Sunday, 16 February 2014

Choosing Life in Jesus

A short homily for the Sixth Sunday after Epiphany in Year A with reference to Dt 30.15-20, 1 Cor 3.1-9 and Mt 5.21-37: 

Jesus, through a labyrinthine process of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration of men and women throughout the ages, all the way from Moses to Paul and Jesus himself, keeps cutting to the quick and calling us to account. Jesus speaks to us through Moses and Deuteronomy, through scriptures which he said “cannot be broken” (John 10.35) and which ”bear witness about" him (John 5:39). Jesus also said that he is The One Moses "wrote of." (John 5:46). So, down through the ages, it’s Jesus who calls us to choose life (Dt 30.19). Jesus sets before us life and prosperity, death and adversity (Dt 30.15). Jesus plays for keeps. Life and death. Live or die. It’s our choice—as individuals and as a parish. So, Jesus says, obey The LORD’s commandments, love him, walk in his ways, observe his commandments, then you shall live, become numerous and be blessed (Dt 30.16). Choose life, Jesus says through Moses, that you and your children shall live—loving, obeying and holding fast to the LORD your God (Dt 30.20).

Or not. If we allow our hearts to turn away, and do not hear, and are led astray (Dt 30.17), “you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land,” (Dt 30.18) an uncomfortable message for us mainline denominations who are in decline.

Paul wrote about Jesus, too, but I (1 Corinthians 3:1–3) “could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh.” Could that be true of us? Are we still infants, unable to digest solid food, living and behaving only according to my human inclinations (1 Cor 3.3)—merely human (1 Cor 3.4) and closed off to any spiritual growth? Do I need to choose life again, grow up, get a job in this kingdom doing some planting or watering (1 Cor 3.6) so God can provide some growth (1 Cor 3.7) to St Barnabas?

Choose life, says Moses. Grow up, says Paul. Jesus takes us to another level in the Gospel this morning. “You have heard that is was said,” he says. Three times. The culture inside and outside of the church will keep re-interpreting the Scriptures so we can do what we want, argue the toss with God, get a better deal—what is God thinking? That can’t be right, it sounds intolerant and exclusive! But over and over again, Jesus says, “I say to you,” (Mt 5.22, 28, 32, 34) don’t even be angry with or insult a brother or sister, says Jesus (Mt 5.22). If you even just call them a fool—you idiot!—“you will be liable to the hell of fire” (Mt 5.22). Jesus says even looking at a woman with lustful intent is adultery (Mt 5.28), and that divorce is a very serious matter which is directly linked to adultery and one of the ten commandments. These are utterly demanding matters, full of potential; for life, blessings, goodness and prosperity; and for death, curses, adversity and evil (Dt 30.15 & 19).

Choose life, Jesus says, clear and simple, yes or no. The choosing might be simple, but living it out isn’t. We’ve all got our pasts and our sin, our thoughts, words and deeds, things done and left undone. We’ve all got our less than perfect relationships. We’ve all said our no’s to Jesus. What can we do? Choose life. Life is to be found in Jesus, and him crucified. If there is to be true life, it must be in Jesus. If there is to be healthy growth, Jesus provides it. Jesus provides the grace by which we can be pleased with brothers and sisters rather than angry, to honour them rather than putting them down, to look a women (or men, ladies) honourably and with respect. Jesus is the loving source of the grace and forgiveness we need to deal with all our relationships, broken or whole. In Jesus is all we need to set us free from sin and death in all of life no matter what.

Jesus, like Aslan, is not safe, tame or easy, but he is good, loving, life-giving and absolutely trustworthy.