The law. It is always about the law. What exactly does the law do for us? What does it mean in scripture? How is the law a road to salvation? Scripture laid all of that out for us in these readings.
Let's start with the Prophet Sirach, who, if you've been raised Christian, has a pretty big "Duh!" statement.
"If you choose you can keep the commandments, they will save you;
if you trust in God, you too shall live;
he has set before you fire and water
to whichever you choose, stretch forth your hand."
The key to this passage is the word "choose" because it puts the responsibility of the law on us. We have a choice to follow or not, and often we don't even realize we are making a wrong choice until it's too late. I know I'm 100% guilty of that!
The reason Sirach points out our choices is to highlight what making the tough choices will mean for our life here on Earth and where it will lead us to in the afterlife.
Paul reinforces this in his passage saying, "...we speak God's wisdom, mysterious, hidden, which God predetermined before the ages for our glory, and which none of the rulers of this age knew;"
The wisdom we teach is for those seeking real maturity, not mere responsibility to the world around us. It is easy to keep our heads down and focus on our way of the world. It is easy to focus on your immediate individual needs and leave the rest behind. When you look at the trends of our current society, we seek our immediate needs and leave very little room for what lies just beyond that kind of existence.
Real maturity comes from understanding sacrifice. Practical wisdom comes to those who embrace the tough choices. The knowledge of good and evil gets confused without some understanding of what sacrifice toward a goal leads us to endure. I'll give you a for-instance in my own life.
When I was 25 years old, I was obese. Not only obese but a basketcase full of health issues that went along with obesity. I faced some dangerous choices: Make a lifestyle change, or become a client to big pharma and early death. That decision seems pretty straightforward. Well, hold on! The road of that choice is laden with all sorts of problems.
I had to choose different foods: not all the time, but 80% of the time. I had to decide to move differently. I had to learn the right ration of weight training (read: resistance training) and cardio training (read: HIIT training). These choices became self-imposed laws I needed to follow. For more about those laws, read here.
The sacrifice of those choices paid dividends over the past 11 years. It was one day at a time, and I've done one day each day for a little over 4,000 days. I had to cut off my hand a few times.
Jesus drives the point home on how we need to take the law of the Lord seriously. We cannot persist in sin (yet we all do), and when we find our selves continuing to repeat those same sins, CUT OFF THE HAND! Or CUT OUT THE EYE! or live without the thing that causes you to sin. Those things are very cozy sometimes. Those things that cause us harm initially can cause us considerable damage over time. That is Jesus' warning.
Our power of choice gives us absolute freedom. When we choose to help the neighbor, we free that person from whatever was oppressing them. When we choose to turn off the cell phone for 2 hours before bedtime, we are free to reconnect with our family and relish in the blessing that is before us in those who love us most. The choice we make to each a salad each day at lunch, keep dinner light and eat a healthy breakfast each day frees us from worry about our health, and prevents that pesky sin of gluttony.
To carry my food analogy a bit further. If the oreo causes you to eat more than two Oreos in a sitting, stop buying them. If the beer in your fridge calls your name with dinner each night, stop putting them in the fridge (I keep mine in the garage during the winter). If the pizza delivery people know your order by memory, start making your pizza at home. Seriously, it tastes so much better!
What makes us think that the law of God would be any different?
What makes us think that God would deny us good things if we choose to do the right things? That has never been God's message to us. However, if we always choose questionable or immoral things, we will pay for it both in this life and the next.
So you have homework, and I do too! God's law demands a lot from us, but when we surrender to what we must do to fulfill those commands, we find ourselves better off on all accounts.
I'll leave you with this question: What in your life is holding you back? Identify that and cut it off so you can be free!
Heres a recording of our musical offering this weekend.