Summary: In response to Virginia Tech: we have choices -- to choose to live in the here and now; to choose to give life to our children by contradicting this violent culture; and to choose life eternal for ourselves.
“I had no choice.” Of all the things we heard this past week from the deeply disturbed mind of Cho Seung Hui, that stands out for me as key: “I had no choice.” Cho Seung Hui felt trapped and cornered. He felt driven to do this terrible thing. In his mind, every victim was to blame – they were rich kids, achievers, representing everything he thought he could never be. And so, planning both carnage and suicide, Cho told us we had had a hundred billion chances to stop him. In his cold, calculating heart, he had no choice but to do what he did.
Most of us, I am sure, would dispute that. We look at the weeks of planning, purchasing guns, writing manifestos, and brooding, and we would say to Cho, “But you did choose. You chose to kill. You chose to destroy. You did have a choice, and you made a horribly wrong one.” Yet apparently that is not what he felt. He felt himself to be in a trap from which there was no escape, and more, he felt himself to be a victim not unlike Jesus Christ, sacrificed by the principalities and powers. T. S. Eliot lamented that “April is the cruelest month”, and it seems that way when we think of the Columbine killings, done in April of 1999, the Oklahoma bombing in April of 1995, and the martyrdom of Martin Luther King on Good Friday, April 4, 1968. This season, when we remember how the Lord Jesus was crucified, evokes from those in whom rage runs deep a strange desire to mimic that ancient crime. “I had no choice.”
And yet, this is the Easter season, as our pastor reminded us last week. This is the season of life, this the season in which we recall not only that Jesus was crucified, dead, and buried, but also that on the third day He rose again from the dead and now He lives. Against all odds, against the powers that took Him down, He lives. And He brings life.
I take you now to Moses, who had brought the people of Israel out of captivity in Egypt. He had rescued them from slavery and struggle. Through the waters of the Red Sea they had come, unscathed; through desert and drought, battle and blistering heat, now they were at the very edge of the land of promise. It looked as though soon Canaan would be theirs. It was all done, wasn’t it? What else was there to decide? What else needed to be done? But Moses spoke of making a choice, an ultimate choice:
See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity … I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life
Choose life! Of course! Who wouldn’t? I have set before you life and death. How may we choose life?
For one thing, we can choose whether to live or to die emotionally. We can choose to live with vitality and joy, or we can choose to shrivel like rotten fruit on the vine. We can choose to live with purpose and meaning and direction and energy. Or we can choose to dry up. We can choose to let authentic life just slip away.
When Moses told the people that God was giving them a choice between life and death, he reminded them that God’s word of life was right there in front of them, ready for the taking.
Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, "Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?" Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, "Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?" No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.
Moses was telling the people that right here, right now, matters. They have the choice of taking this moment and living, or they can let it pass, dwindling away into nothing. God’s truth is here for us, now. God’s life is available to us, now. Seize the moment. Carpe diem. Those who really choose to live are those who live with all their senses throbbing and with their hearts in love with all the gifts of God.
Cho Seung Hui made his moment a moment of death. Somehow he could not get past old wounds. He believed that everything was against him. His past was too much; it overwhelmed him. Some of us, you see, are buried in the past. Our lives are full of regrets. Nothing is as good as it used to be. Everything is downhill. And when you live in the past and not in the present, you have chosen death and not life. You have chosen self, which is death, and not God, who is life. If you choose to dwell in negativity, the end is not far away.