Date: Thursday, Feb 23
Contributor: Kathy Ackerman
Today’s readings are all about choosing God. However, it is the consequences of the choices in today’s readings that I found more fascinating than the actual act of choosing.
In Deuteronomy, Moses is preparing the Israelites to cross the Jordan River and settle into their new homeland. This reading precedes the scene where God warns Moses that he won’t live long enough to cross the Jordan, but Moses seems to have a good idea of his fate anyway.
Moses is well aware that the area where he is sending the Israelites is inhabited by other groups, with different customs and who worship different entities. Given that awareness, he tells the Israelites that if they stick with the God that brought them out of slavery, then they will prosper and become numerous. This sounds suspiciously like the “prosperity gospel” we see today, but Moses isn’t trying to tell them they are going to be rich. He’s couching the choice in the way that Bronze Age peoples understood – stay together, worship together, and grow together.
Psalm 1 also provides us with a choice. Study the law, obey its precepts and not only will you prosper (like the tree by the river), you will actually be happy. Don’t study or follow the law, and suffer the consequences.
Then we come to Luke. In this passage, Jesus asks the disciples who they think he is. When they tell him, he upends their expectations of a Messiah who will rescue them from their Roman overlords by laying out how the Crucifixion and Resurrection will take place. After giving them that reality check, he offers a choice:
Notice Jesus also upends the notion of what the consequences are of not following God. He doesn’t threaten destruction.
Throughout these readings, God continually offered – and is offering -- us ways to be in relationship with him through the ages in ways that we can understand – from the Bronze Age notions of growth and prosperity through the Psalmists’ delight in studying the law to Jesus saying to us “here, follow God and your life will be better, richer and more fulfilling.”
The consequences of not choosing relationship with God have been interpreted by some as a threat – “do this or else.” But is that God actually saying that or is it the human writers’ clumsy way of saying “being in relationship with God is so much better than anything else that by comparison, all is darkness and despair?” The fact that the choice exists at all speaks volumes.