Choices: John 6: 56-69; Joshua 24: 1-2a, 14-18; Ephesians 6: 10-20

The right to choose. …. That phrase has been used in a whole series of contexts over recent years. It has become one to the defining characteristics of our society. We are told time and again just how important it is that we have the freedom to make choices. And rightly so, because the ability to make choices to make value judgements is one of the distinctive marks of being a human being.

I am sure you can think of examples – but here are a few …

A Woman’s Right to Choose – I am not going to enter the very complex debate about abortion. It is enough to acknowledge that a woman’s right of choice is an important issue in the ethical debate that surrounds abortion. This is the context that we most often talk of a right to choose.

The Right to Choose – is the title of a government advice booklet to agencies dealing with involved with handling cases of forced marriage. Each individual has a right to choose who they marry and an inalienable right not to be forced into a marriage for whatever reason.

The Right to Choose has recently been extended in the health service to mental health patients as well as those suffering physical symptoms. We can increasingly choose where we are treated and when we are treated. The Heath system is changing slowly to focus more on the patient than the clinician.

The withdrawal of the right to choose is also significant: Right wing totalitarian regimes deny freedom of choice to their subjects. Difference is frowned upon. Left wing/communist regimes value the proletariat above the individual, subjugating individual freedom to the needs of the masses.

In a very significant way, when we lose the ability to choose, we become less than human. Freedom and choice are really as fundamental to our lives as the right to shelter, food and water.

Successive governments have been right to emphasise freedom to choice.

Some of us might want to question whether we really do have freedom to choose. … So often, the right to choose a school for our children is limited, or perhaps negated, by the catchment area of the school. … Patients’ choice in the health service is often limited by our ability to travel to a hospital. … It is often almost impossible for a woman in abusive relationship to make the choice to leave, she feels completely trapped by her circumstances.

Nonetheless I feel so much better when I’m treated as an individual and given a say in the things that affect me. When I am given the freedom to choose.

Freedom of choice is so important. … Yet putting the two words “freedom” and “choice” in the same phrase is perhaps misleading. … For the very exercise of our freedom to choose restricts our freedom. When we choose to join a club, we are choosing to be bound by its rules, if not we very soon find that we are no longer welcome. When we choose to marry, we commit ourselves to one person, we are not free to play the field.

Choice, by its very nature restricts freedom.

Our readings set for 26th August 2018 seem to focus on that ability to choose.

Joshua actually uses the word. … “Choose this day whom you will serve,” he says. “As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Paul in Ephesians encourages us to make the choice to stand firm under attack, to stand against evil, and he promises us that God’s armour, God’s resources are available to us as we stand firm.

Jesus presents his disciples with a choice. “If my words are too hard for you,” he says, “you don’t have to stay!” And we heard Peter’s response, “Lord, to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

All three passages leave us with a challenge: “What choice are we going to make?”

Are we going to do our own thing, follow our own instincts, in life? Or are we going to commit ourselves to God’s agenda? Are we going to stick with God even when the going gets tough?

God gives us the freedom to choose. He does not force us to accept him. Jesus doesn’t demand our allegiance. He offers himself to us as friend and as Lord, with every possibility of our turning our back on him.

Vulnerable love, love which was willing to die for us, love which does not impose itself on us but waits patiently for our decision. Love which is prepared to release us if we choose to turn away from him.

We are free to choose.  …. Yet as we exercise our freedom to choose, we make commitments which on the face of it restrict our freedom. We cannot make Christ ‘Lord’ and still give other things a more important place in our lives. Christ being ‘Lord’, means just that, Lord of our lives, our families, our work, our lifestyle. The free choice we have made, the one we continue to make as we commit ourselves to Christ each week in worship, seemingly limits our freedom.

And yet, here is perhaps the greatest paradox of all, when we commit ourselves to Christ as Lord we don’t feel trapped by our choices – we feel set free, set free to be who we really are. Here in the Christian family, when it is functioning as Jesus intended, we find our true freedom, our true dignity, our true equality as we worship the one who is worthy of all the praise that we can offer.

Contemporary society talks of human rights and ‘the freedom to choose’. In Christian worship, we confess that we cannot speak of ‘our rights’, for we have been given everything and forgiven everything and promised everything, not as of right, but of the loving grace of God who, as we freely give ourselves to him, as we chose his sovereignty, freely gives us all things.

When we come to Communion, we exercise our right, our freedom to choose, and as we take bread and wine into ourselves, we commit ourselves again to a choice to be God’s children and family. The end of August heralds a new cycle, a new academic year, it is a time for re-commitment re-commitment to God’s sovereignty in our lives. And as we make that renewed commitment we experience once again the release that comes from being who we truly are! … Those who are loved, accepted and redeemed, chosen ourselves by the grace of God.

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