Friday, August 26, 2016

Year C, Proper 18, Deuteronomy 30:15-20, Choices

"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."

Our God is not a punishing God, but one who in love, shares with us the real and inevitable consequences of our actions.  

There are choices that will lead to an abundant and prosperous life.  And choices that will lead to death.

It is as though God is writing the warning label on products and behaviors.  "Smoking may cause cancer."  It is not that God punishes smokers by striking them down with cancer.  He doesn't.  It's an inherent risk associated with that behavior.  And God wants us to know that.

Drive in an unsafe manner, speeding, running stop lights, driving drunk, and you will die (or perhaps you will kill someone else).  The natural consequences of these behaviors are pretty straight forward.  And God would not have us experience those consequences, and so warns us.  Like a parent who warns their child not to touch the hot burner, God warns us.  Just don't do it.  Trust me, don't do it.

Unfortunately for us, we have this rebellious streak within us that refuses to heed the advice of those wiser than ourselves, opting instead to learn from our own mistakes, if at all.  And God, patiently, persistently, and all too frequently, must sit back and say "I tried to tell you, but you would not listen!"

For all of God's fatherly advice, we are still prone to jump to the conclusion that God punishes for the sake of punishing.  Its like a teenager who ends up in jail for drunk driving and is convinced that their parent called the cops on them.  Rather than accept responsibility for their own actions, they seek someone else to blame.  

Choose life and you will live.  Choose death and you will die.  Sound advice.  But we don't like to admit there are consequences to our actions.

Scientists predict dire consequences for our planet if we do not take action of climate change.  Global warming is directly related to our actions.  But we are deaf to the warnings.  We don't believe the warnings.  We refuse to accept responsibility.  Perhaps when cities like New Orleans and Miami are underwater, we will become believers.  Or perhaps we will simply blame the Core of Engineers.  

Choices have consequences.  And all our loving God can do is warn us of the consequences and hope, beyond hope, we will make the right choice.

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