Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A

moses_pleading_with_israel_cropChoose Life

Today we are going to look at two very challenging sermons. First there is Moses in the wilderness speaking to the Children of Israel. Moses is preparing the people to enter the promise land:

Moses said, “See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.”   (Deuteronomy 30:15-20)

Now let us fast forward several thousand years. Jesus is delivering his Sermon on the Mount. He is preparing the people to enter the promises of God:

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.   (Matthew 5:21-24)

What might these sermons have in common? In both sermons, God is calling his people to obey his commandments. Moses spells out clearly what the consequences will be when the commandments are obeyed and when they are not. Jesus warns against hypocrisy and following only the letter of the law. Moses and Jesus both say: “Choose life.” God’s way is the path to life that is both joyful and eternal.

The psalmist writes:

Happy are they whose way is blameless,
who walk in the law of the Lord!

Happy are they who observe his decrees
and seek him with all their hearts!   (Psalm 119:1-2)

The psalmist tells us that we will find happiness when we walk in the law of the Lord. When we keep God’s commandments we will discover the joys of living in his presence.

What happens when we fail in following the commandments? We all fail. Do we then hide from God in shame? The psalmist tells us that the key is seeking God with all our hearts! Jesus has turn open the curtains of heaven. Through faith in his saving act on the cross we have access to the Father. Jesus is our intercessor who pleads for us continually before the Father. He alone will present us spotless before the throne of God.

We are invited to choose life. But first we must choose Jesus. He has chosen us and laid down his life for us. Are we ready to love the Lord our God, walk in his ways, and observe his commandments this day?

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Filed under Epiphany, homily, Jesus, lectionary, liturgical preaching, liturgy, preaching, Revised Common Lectionary, sermon, sermon preparation, Year A

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