Summary: Communion Meditation for Sunday, November 4, 2007
Slide 1 Last week I said that we never give up the ability to choose; that it is always present in every life circumstance. Now granted there are times in a person’s life and some of us have experienced this, when a loved one has been incapacitated and someone else, usually a designated person, has to take over the decision making process for a while. But for the most part, we never, ever, give up the ability to choose and one of the hallmarks of being a mature adult and a mature Christian adult is taking responsibility for our choices and accepting the consequences of those choices, intended and unintended.
I encountered our main text for this morning during my daily reading this past week and the Spirit spoke to me about this passage and I now simply share the insights that came during that time as a prelude to communion.
Slide 2 What first occurred to me was that the Lord gave the Israelites one basic choice but stated that basic choice in three different ways: life or death, prosperity or disaster, blessings or curses.
Let’s look at these three pairs of words for a moment. The first pair of words is the basic choice that the Israelites were asked make – Life or Death? What does it mean to choose life or death?
To choose life is to choose to live in a right relationship with God through Christ. It is to be open to and empowered by love, joy, peace, and the rest of the Fruits of the Spirit. It is to love God and others as we love ourselves as Jesus said when someone asked Him what the greatest commandment of the entire Jewish faith was.
Now if you are like me, you have found reading through Leviticus and other front-end Old Testament books to be a bit tedious with all of those laws. Let me give you a big picture view of all those laws: They describe the choice of life, prosperity, and blessing and what it should look like.
One of the intriguing and noteworthy passages to me concerns the ‘Cities of Refuge’ that are described in Numbers 35:9-34. These were places to which, as we read in verses 11 and 12, people could ‘flee to if they have killed someone accidentally. These cities will be places of protection from a dead person’s relatives who want to avenge the death. The slayer must not be killed before being tried by the community.’
To me a choice for life, prosperity, and blessing gives people the chance to be innocent until proven guilty because it values human life and a properly followed system of justice. Things that we have said as Americans we believe in while we are aware of the often glaring flaws and mistakes in our system and history.
In these so called boring passages there is an understanding of the need for health and hygiene because as we are all aware of, bacteria and viruses travel very quickly between humans and back then as well as in our time and recent history, we know what unchecked epidemics can do to humanity. Is this not also a case for choosing life?
To choose life is to say no to death. And death in this context is alienation from God, conflict with others, hate toward those who are not one of us and apathy toward the human condition. The kind of death that we so easily choose – spiritual death, moral death, relational death, comes from the pursuit of selfish goals and desires. It says, ‘me first, then everybody else.’
Slide 3 Life brings prosperity not necessarily wealth. One of the other unique laws on the books for the Israelites had to with the period of Jubilee as it appears in Leviticus 25. It was a time that came every fifty years when the land was returned to the original owners. It was designed to not take advantage of others and was to level the playing field. Debts were to be cancelled and slaves were to be freed. Why? God makes in clear in Leviticus 25:14, ‘When you make an agreement with a neighbor to buy or sell property, you must never take advantage of each other.’ It was designed to equalize the playing field and give all a chance to prosper. (Hum, I wonder how different our economy would be if maybe we tried this in 2050 or sooner.)
Slide 3a Life brings blessing not necessarily total freedom from difficulties. To bless someone is to empower them. One of the Biblical dictionaries that I consulted said that to bless people is to ‘[express] good wishes to someone or [offer] prayer to God for his welfare.’ It also said this, ‘among the Jews in their thank-offerings the master of the feast took a cup of wine in his hand, and after having blessed God for it and for other mercies then enjoyed, handed it to his guests, who all partook of it.’ (Does this remind you of something?)