In the Promised Land, Choose!
In the Fade, movie
Set in Germany In the Fade is a movie about people choosing the destruction of life. A German mother drops her young son off with her husband at work so that she can make a visit. Leaving his office the mother admonishes a young woman to lock up her new bike she’s just left with a case on its rear carrier. When the mother returns the police inform her that her husband, a German of Turkish descent, and their young German-born son were killed by a fertilizer nail bomb. The bike’s case held the bomb made by the perpetrator’s husband.
The outcome of the trial seems obvious, but their lawyer creates reasonable doubt; the bombers are acquitted. Captive to revenge the grieving mother tracks the guilty-acquitted couple to a beach on the ocean. There she kills them with a fertilizer nail bomb, and she loses her life in the process.
The movie denounces the rise of neo-Nazi killings. The first bomb was set to kill as many non-native Germans as possible. More clearly it demonstrates that, without the freedom of faith that calls us to forgive, people choose to become captives to revenge. Revenge is a two-edge sword that cuts everyone.
OT: As you enter the PL, Choose: life or death, blessings or curses
By comparison, living in God’s promise is a multi-sided blessing. As God delivers God’s promise to Abraham and ushers the people across the Jordan into the Promised Land, Moses admonishes them to choose God each day. Moses knows they will need to or they will fall under the curses of other gods, including gods that people still choose today. Living in the Promised Land does not mean that life will be easy, obvious, or without dire peril. Nor does it mean that all people are free. Today people are regularly enslaved as labourers around the world and on the high seas as well as those forced into the sex trade.
God delivers us into the Promise. God will not take us out of the Promised Land. As God’s children God frees us so that we always have a real choice between Life and Death, between blessings and curses, even when we do not see the choices clearly.
What Promised Land has God brought us to, long ago, or maybe just yesterday? What Blessings and Curses must we choose between?
Remember first that God’s Promise delivered at our baptism is that we are always God’s children, made righteous by Jesus’ sacrifice and Grace. God gives us a choice, but it is not about receiving or earning God’s Grace and our salvation. Our choice is how we live in that Grace. Do we, guided and inspired by God’s Spirit, choose blessings and life, or do we choose our own ways that lead to curses and death for us and for others?
Break my Heart, (Set me on fire!)
A well-known prayer … reads: “May my heart be broken by the things that break the heart of God.” (World Vision’s founder, Bob Pierce).
The risk of praying this prayer is that God might just answer it with a Holy Fire that sets our hearts on fire to bring blessings to every human of the 7.7 plus billion whom we can possibly effect, starting today, with those beside us, those we meet each step through each day, and those we go out of our way to encounter, until everything in our lives changes as we become the hands, voice and blessings of Christ. We join the great cloud of witnesses to Christ’s love for all people.
NT Philemon’s Real Story: Giving FREEDOM
In our second lesson for today we read part of the letter Paul wrote to Philemon and his congregation. It is about an escaped slave, Onesimus, the man who carries the letter to Philemon. Paul sends him back to his master, Philemon, and lights a Holy Fire under Philemon.
Escaped slaves were crucified, a dire warning to any other slaves who tried to escape. Anyone, through a terrible turn of fortune or war, could become a slave. Becoming a freed slave was very, very rare.
Still Paul admonishes Philemon, with the congregation listening, to do the rare but right thing, the good thing, the personally costly thing.
C.S. Lewis: Paint and Eggs, Stain and Get Cracking
C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity called this the difference between paint, which merely covers the surface, and stain which soaks in deep to protect to the centre. Paul trusts that the Gospel daily seeps down into Philemon’s heart and strength. As with all Paul’s new converts in congregations spread so far, Paul nurtures the seeds of faith, like a mother hen sitting on her eggs. It is fine to be a fertilized egg, waiting to become something, but now it’s time to get cracking. It’s time for Philemon to show his colours and give Onesimus his freedom.
How does God place before us this day the choice of blessings gained by sacrificing our rights and privileges in order that another human can live in freedom? What egg needs to hatch in our lives bringing us into a new reality? What choices does God give us today?
Route 44, Not Getting it Right
We may not get it right. We may be more like the 88 year old driver of the car the cop pulls over because it was going 44 kph on the highway where the speed limit is 110. When he approaches the car he notices that the four elderly passengers appear to be shocked into a daze, the air taken out of them.
The officer warns the driver that it is dangerous to drive so far below the speed limit. She responds that she was going exactly the speed limit of 44 kph just like the sign said.
The officer starts to answer sternly until the light bulb goes off for him and he says: “No ma’am, the speed limit is 110 here. Though this is highway 44.”
“Oh,” says the driver as it’s obvious the wheels are churning for her. Then the officer asks, “Is everyone alright? They all seem shell shocked.”
The driver answers as it falls into place for her, “No, officer. Thank you. Yes, they will be alright in a minute or two. You see, a few miles back we turned off highway 169.”
Taking care of ourselves, our faith, and the promised land we live in is hardly simple. Sometimes it’s the most difficult thing in our lives to get right. When we make mistakes with the freedom Christ gives us, we often add a huge dose to the challenges the Devil tries to suck us into. The results can often scare the living daylights out of us, at least they should.
Luke: Know the Cost
In today’s Gospel Jesus admonishes the crowd to know and prepare for the cost of discipleship as they commit themselves to following him.
Hate is not Jesus’ way, but it is an example of the extreme commitment that following Jesus will place on us. Nothing else can be more important to us than following Jesus, nothing, not even love for family. Jesus tells us to count the cost before we jump in, for the cost will be more than any love or even all of our possessions. Better to count the cost first and be prepared, than to run into a wall too high, or a battle too big, and collapse in shame.
It is not unlike marriage. If we really knew what we were getting into there are precious few of us who would be able to make such a commitment. Fortunately, endorphins and hope help us commit to each other in marriage. Its challenges are God’s way of bringing us to understand God’s love for us.
Likewise, fortunately, most of us are baptized as infants, a choice made for us by our parents and sponsors, otherwise the high cost could stop many of us. Yet the cost of discipleship is required for us to participate in life overflowing with God’s blessings for which we are created!
William White tells the story of Heddie Braun, a woman who lived the first four years of her life in Norway and then emigrated to Little Prairie, WI.
Heddie was a powerful presence at the age of 88 with all of her 80 lbs. hung on a 5’ 2” frame. On a cold fall evening Heddie was kidnapped from her single-story home where she lived with Eddie, her blind husband. The kidnapper cut power and telephone wires to the house, entered through the backdoor, picked up Heddie and put her in the trunk of his car. He drove her to his home, put chains on her legs and hid her in a tiny trailer out back. For days Heddie was always cold, she didn’t have her heart medicine, and she lost track of time. A confusing ransom call was made on a disposable phone to her grandson. It was a total failure.
Although time melted into a well-stirred soup, Heddie was not confused about who she was and to whom she belonged. Held captive she knew Christ made her free.
The police identified the kidnapper. He had worked for the family, but was now unemployed and desperate. At one time he had been a friend.
Heddie almost lost her foot to frostbite but she was tough and her foot was saved. Asked later how she stayed so strong, Heddie replied. “I’m Norwegian. The whole time I was in the trailer I remembered that my kidnapper was just a person like me. No matter what the cost I was going to choose life. It was so hard, harder than anything I’ve ever done, but I forgave him.” She turned to her grandson, “You have to forgive him, too.” (In Over Our Heads, pp. 14ff, Augsburg 2007, re-told TL and KAS)
So we pray
Christ sets us free, so we pray: May our hearts be broken by the things that break the heart of God.
May our joy be in choosing life, blessings, and freedom for all people.