“See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live” -Moses
Did you ever see the 1996 film Trainspotting? If you had, then you’d remember the opening
“Choose Life” monologue of Ewen McGregor’s character in which he admits that he and his circle of heroin-addicted friends living in the Leith district of Edinburgh have given up their right to choose.
McGregor’s character puts it this way: “Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin.”
People in the full possession of their faculties don’t routinely choose negative outcomes. What you will hear, though, is that men and women feel they have no choice in many matters. It’s work, its family, it’s all those inner compulsions which overtake us. We’re too old. We’re too young. It’s the addiction speaking. It’s company policy. We claim not to be the prime movers which the passage from Deuteronomy suggests that we are: able to choose door number one or door number two, the red pill or the blue pill, the fork in the road to the left or one to the right.
In the four verses preceding this Sunday’s reading, Moses states that the commandments of God are “very near”. They are in the hearts and on the tongues of his people. The information we need has been there the whole time. When questioned in the aftermath of a personal disaster most folks will admit that they knew better than to sit mutely on their hands. Is there, perhaps, some comfort in being powerless to choose and willfully blind in the face of what we should be able to see clearly? Circumstances (like heroin) rob us of our power to choose. But have we not chosen to nestle ourselves in these very circumstances, to blend in to the background, to blur our own vision or to vote with the majority? People devastate themselves, their families, their relationships and their communities all the time by their willful inaction.
Moses sharpens his stick. He makes a reference to time: “I have set before you this day” - life and good and death and evil. Ladies and gentlemen, ten inches in front of your feet the road forks.
It will be one way or t’other.
There is both hard news and good news in such passage of Scripture. It is hard news for the willfully blind that their blindness may be self-inflicted and they have no excuse. They must choose. Here and now. It is good news for those of you who have felt themselves powerless and who had forgotten that the world is a more open place than it is a closed place. You can choose. Yesterday’s bad choice or your own personal history is no perpetual contract. Every moment contains that threshold and that doorway to life.
-The Rev. Robert J. Warren