. Thanks be to God!