Readings: Deuteronomy 30 v 15-20
1 Corinthians 3 v 1-9
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
In our Old Testament reading, we find Moses making what could be considered his farewell speech.
Moses has been wandering in the wilderness with these people for 40 years.
He led them out of slavery in Egypt.
He endured many trials with them.
As they journeyed there always seemed to be one more challenge that they had to face – and, Moses, as their leader, was the one who bore the brunt of all their complaints.
The number of times we read of Moses reaching the end of his tether with his people – crying out to God – Why have you placed me in this position with a people so difficult to lead.
Moses, with God’s help, saw them through crisis after crisis but the folk had very short memories and, each time another difficulty emerged, they completely forgot how Moses had seen them through and held him responsible.
They even, on occasions, longed for the life they had known in Egypt rather than the unpredictability of this journey to the Promised Land.
We’re all good at that – preferring what is familiar, even if it is not good – but preferring the familiar rather than embarking on the unknown.
Moses has endured this for 40 years.
The Promised Land is in sight.
Moses knows he will not see the Promised Land, so he makes another attempt at encouraging the Israelites.
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.
That is some speech from a man who, when God called him could barely speak.
In fact, when Moses first went to speak up for his people, he took his brother Aaron with him to do the talking.
Moses has come a long way.
And so have the people.
They have been through a lot together.
And they have learned a lot together.
That is what Moses is reminding them of.
He exhorts them not to forget all that they have learned, not to forget whose they are and whom they serve.
Those same words used as the motto for the Church of Scotland Guild – Whose we are and whom we serve.
Moses implores them to always keep in mind the God who has directed their lives , the God who calls them to live in love – loving God, loving each other and loving their neighbour.
The Kings Speech is a movie about the life of King George VI, released last month and in the running for several BAFTA awards.
It is the true story of how the King who was never expected to accede to the throne overcame major speech difficulties.
With the help and friendship of an unorthodox Speech Therapist, he overcame an impairment that had inhibited and plagued his life.
The Speech Therapist believed in him and persisted in his work with and encouragement of the King until he was able to address the Nation in trying time of war with confidence.
The King was finally able to find his voice and become a leader.
Finding voice has been a theme in Egypt this past few weeks too.
In less then three weeks, voices raised for justice have brought down a 30 year long dictatorship.
Cries of Get Out! have become cries of Freedom.
Their persistent voices were heard and Egypt has been changed forever.
One image that captured the world’s empathy was an image of Muslims at prayer, surrounded by Christians joining hand, forming a human chain to protect their brothers and sisters at prayer.
And yesterday, there were some wonderful images of the celebrations in Tahrir Square in Cairo – of people cleaning up.
Cleaning up because they recognise that the achievement of the freedom they demanded is not the end of their journey but only the beginning.
Now the work begins for everyone to play their part in rebuilding a nation and in ensuring that what they build is true democracy.
And that’s where the challenge lies.
Building on the foundations that have been laid.
Finding voice is important.
But it is not enough.
Throughout history we have heard enough voices raised – and listened to – that seek power.
But that power has not always been built on justice.
And so we have oppressive regimes all around the world.
Often these regimes started out with hope, attracted supporters by fine orations – but then perpetrated evil.
Voices are important.
But in voices raised there must be sounds of truth and of justice.
Moses exhortation to the Israelites is for them to choose life by building on the commandments of God – to practice love and justice, to walk in the ways of truth.
A theme continued in our New Testament reading:
“The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose – we are God’s servants working together.
Every day our lives are just full of choices:
Choices – from moment we open our eyes.
Will I have toast or cereal?
What will I wear?
From seemingly minor choices to the bigger options – choice of study, choice of career, choice of lifestyle.
We are constantly making choices.
So much so that we completely overlook the impact our choice has on others.
We are so used to having options that we forget how lucky we are to HAVE choices.
And the freedom that choice implies.
This week we rejoice that for millions of people in Egypt, their voices have been heard and their right to choose is being reinstated and we pray that they may continue to choose justice and love as a way forward.
And as we value the freedom of choice we enjoy every day, we return to those ancient words of Moses:
, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity.
Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him;
R and C have chosen that way today for H.
And, as we said in the baptism liturgy, we look forward to the day when he will make that choice for himself.
This is a day for us all to reaffirm the faith we profess and the choices we have made – to live in love and to work for justice – to follow the path God sets before us.
We have a voice.
We have a choice.
May we speak and choose in love for the glory of God.