Sunday, Sept 4
What is so hard about choosing the right way?
From the first days of creation God's design to give us free will has bit Him over and over and over and over, from Genesis to Maps!
The first thing that we did, right out of the gate, was to do the very thing we were told specifically NOT to do. And in the last verses of Revelation, we are given a choice - the invitation- to come, take the water of life.
God has been holding out a choice to us from beginning to end and we have stubbornly refused His offer from beginning to end! I think this reality is why Jesus began his preaching with the words, "Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand".
The message of the Apostles rings with the theme of repentance. From the first sermon on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:38) - "Repent and be baptized every one of you..." to Paul's teachings and letters, "Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth..." - and all the other apostolic writers.
I guess my point here is that we need to pay attention!
Mother Basilea Schlink, a Lutheran nun who set about to repent for the holocaust in Germany, wrote a little book: "Repentance: The Joy-filled life!"
How is that possible?
To Repent is a verb. It's an action word that simply means to change your mind, and to turn around - to change your mind and your direction!
One of my uncles one time was scolded for using one of the emergency crossovers on I-70 to do a U-turn. He was asked why he did that and simply answered, "Cause I was going the wrong way!" When we realize that we are going the wrong way, we need to turn around, as soon as possible!
Our scriptures are pretty clear this morning about what is the right way!
From our reading of Moses in Deuternomy:
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.
Obedience out of Love for God, Walking in His ways because we observe (to do) His commandments, decrees and ordinances.
I know that the Jews didn't have a great record, almost as good as ours!!
One writer commented that God's choice of the Jews as His Chosen People was because they are "just like the rest of us, only more so!"
David's Psalm 1 lays it out pretty clearly as well:
In v. 2...
Their delight is in the law of the Lord, *
and they meditate on his law day and night.
and they meditate on his law day and night.
Later in Ps 37 he encourages us to "delight ourselves in the Lord". and He will give us the "desires of our hearts."
What a promise!
but "delight thyself" comes before our "desires."
Repentance is the daily acknowledgement of our never-ending need for God. We never arrive, though we struggle on the journey towards truth and toward the ultimate end of our full redemption. We are constantly going off-road!
Paul laid out a clear message to Timothy and to us as He spoke about the Word of God and its task in our lives. It is for teaching, for rebuke, for correction and then for training in righteousness!" The image I use in thinking about that scripture in 2 Tim 3:16 is one of taking an off ramp. Have you ever taken an off-ramp by mistake? And then tried to figure out how to get back on the right route?
Today we hear the word: "recalulating" and Google maps or our GPS will re-route us to our destination ... sometime by way of a u-turn!
We need to see repentance like that! Just a matter of the daily course of our life - cause we're gonna get off track- we're gonna go off road! And then we need the GPS - God's Positioning System to tell us where we went off and how to get back. 2 Tim 3:16 - remember the address!
And finally, Jesus himself in our Gospel reading this morning is clear again: Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.
What did that mean to the disciples who heard it?
We know they heard it because they wrote it down,
but I don't really think they understood what Jesus was talking about until AFTER the Cross! So much of His teaching was like that - aimed THROUGH the Apostles, by the Holy Spirit, AT US!
The cross, as we know, was not a decoration that could be shined up for Sunday morning wear. It had a definitive purpose in that time, and only one purpose! Death.
Moses said, "I put before you life and death."
Paul is clear that the "wages of sin is death!"
So how can we "choose" life?
Well if we are to believe Jesus, to choose life we must choose the Cross - we must choose death. Death to our life as it is. Death to our desires, where they depart from the desires of the Spirit of God. Instead we choose the cross.
Like the bumper sticker that says "YOUR CHOICE: BOW NOW OR BOW LATER!" This is a Die now or DIE later choice for the only way of Repentance is the way of the Cross.
Our baptism is a symbol of that choice to die! Under the water we go in burial and out of the water we come to new life! But its not about the magic that is in the water, its about the change of heart that is in the choice.
Our table here at communion is not about the "hocus pocus" in the words said over the bread and the wine, its about the Body and the Blood that becomes spiritual nourishment when met by a repentant heart - a believing heart!
Friends, repentance is our life and our breath. Repentance is our daily bread. It is our narrow path and the gateway to glory! Repentance is our friend - not our enemy. It is the means to move us towards our redemption. It appropriates to us the living presence of Jesus - "it's no longer I who live," Paul said, "but Christ who lives his life in me."
Repentance is empowered by God's love, His grace, His mercy. But repentance must come, and come, and come, and come, --- day after day, week after week, year after year, --- repentance must come, for it is the doorway to "the joy-filled life."
And that's the one we all want to live.
Amen and amen. Let's pray.
Grant us, Lord, through your great mercy, the gift of repentance! Give us each eyes to see the path you want for us and the wisdom from your Word to stop, to choose and to change. Our lives and the lives of our families, our very nation, depend on us who are called by Your Name. So lead us to repentance and to new life in You, who reigns in Heaven and on earth, with your Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.