The concept for this week—Choose life or death—is somewhat like headlines in 2020: very dramatic, attention-getting. Even so, a scan of the scripture appointed for today reveals the concept to be quite accurate. In the lesson, we read that we have choices and the consequences of those choices. The psalmist reminds us that when we follow God’s statutes we are happy. In the epistle, we hear that following one or another of the apostles leads us to stray from reliance on God. Finally, the gospel could not be clearer. Jesus tells his followers: you choose your behavior. So, it’s both difficult and simple. Making the decision might be difficult but, once made, the result is simple. Choose life or death, friends.
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If you choose, you can keep the commandments, and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice.
He has placed before you fire and water; stretch out your hand for whichever you choose.
Before each person are life and death, and whichever one chooses will be given.
For great is the wisdom of the Lord; he is mighty in power and sees everything;
his eyes are on those who fear him, and he knows every human action.
He has not commanded anyone to be wicked, and he has not given anyone permission to sin.
sermons4kids: “If we have hurt someone, we should ask God to forgive us and we should go to the person we have hurt and ask them to forgive us. When we have done that, God will be pleased with our heart and with our offering.”
Collect: O God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Reflection: Today’s readings speak of blessings and curses, life and death, good relationships and those that are broken. Moreover, the texts suggest that we
have a choice in these matters. Where do you find life, and where do you not—and what role do your choices play? Where have you experienced broken relationships in your own life or in the church? How do Christ and the reign of heaven enable us to move beyond brokenness and live in mutual support?
Saint Focus: “I would unite with anybody to do right and with nobody to do wrong.” A powerful statement from a man who traversed from slave to prominent influencer in the mid 1800s. Frederick Douglas’ life story reads like fiction—learning to read at his mistress’ direction, escaping from slavery, becoming prominent spokesperson. Read more at the link below [from the Calendar of the church year according to the Episcopal Church.]
This week, the saints under consideration were :
- 13; Absalom Jones, Priest, 1818
- 14; Cyril & Methodius, Missionaries, 869, 885
- 15; Thomas Bray, Priest and Missionary, 1730
- 16; Charles Todd Quintard, Bishop, 1898
- 17; Janani Luwum, Archbishop of Uganda & Martyr, 1977
- 18; Martin Luther, 1546
- 19; Agnes Tsao Kou Ying, Agatha Lin Zhao, & Lucy Yi Zhenmei, Catechists and Martyrs, 1856, 1858,& 1862
- 20; Frederick Douglass, Social Reformer, 1895
Movies/Videos: “Tangled” (2010), power of healing; “Eye in the sky” (2015), complex decisions in contemporary warfare; “Circle” (2015), WARNING ADULT THEMES – group think to decide who is to die (scroll down).
image “The choice is yours” by Ottograph, Amsterdam
Let’s think about what the gospel is saying. In particular, what aspects of the Kingdom of Heaven is Jesus calling us to live out and how are things still woefully lacking in our society today? Can you think of examples in which people are struggling to live into a life of Christ? How might our community do so? Excerpted from Lesson Plans that Work.
If you wish, share your thoughts on our website.
Again, we hear a portion of the Sermon on the Mount. Matthew’s gospel presents Jesus as the fulfillment of Moses. In today’s reading, Jesus speaks of various requirements of the Law. Those who live in his Way will follow the Law inwardly, not simply outwardly. Jesus’ own relationship to God as God’s Child is revealed in his teaching our relationship as children of God given to us in baptism grows through the way of living he taught.
The first reading from Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) is perhaps the clearest statement on human freedom of choice in the Hebrew Scriptures. This passage alone would seem to suggest that everyone can do that which is right unhindered by sin. This passage needs the corrective supplied by today’s gospel reading that makes it clear that we are still dependent upon God’s gracious assistance if we are to carry out the inward obedience that Jesus commands.
In the second reading, Paul continues to seek to deal with division in the Corinthian church between cliques loyal to him and those loyal to Apollos. His approach is to suggest that each member of the body is essential and it is God alone who is building up the church through the varied ministries we are given. The liturgy is this truth about our life in the church, as each of us has a role to play and all of our individual liturgical actions and words combine to make the work of the people of God.
From The Rite Light: Reflections on the Sunday Readings and Seasons of the Church Year. Copyright © 2007 by Michael W. Merriman. Church Publishing Incorporated, New York.