4th Sunday after Epiphany ‘So Many Choices!’
January 30, 2022 John 15:16
Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,
Last Sunday we could’ve worshipped with the annual ‘sanctity of human life’ theme, usually observed on the Sunday closest to January 22. That was the day -in 1973- when the Supreme Court of the United States made a ruling on the Roe.v.Wade case; choosing to find a right to abort babies under the ‘right to privacy’ granted in the Constitution’s 14th Amendment.
That decision effectively legalized the killing of unborn humans in all 50 states for the last 49 years. And in the last 49 years, over 63 million babies have been sacrificed for those ideas of /personal privacy, /convenience, /so-called women’s health-rights, /and ‘pro-choice.’
Let’s explore this idea that abortion or physician-assisted-suicide is just a human ‘choice.’
Last Sunday we celebrated the beginning of Nat’l Luth.Schools.Week, and were reminded of the choice Immanuel Luth.Church made, years ago, to have a Luth.Pre.School & Day.Sch. That was a choice blessed by God to value our -& our neighbor’s- children, and to raise them up in the knowledge & fear of the Lord. So, in a way, we did celebrate ‘Life Sunday’ last week. We gave thanks to God that He has chosen us for the challenging work of nurturing, supporting, & educating God-given life; we choose to not give-in to the world’s selfish arguments for the death of those who can make life a challenge.
In hearing the Gospel lesson appointed for today, how did God-in-the-flesh treat those who made life for others a challenge? … you know, like the man who was demon-possessed (similar to those with mental illness or addictions), or the mother-in-law who was sick with a fever, or those with various diseases? Jesus received them; many, He healed. He never proposed that they simply be ‘put out of their misery,’ & done away with bec. they made life a challenge.
The Life Sunday theme for this year is ‘God Chose You,’ and the theme verse is from John 15:16, as Jesus says: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you
that you should go and bear fruit.” God Chose You.
Life is filled with many choices. We may take that for granted, living in the time & in the country we live in. Compared to many peoples & places in the world, we do have a great variety of choices. And when we think about that, we are thankful.
From the moment the alarm rings in the morning until our head hits the pillow at night, our days are filled with choices. (don’t we even have choices in alarms & pillows?)
What should I choose: Do I get up or hit snooze button? Will I have breakfast or skip it? What will I wear? Should I do things outside or inside? Will dinner come from the freezer or from a restaurant? Should I watch TV, /read a book, /do some quilting, /or fix that broken chair? Things to do, …do today, or leave for tomorrow?
So many choices! And for the most part, our choices are fairly trivial & short-lived. Does this sound familiar: ‘what do you want for dinner? Hmm-mm. You choose.’
But not all choices are UN-important. Some choices we make are significant; & they can have life-changing consequences for us, and for others. To choose /to go to work or not; /to obey the traffic signal or not; /to pursue a friendship or not; /to react in anger or not. To either follow God’s written guidance for our choices … or not.
Can you think of a time when you regretted a choice you made after you realized how selfish or how damaging it was? Of course, silly question; all of us can. That’s why there’s that well-known phrase: ‘hindsight is 20/20’. We even have the evidence to prove it = our profit/loss statement, our poor health condition, our broken relationships. We’re ALL in the same boat, with a record of bad choices = going all the way back to the first human beings God created.
So, we hear in Genesis 2: “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” We remember that this command to ‘not-choose’ was also very clear to Eve, as she later explained the rule to the serpent – satan.
Since this was the beginning of all created things, think of all the many choices of fruit trees given by God for Adam & Eve to eat of. Of the things that grow on trees, what would you have eaten first, or often? So many good choices. And that one very important choice, God made very simple: not that one tree. So, make your choice in line with God’s will, and you will live. Make your choice outside of God’s will, and you will die. The choice was simple, …until Satan slithered into the garden.
Adam & Eve were hearing 3 voices: God’s voice, Satan’s voice, and their own inner voice. Sadly, they did not obey God’s voice; and by choosing not to follow God’s way, they chose the way of sin & death. Both soul & body were affected; and now their sin-filled DNA has been passed on to every one of us. For Adam & Eve, they had a thousand good & right choices, and just one bad choice to avoid. 6,000 yrs later, it seems the other way around: there are so many bad options, and we struggle to find the one that’s good & right.
Sometimes we might wonder if it would be easier without so many choices. When’s the last time we just had to choose between ‘a’ or ‘b’? That didn’t really help Adam & Eve. But the number of choices of things for us can be overwhelming; and each additional choice has its downsides. Sometimes it seems we’re not choosing ‘the thing’ itself, but choosing what option has the least bad effects. So we ask that age-old Q: what’s the lesser of the two evils ?
