Choose Life!

February 13, 2011

The Rev. Dr. Anthony J. Godlefski, Pastor

Montgomery United Methodist Church


Deuteronomy 30: 15-20

15 See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. …
19 I call heaven and earth to witness before you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live,
20 loving the LORD your God, obeying his voice, and cleaving to him; for that means life to you and length of days, that you may dwell in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.



Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, good morning! I tell you, I'm so happy to be with you here today, to be surrounded by the love of this great family in Christ is such a privilege.


Today, we've got the stunning word from God in Deuteronomy from the Old Testament. He really zeroes in at verse 19. I call heaven and earth to witness against you (or, "before you."). That means, I call heaven and earth as my witness. In other words I really mean it. I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses, good words and negative words, encouragement and discouragement, kindness and lack of kindness. He says, "Choose life" so that you and your descendents may live loving your God and holding fast to him.


Choose life. Choose life and be aware of life. Choose awareness. Let your mind be where your body is. Choose to savor the sensation that God is putting in you. Choose to savor the softness and sweetness of the taste of a peach. Be intensely aware of life's simple joys.  Be fully aware of the crispness, the tartness and the crunchiness of an apple. Be aware of the sweet sound of the birds outside your window. If you can, take a look at the feather of one of those birds and see the design that God put there. He is the master designer. Rejoice in your heart. Choose to be super aware of life.


I had an experience several years ago, when I was a student at Westminster Choir College in Princeton. I'd pulled an all-nighter to get a paper done. (Have you ever done that?)  I left my home in Linden and I was racing down Route 1 onto Harrison St. for the Harrison Street bridge over Lake Carnegie. It was a beautiful February morning and the sun was just coming up with a remarkable shade of purple. The sun was glistening against snow-covered trees near the Lake. It was as though I could hear a voice and the voice simply said in my head, “How do you like it?”  It was startling! I said, “Dear Lord, I like it fine.”


 Choose to be aware; choose life. Choose to give life. Say the encouraging word. Choose kindness over being right. Choose to be the one known as "the kind one." Choose to be the one known as the one who is safe and gentle to be around. Choose to be the one to whom others come for an uplifting word. Choose to give life. And choose to live your life in the Lord. That's what he's really asking for in the core. In your tough moments, let God comfort you. In your scared moments, let God's arms surround you. Choose Life. Choose God.


I recently went through some situations where I felt a need to pray deeply. I was feeling very scared. I found in those moments that rote prayer comes in very handy. Sometimes it's not so easy to say a prayer to the Lord that is eloquent. At those times, I found that the Lord's Prayer and the 23rd Psalm provide remarkable grace in pressurized moments. I recommend them to you. God will comfort you as he's comforted me. My dear friends, those are the words of Scripture that I invite you to take home today and cherish in your heart. Choose life. Choose God.


There are a few other things I need to share with you this morning. We're a family here together and there are some things that you need to know about your pastor. I'm going through some situations that I need to share with you and invite your prayers about. One of them is about my uncle Jules who is 94 years old.  He is my oldest living relative and he's the last relative I have of my parent’s generation. He's a very brilliant man. He has an invention in the Smithsonian institution. He is a kind, gentle, gracious, quiet fellow of great heart. I love him very much. He's a joy to be around.


I was driving my car earlier this week and I got a nudging to call Uncle Jules, he wasn't answering so I left a message for him and he didn't return the call. I called his daughter, my cousin. She returned my call later in the day and said, “You know this is amazing that you called because dad is in the hospital and he's been semi-comatose for nearly a week.” So I got in the car on Friday and went up to the hospital in Englewood. I didn't know what I'd find. I went up to the room and my cousin was sitting in the chair by the bed. Uncle Jules was in the bed and had his hands kind of folded and peaceful and my cousin said that he had been asleep all day.


I went over to his bed and mustering up the best pastoral care technique I could, I leaned over and then said, rather loudly "Hey, Uncle Jules, wake up. It's Anthony. I'm here to visit you, okay?" (Congregation laughs) He opened his eyes.
            “Oh, Anthony, it’s so nice to see you.”
            I said, “It's good to see you to uncle Jules. How are you doing?”
            “Okay, okay”, he replied.
            I said, “Uncle Jules, your daughter is right here. Do you want to talk with her?”


So they talked for a while and I went back and talked to him and sang hymns and Polish Christmas carols. We talked about old times, about his wife and happy times at their home and dinners that we've had there. Oh, it was just wonderful. I got to thank him for being such a success in my life and for blessing me so much. When we were closing the visit I had a prayer with him and I took some water and made the sign of the cross on his fore head as his baptismal reminder. He appreciated that. Before I left he said the most beautiful words of blessing and thanks. It was a very special gift from a very gracious man. I wanted to remember uncle Jules to you so please keep us in your prayers, won't you?


My friends, thank you for listening. Go forth into the world and choose life!  It's your gift from God! God loves you and I do too. Amen.


© 2011 Anthony J. Godlefski