Trinity 12 – September 4th 2022 – Rev Alison Way
Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Luke 14:25-33
In the name of the Living God, loving Father, risen Son and ever present Holy Spirit. Amen
Back in the 1980’s in the video of the pop song – Wake me up before you go-go!, the members of the pop group Wham wore t-shirts emblazoned with the words Choose life. These t-shirts were designed by the clothes designer Katharine Hammett and even now nearly 40 years on, they are still available.
It is a simple statement that – choose life – but behind its very simplicity are also lots of complications. Lots of things can appear to be attractive in how to choose life today, but not all of them can actually help us to have the abundant life God wants for us. Lots of things can appear to be attractive in choosing life but aren’t like:-
The many and varied things we get addicted to today
Making choices that impact our global neighbours without a second thought!
For want of casting aspersions, from the original wearers of the choose life t-shirts, we know the downside of the non-life giving side of some of these kind of things and others! We also know the dilemma choosing life is certainly well beyond the scope of choosing a t-shirt
So in choosing life what should we do is what will bring us life and life in all its fullness today, and is in line with God’s love for us and careful gentle stewardship of the resources we have. Both of today’s readings suggest in different ways how to tackle making life giving choices and both today’s readings are warnings at significant times! Let’s look at them in turn starting with that bit of Deuteronomy.
In it, Moses is setting a significant choice before the Israelites. In their story – we are at the point of the Israelites having bigger and better things and times on the verge of the promised land after 40 years in the wilderness. We have to remember that we are hearing this not just from the mouth of Moses however! Any account in the book of Deuteronomy is a much later version of the story of Moses than when these events first occurred. It is one that was written to make sense of other things that happened to the Israelites later in their story. Deuteronomy was written to help explain why the difficult things – like the destruction of the temple, the loss of the promised land and the exile happened, and to help the Israelites make sense of that too. If you like this is a writing on the wall passage – shock tactics, reminding the Israelites of the importance of choosing God day by day and not going their own way. Choosing the way of adhering to God’s laws for them and a way of explaining why when they didn’t manage to choose God’s way and keep God’s laws. Then things went pear shaped in the form of the destruction of the temple, loss of the promised land and exile in Babylon.
Moving on to the even trickier gospel – Jesus is saying these words as he journeys towards Jerusalem and as he faces a very difficult time ahead. Jesus is trying to help his disciples and the crowd travelling with him at this point to face up to the difficult times that are ahead of him and are potentially ahead of them if they take their discipleship seriously. In these words from Jesus, he tackles some of the things that can get in the way of our discipleship and some of them will come as no surprise. Like setting too much store by our material possessions – which is where it ends, but more surprisingly at the beginning other potential limiters such as our families and even our own lives.
Remember when Jesus is saying these things on the way to his cross at Jerusalem. He is knowingly facing a horrendous prospect of letting go of everything. And if nothing else today – this jarring speech remind us of the length he was willing to go for us all. Giving up on his material possessions, family, his friends deserting him and his own life in his quest to save us. This is also evident in those familiar but deeply challenging words – whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
This is without doubt a wake up call of Jesus to shake off complacency and being too comfortable with ourselves. Though we tend to view family and self as positives and adhere strongly to Christian family values, we can also probably recognise circumstances when family stuff has held us back or others that we know back. Or where self-obsession (or what’s in it for me) has got in the way of creative and Christlike discipleship
We understand what Jesus means with the gift of hindsight, but it must have been tricky for the crowd of his day – who did not know the cross was ahead for Jesus. We know the choice to be Christian can be costly and for Jesus it cost everything, for the love we now experience in the power of the Holy Spirit.
In between these very challenging words of Jesus are the 2 one liner parables – The one about building a tower and the other about waging a war. Both of these seem to be about being more planned and organised and rigorous in our journey of discipleship, and being sure we understand what we are embarking on before we set out.
We would think someone exceedingly foolish to start to build a tower and then not be able to finish it because they did not have enough materials. At the moment we are on the way to raising the funding for our roof appeal thanks to Roger and Richard – We clearly can’t start until we know we can pay for it!
The second one line parable is no more comfortable about not waging wars unless you are likely to win. This is even more jarring in the light of current world events. We have been praying for peace in Ukraine for six months now! The backdrop of the reasons for this conflict are so challenging and the difficulty of anyone ‘winning’ or likely to be winning in this war and others makes all this very stark! The war is in part contributing to the many other difficulties we are facing in terms of the cost of living crisis too.
What is the point of the shock tactics of Jesus here and that is surely what they are in modern media parlance. Don’t be naïve about the journey ahead. Discipleship is not always going to be the easy choice or an easy journey. But it is definitely the way to choose life and hope for now and forever. What does it mean to choose life? it means to choose God and all that God has for us and to live the abundant life he has for us, but not to be surprised when difficult times come along as well as good ones. As is the circumstances at the moment and also to make sure when we are choosing life, we think beyond ourselves to our neighbours across the world in our stewardship of the beautiful world God made for us. Amen
– References The New Revised Standard Version (Anglicized Edition), copyright 1989, 1995.