Dare to Live

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

[Watch sermon here.]

Moses says,
“I set before you life or death, blessing or curse.
Choose life, then, so that you and your descendants may live.”

As Moses speaks these words to the Hebrew people,
they are in a liminal space. An in-between space.
They are about to cross over the river and enter a new land.
And they will have to figure out how to survive.

Choose life? Of course!
Who doesn’t want to live? But how?

The poet Rumi writes,
“Your task is not to seek for love,
but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself
that you have built against it.”

We build barriers against love.
Likewise, have we been building barriers around life?

What keeps us from loving?
What keeps us from living?

For Israel,
the choice of life and the choice of which gods to serve are intertwined.
We can have life. In fact, we can lead a lot of different kinds of lives!
And we can have a lot of different kinds of gods.
But there is one God who leads to genuine life.
Loving the true god is choosing life, well-being,
wholeness, goodness, and prosperity (however you measure prosperity).
Swearing off the false gods, the false ways, is the way.
It is the only way because there is no god but God.

What do we have to let go of to grab on to this one god?

What do you think the Israelites needed to leave behind
so they could enter this new place?
Or the leaders of the latter-day kingdom of Judah, to whom the book of Deuteronomy was presented as a call back to covenant faithfulness?

What do they need to give up so they can be
present, just, open, and kind?
And what do we followers of Jesus have to give up to enter a new space?
A new life?
I am hooked on this question.
Moses lets no one off the hook. We have to make a decision.
“I set before you life or death, blessing or curse. Choose life.”

I want to choose life; I really do,
but no one taught me how!
Nobody told me that my life choices deprive other people of life.
Nobody told me how people were treated when they made my clothes.
Nobody told me about the history of race in my community and my neighborhood.

What do I need to give up to get to a new place?

No one taught me how to stinking live in a way that brings life!

I am part of these complexes that bring death.
And I want to choose life!
I want to cross over the Jordan River.
But everything I have breathed in has come from a place of death.
Of dry bones. Of desert spaces. Of wastefulness.

The culture at large teaches us to be mindless,
to ignore the consequences of the choices we make.
I want to say yes.
I don’t know how to say yes. Do yes. Be yes.

How do we practice life?

Moses tells us,
You can practice life by loving God,
obeying God’s voice, and committing to God.

Obedience in Hebrew is: shama (שָׁמַע).
It means to listen and to give your attention.

Are we listening to God?
Or are we just going along with the ways of Pharoah?

Loving God requires us to actively consent
to be opened to what God’s love requires of us.
Loving God means opening to God’s grace
and the possibility of living a different way.

To love is to open.
To obey is to listen openly.
To commit is to make an active offering to something new.
Fully. Wholeheartedly.

how do I reject death and greed and survival at the cost of another?
it takes active resistance
we speak up about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender dignity
because there are churches doing the opposite
there is a baptist church in Florida
making their members sign homophobic statements
it is important to say
we choose life
we want life for you
flourishing for you
you as you are
queer trans black brown white big bodied small bodied nerdy awkward loud quiet
we chose life
life for the trans community
life for the black community
life life life
we chose life
in a nation
that spends more on war than education
we travel abroad to help people but what about traveling locally
to help those who are dying in our backyard
life life
life for the non-binary kids
and life for the disabled kids
and life for those with speech impediments
and you who never had someone to sit with at lunch
i choose life for you.
show me what life looks like for you.
how i can support life for you.
i love you
i will give up my life for you.
sign a petition
buy fair trade
buck the system, buy nothing, give and get stuff for free
i will learn pronouns for you
study queer history
say the name of Tyre Nichols over and over until no other black boys have to die on the street
we can all watch the movie Fruitvale Station and see how senseless the murders of black bodies have been
no more
no way
we will learn our history
we will change our life
to enter a new space
with God
we have to be willing
to give up
that which separates us from lovegodgraceoneanothersoftnessjusiceintegrityandverdancy
we are leaving the desert
entering the promised land
but still life and history are violent
and still full of colonizing and unjust possession of lands and bodies
and god is saying no more
choose life
i am sick of opening the newspaper
to another dead young one
i am ready for a new space, no matter what it costs me
it requires something of us
we have been cultured for another land
and if we are to enter a new place, we have to learn new customs.

Learn. Love. Listen.
Listen to our God.
Listen, our god is the god of the exodus,
the god of bucking the system,
of rejecting the low wages and slave labor
that pharaoh uses to make a profit.
Instead of profits, god makes prophets
who say people be dying.
Matthew Shepherd.
Rita Hester, a transgender woman in Boston.
Killed by death
Death dealing systems seek out and destroy that which is beautiful.
But God say, No! No more death!
Today is the day for lifelifelife
Today no one else will die.

Today, God looks into the eyes of Pharoah
and says, let my people go.

And Pharaoh says no
But still Moses goes
And starts a protest and brings on a resistance movement
And a liberation sit-in of people not working.
God and Moses use as many ways as possible to say
No more death!
Today is the day for life.

This way is for you.
This is what God wants for you
as you rest in this in-between place,
halfway between life and death,
at the edge of the Jordan River,
the desert behind you, the Promised Land before you.

It is okay to linger here,
where death and life intermingle.

Let yourself be loved in places of death.
Let yourself be embraced in places of sadness.
It is not easy to journey to a new place.
It is not easy to welcome life. even.
It changes everything.

Let yourself be loved. Here.
Let yourself be love. Here.

God is with you in the borderland.

God is present. Yes.
This quiet, present God is also the bold God of signs and wonders.
The God who led the people out of Egypt.
The God who parted the Red Sea.
Our God is the God of the Resurrection.
Things happened with our God, both in the quiet remaining of the weeping disciples and the bold appearance of the living Christ.

God has made the bold choice. In the Exodus.
God has made the bold choice. In the resurrection of Jesus.
God charges us to make the bold choice.

Sometimes we assume the Exodus (or the Resurrection) is this really big thing.
But sometimes the bold choice is a soft thing happening in our lives.
A phenomenon that could not be captured on video, media, or headlines.

If we recast it softly, maybe we can find, in our own lives,
moments that were in fact a soft exodus, a soft resurrection.

A moment when we said, No more.
Or said, This is not okay.
Or, God is choosing something for me, steering me.
Or, I entered a new land. Or, I let go of what was possessing me.
When was there a moment when you moved through that liminal space?
God chose life; we chose life; life chose us.

This choice upends everything.

Faith is a dare. Right now.
God is daring us to step out into the unknown.

God lays down the challenge.

Dare to live.

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