Choose life

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

Choose life, what does that mean anyways? Moses says this to the people as they are about to go into the promised land. It is the last words he says to them before he dies, along with all the blessings and cursing. Choose life has always stood put to me though.

Choose life does not mean we are saved from ourselves and live a magical life with no troubles or problems. Choose life is said to the people at a beginning and an ending. They are ending wandering in the wilderness, they have ended being slaves in Egypt. Part and parcel of choosing life is never forgetting this. Never forgetting they were strangers who needed taking in, taking care of, that they relied on others to help them and relied fully on God.

Yes, they made mistakes. They wished to go back to slavery because they were afraid of starving and God provided. They complained when they thought they had run out of water and God provided. They were afraid when they reached the promised land of the big inhabitants there so they had to remain lost, outside until they gained confidence.

Choose life, we are facing some of the same challenges. A nation with a mentality of scarcity, we need to keep it for ourselves. Never mind how we were founded, that our own beginnings here were from being refugees from religion to potato famine and so much more. Choose life means one of the blessings is welcoming and taking care of the stranger in our midst.

Choose life means we don't close ourselves in our homes, in our walls, in our homes protecting ourselves from imagined dangers without. Choose life means looking out and remembering the fabric of our own stories. Once we were lost, once we needed a hand up, once we needed tot be watched out for and then we were able to begin anew.

Choosing life means living fully, not some cheap reduced fear, but truly coming out of ourselves for someone else. I've been reading a story of Thurgood Marshall and his traveling south to defend others when he was a lawyer for the NAACP. How he barely escaped being lynched, how people didn't want to see him coming because they wanted to hold  onto their hate and anger for another because of the color of their skin. Marshall chose to live life in a way that might mean his death, but it was still choosing life over fear.

We may never face a choice like that. We are facing much easier choices everyday. Do we choose life when we get angry with someone, because Jesus tells us today that even being angry is a violation of do not murder, of Torah? Do we lust for power and safety and choose to forget about the suffering of another because this violates loving your neighbor as yourself? Do we even ask the question?

This is one of the places we get into trouble. Jewish people have a tradition of asking any question of the scripture they can think of. It comes through in commentary and a form of story called midrash which fills in the gaps of a scripture story through questioning why it isn't there. It asks us to look deeper just as Jesus is asking us to do today in Matthew. Choosing life means we have to look more deeply and not be afraid to do so.

Fear is not choosing life. Anger is not choosing life. Self righteousness is not choosing life. Choosing life means to live in love. It is the hardest most fearsome thing to do because when we choose life we choose to live authentically. Deeply involved in a gospel we don't fully understand, digging into ourselves to wash away fear, hate, bitterness, and anger. We try to fully live as if we were going to die, as though living depended on it.

There was a poem included in one of the commentaries this week and I want to close with this. Take it as a prayer exemplifying one way to choose life.