Deuteronomy 30: 15-20 (NRSV)
15 See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the Lordyour 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. 17 But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, 18 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. 19 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, 20 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.
Today’s passage was the set text for the funeral of a young man I had known most of my life (let’s call him John, although it is not his real name). He had become addicted to drugs in his teens and died a couple of decades later as a result of this addiction. Given the nature of John’s death, the reading could have been very problematic indeed. Only, the priest gave one of the most moving homilies I have ever heard. He pointed to the life-giving work John and his family undertook as a result of his addiction. The priest paid tribute to the support shared by, and love given to, those most exiled from our society. He helped us realise that, whilst John spent too many years trapped by his addiction, John still chose life. John chose to live with and despite his illness, bringing hope and healing to many others. There will always be thorns to threaten us, but with God’s love we can continue to choose life.
It’s too easy to get caught up in the tangles of life:
the niggly nuisances that get in our way,
the recurring frustrations that cause us to stumble,
the life-sucking pestilences which strike at our very roots.
It can be too easy to give up,
wish for death rather than this life;
our ancestors knew it,
Saul and Elijah and Job knew it,
our contemporaries know it,
some more pressingly than others.
Give us the wherewithal to choose life,
even when that feels like the toughest choice available,
help us to choose life—
not just for ourselves
but for the sake of your Kingdom, AMEN.