Rev. George Miller
March 28, 2021
Months ago we discussed Deuteronomy 30, a vital chapter in our faith.
Moses had been leading the people through the wilderness. Before entering the Promised Land, they are given a choice- choose God or choose not to follow God.
Moses reminds them of all they and their ancestors have been through, all that God has done on their behalf.
He says- “Before you is wellness and life, adversity and decay. Choose God, choose life, choose today so that you can enjoy God’s beautiful nahalah and be blessed.”
Choice. It’s such a part of being an individual.
I think of a dear friend who shared the reality of being a 1st time parent to a young girl soon to be 2.
She’s discovering and establishing a sense of space, choosing which parent she prefers.
At this moment, it’s not him; and it hurts. He’s a tall, good spirited, goofy fellow with a big heart who is used to using humor and a winning smile to endear folk.
But not his daughter.
The other day he stepped into her room. She did not want him there. She told him so. When he didn’t leave, she threw toys at him.
He thinks she’s misbehaving. What I observed is that she’s trying to establish boundaries, and when he didn’t listen to her, she resorted to physically articulating what he did not hear.
I told my friend that he should be thankful that she is learning about personal space, knows how to say “no”, and it’s important that he honors her request.
We also discussed the skill of offering choices as opposed to “yes” or “no” questions.
Choice is not only part of our identity as individuals, it plays a major part in our faith.
There’s that discussion about God’s involvement in our life- does God control everything? Is our entire life plotted out and we have zero control over what happens?
Are we just puppets in a play that we didn’t know was already written?
Scripture tells us differently. Scripture shows again and again how folk are free to make a choice.
Cain was given the choice to not kill his brother. Shiphrah and Puah chose to disobey the pharaoh.
Moses’ mother made a choice to place her baby in a basket; Miriam chose to follow him down river; the Princess chose to rescue him from the weeds.
Esther made the choice to speak up, Jonah to run away, Daniel to pray.
Mary made a choice when she said “Here I am.” The M & M Sisters made their choices, which Jesus would not take away.
We can call these “The Theology of Choice”.
The idea that although God is active in our life, we are free to make our own choices, to experience the results and consequences, to realize that the choices of others affects us, as our choices affect them.
We see this in today’s reading. Jesus has spent time with Zacchaeus. Now he is entering Jerusalem.
An outpouring of praise emerges from the disciples as they lay down their cloaks and sing “Blessed is the king!”
The Gate Keepers of the faith tell Jesus to silence his follower’s voices to which Jesus says, “If they were silent, the stones would shout out” which is a poetic way of saying “I will not take away their choice.”
If we subscribe to the Theology of Choice, you can see it’s presence abound in the disciples choosing to follow his instruction, the owner chooses to let them borrow the colt, the people’s choice to celebrate, Jesus not silencing their voices.
Theology of Choice.
Is it possible that choice is what justice is about? Allowing folks to make decisions? Granting people the ability to have a say in their life?
Therefore, is it taking away the right to choose which makes something unjust?
Marriage Equality was about giving folk the right to get married to who they love if they so choose.
Women’s Equity ensured women’s right to vote and make the choice who they wanted to see in office.
Perhaps the biggest example of American and global injustice is slavery, which has taken away the choice and freedom of millions.
Perhaps this is what has made COVID so painful for many. The sense that COVID has stripped away many of our choices.
The quarrels COVID has created surrounding choice.
What is and what’s not the right way to respond to a pandemic?
To mask or not to mask?
Distance or not to distance?
Vaccine or no vaccine?
Close church, continue worship or some kind of hybrid?
Some states have said “This is what you must do.” Other states have said “This is what we suggest, but do what you want.”
Who makes these choices that we are expected to live by?
Politicians? Business owners? Church Council? Individual church members?
Then there is the unexpected thing COVID has done- it’s caused folk to evaluate why they do what they do.
For example, think of worship.
Before COVID how many came to church because they truly wanted to?
How many came cause of habit or sense of obligation?
Now that we’re back to in-person, folk wake up each Sunday and get to make a series of decisions-
Do I want to go, do I want to stay in?
Do I want to change or stay in my pjs?
Do I watch online? If so, do I watch now, later or another day?
Is this really the church I want to worship at?
These options will forever shape us. They will shape choices we make as individuals, as servants, as a church.
How do we now praise God? How do we welcome Jesus in? What ways do we worship?
What is God calling us to be?
Post COVID, what are the cloaks we’re willing to lay down? What are the things we refuse to be silent about?
What are the choices and boundaries God is placing before us?
The Theology of Choice.
We are not robots. We are not puppets. We are not mindless players on a stage.
We are individuals with our own set of gifts, our own goals, our own dreams, our own limitations, our own scars.
How do we honor the gift of choice? How do we choose God? How do we welcome Jesus?
How do we best say “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of peace!”?
For that, we say “Amen.”