Friday, 2 September 2016

God chooses you (Deuteronomy 30; Luke 14)

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lord your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

Luke 14:25-33

The Cost of Discipleship
Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry the cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not first sit down and estimate the cost, to see whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it will begin to ridicule him, saying, ‘This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace. So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions.

This is the table of our Lord Jesus Christ who chooses you to dine with him in this place today.
Choosing you, he invites you to find, at this table, strength to carry your cross.
So come all who are hesitant and dithering.
Come you who are sure and committed.
Choose Christ who has chosen you.
Choose life, symbolised here in bread and wine.

Jesus constantly laid before his friends, choices:
The choice to remain or to follow
The choice to listen or to ignore
The choice to be blind or to see
The choice to be sick or to be whole
The choice of life or of death.

His disciples chose life - they followed, they listened, they saw, they were made whole.
And even though they often faltered or dithered or forgot, Jesus didn't give up or let up - he kept on holding out forgiveness and newness of life.
And so, the night before he died, he gathered his friends around a meal, spoke to them again of the cross and invited them to remember him by choosing to share in this feast together.
He shared bread, symbol of his body, broken for the life of the world.
He shared the cup, symbol of a new relationship with God.
This table bears those symbols today.
Before we share, let us give thanks.

Prayer of Thanksgiving
God we thank you that you never impose yourself on us but gently, persistently invite us into relationship with you.
You invite us to choose life over death, to take up our cross and follow Christ.
May we choose life for the sake of the world.
God we pray for our world in all its pain and suffering.
We pray for all those who, every day,  are forced to make hard choices or for whom there is no choice.
Those forced from home and family by war, by oppression, by danger, by evil or natural disaster.
Show us how to restore the voices of those who are silenced along with the freedom to choose for those who find themselves between a rock and a hard place.
May your cross symbolise the way of suffering carved out in love that transforms pain and renews life. May we always be willing to bear another's burden, to lift up the suffering and to know the blessing of travelling together.
We pray for refugees, for migrants, for all seeking a place to call home. May we choose to open our hearts to make room, to share the road and to know ourselves taught by those whose learning is wrought through pain and hardship.
May we choose life for the sake of the church.
God we thank you for all those who have gone before us on the journey of faith. Those on whose shoulders we now stand. Those who surround us as we share this feast. May we always make space for others around your table, where there is love enough for all.
Give your church boldness and wisdom to proclaim the God who invites all people to choose life.
May we choose life for our sake and the sake of the communities in which we live.
As we go about our everyday lives give us courage to serve and to be served.
Be with those whom we know who grieve, who have lost the joy of living. Help us to put ourselves aside and sit with them until we are ready to continue the journey together with you.
So, choosing God, as we come to this table today, may our choice witness to the hope we have in you. Send you Holy Spirit on these gifts of bread and of wine that they may become life for all.
Feed us here with strength to take up our cross and follow you every day.

(Taking bread)
This is Christ's body broken for the life of the world.

(Taking the cup)
This cup symbolises Christ's shed blood reminding us of forgiveness and newness of life.

By these we remember Christ who took up the cross and offered life to us.

Prayer after communion
God who has fed us and confronted us again with our oneness with all the world, strengthen us to take up our cross and follow you, gathering up along the way all those who falter and fall, all those who dither, those who are blind or sick and want to be whole. We who have choices, everyday may we choose life with you, life in all its fullness for the sake of the world and the kingdom of God.

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