Wouldn’t it be nice to have an ‘authoritative guide’ to measure or weigh our choices?
Man has looked to technology & science to help us make our choices. But those things can’t guarantee good choices. Science & technology are blessings from God, but just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should do something. How often has mankind discovered some new avenue of knowledge, and raced ahead in making life-altering choices before pondering the potential bad consequences? (the last 2yrs might be an example of that) This is a very basic dilemma for every man, woman, and child: we have many choices, & we realize we need help in making those choices, & we resist the guidance given by our Creator for those choices.
This is the fatal nature of each one of us; we think we have the right to make our own choices. Like Adam & Eve, we take for ourselves the authority to ‘play god’, thinking we know better than our Creator what to do with our lives, and with the lives of others. We make wrong choices because we are guided by our own standards – instead of God’s standards.
But our standards are /our own convenience, /comfort, /& control; while God’s standards are /holiness, /righteousness, /true morality, /& love.
We often think that the Christian faith is just knowing the basic doctrines of right & wrong, such as the Ten Commandments & confessing the Creeds; and it certainly includes those. But our lives as God’s people -disciples of Christ- is always in the motion of living the faith, or walking in those teachings, and of having to make the good choices as they confront us many times each day.
So, this Christian faith is also found in making our many selections of words & actions. How should we decide the things we select? By the conviction that God is in charge of us, and that His Word gives us the courage & clarity we need to make the right choices.
The bottom line for us is the same as it was for our first parents. There are still 3 voices to choose between – to listen to: /our inner voice, /the voice of satan & the fallen world, /and the voice of our Creator. The lesson of Genesis 2 & 3 is still relevant: the wrong choices will come back to bite us, because our Creator sees, knows, & has made us accountable for our lives. Like the ‘laws of nature’, like gravity, this accountability is the Law of life.
However, since that fateful day in the Garden of Eden, God has established another bottom line; one that’s based on His mercy & grace & patience, which temporarily sets aside His unbending Law against our sin. Thankfully, the God who chose to create us, chose not to let us die in our sin. He elected to redeem us so we could be reconciled to Him. God came looking for Adam & Eve in their garden of sin, despair & death. And even tho death loomed ahead for them, He gave them hope when He said to the serpent Satan: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Gen 3:15).
That verse is a little hard to understand; but other verses of Scripture explain it:
the offspring of the woman would fight for us, be wounded for us, but would crush our enemy for us. Satan still tempts us to think either ‘a’ or ‘b’ = we’re free to make our own choices, or that there’s no hope for us when we’ve made bad choices. We have bruised our lives with guilt & shame & regret, but the Son of God came to save us, to crush satan’s voice, to take away those consequences, and to restore us to life.
Our Creator values us; He values all human life, from conception to natural death. It was His choice to give you life at the moment of fertilization; & it was His choice to renew that life thru a rescue & redemption by the cross of Jesus. Do we imagine that, as the Son of God, it was easy for Jesus to make those choices each day to obey The Father in all things? Was it simple for Him to speak the truth, even when family & friends didn’t like it; to think of other’s needs before His own; to be patient with the people who were slow to believe what He taught; to be lied about & beat up & whipped even tho He did nothing wrong?
Do we think it was easy for Him to go to the cross and die in our place when there are times when we don’t appreciate what He did, or when we are slow to repent of our sin, and reluctant to make the right & godly choices in our living? It was not easy for Him, but He stuck with it, so that we would be forgiven; So that you would have your name written in His Book of Life; and so you do!
Our faith gladly confesses Jesus as the Savior who made the ultimate-good choices for us. Jesus chose /to be conceived by the Holy Spirit, & born of the Virgin Mary; /to suffer under Pontius Pilate, /to be crucified, /to die & to be buried … for us. And then on the 3rd day, Jesus chose to rise from the dead … for us.
How can we be so sure? Because He said: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit.” I think that makes you & me
‘pro-choice’ ! == not in the way the world means it. You & I are pro-God’s choices.
It means being /pro-repentance, /pro-forgiveness, /pro-Jesus, /pro-gospel, /pro-scripture, /and pro-human-life, with all its challenges.
Our life is blessed; we have so many choices! Altho for the most part, it seems that our daily choices are fairly trivial & short-lived. But not all choices are UN-important. Many choices we make are significant; & they can have life-changing consequences for us.
And that’s why Jesus came to be with us. He showed up in-the-flesh to prove that He has chosen us as His own; He has appointed us to listen to Him, walk with Him, so that we will live each day bearing the fruit of good choices.