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Homily: "Choose this Day Whom You Will Serve" by Daniel Love Glazer

2014-11-12 3:25 PM | Daniel

I am a huge baseball fan. I was born in New York City, but when I was four years old, my family moved to Ohio. My mother was a schoolteacher who had summers off so each summer we would return to New York and stay with my mother’s parents. It happened that my grandfather was a big fan of the New York Yankees and he would often take me to Yankee Stadium. We would sit in the bleachers for 75 cents and watch the great Yankees teams of the fifties: Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford,  Elston Howard, Phil Rizzuto, and so on. So I became a big fan of the Yankees, as well as of baseball in general.

For a baseball fan, the highlight of the season is the World Series.  On Wednesday, October 29, the seventh game of the World Series, the most important game in baseball, took place. After a regular season in which each major league team played 162 games, after a one-game playoff in each league between the two teams qualifying for the wild card, after the four Division Championships—each three games out of five, after the two League Championship series—in this case, four games out of seven, there finally occurred the World Series showdown between the Kansas City Royals, the American League pennant winners, and the San Francisco Giants, the National League Champions. And after six games, the teams were tied at three wins apiece. Everything came down the seventh game.

So Wednesday October 29 was the climactic game, to determine which team would be crowned the World Champions. As I said, I am a huge baseball fan and normally nothing would keep me from watching the seventh game of the World Series on television. But I had a conflict. I was scheduled to preach the homily here at Bethany Terrace today. And my schedule recently has been so jam-packed that as of October 29th I had written very little of my homily. And my schedule for the several days afterwards was also extremely busy. Therefore, I had a difficult choice to make: Should I watch the seventh World Series game or should I write my homily?

I chose to write my homily. Had I chosen otherwise, my homily today might have consisted simply of a report on the outcome of the World Series.

Life is a series of choices. When we wake up in the morning, we have to choose whether to get out of bed or go back to sleep. When we have breakfast, do we choose eggs or cereal? Each person we meet throughout the day presents us with a choice: How do we relate to this person? Do we treat him or her as an object, a thing to be used, or do we recognize that we are encountering a fellow child of God? And the choices continue until we choose to fall asleep at the end of the day.

Yes, life is a series of choices. Many choices are relatively, inconsequential, such as whether to eat eggs or cereal for breakfast. Other choices, such as whom I should marry and what career I should follow, are more significant. In the lectionary reading today from the book of Joshua, the Israelites are confronted by Joshua, the successor to Moses, with a momentous choice. He says, “ Revere the Lord and serve him in sincerity and faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River and in Egypt; and serve the Lord…Choose this day whom you will serve…As for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

A thousand years after Joshua, the Israelites were again confronted with momentous choice. A dynamic teacher named Jesus, from the village of Nazareth in Galilee, arose. Jesus preached about the kingdom of God. He taught that God our Father in heaven, that all people were his beloved children, and that by faith everyone could realize this saving truth. He went about the land preaching this gospel of the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. He healed the sick,  performed miracles, even raised the dead. Jesus also proclaimed that he was the bread of life and, indeed, that he and the Father were one.

Would the Israelites choose to accept Jesus or reject him? Many, including 11 of his 12 closest followers, the apostles, did accept him. Others, such as Judas Iscariot and the religious leaders of the Jews did not. As a result of this rejection, the Jewish nation forfeited its mission to be a spiritual light to the world.

It’s been 2000 years since Jesus walked the earth, and, like the Israelites, you and I must make a choice whether or not to serve the Lord. God is our heavenly Father and he loves each of us with an infinite love. He “finds delight with mankind.”[1] Jesus said, “It is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the kingdom.”[2] But God refuses to compel the allegiance of his children. He does not impose any form of required recognition, mode of worship, or abject bondage upon us. He has given us spiritual free will. Each one of us, in our own heart, must choose whether to accept or reject him. And this choice to accept God and to follow his will must be wholehearted. Partial devotion is insufficient. We are to love our gracious God with “all our heart, all our soul, and all our mind.” This complete and loving dedication to doing the Father’s will is our greatest gift to God. Indeed, such a consecration to God’s will is our only possible gift of value to the heavenly Father. In God, we “live, move, and have our being.”[3]

What are the results of choosing to follow God’s will, serving him and our brothers and sisters? They are peace in our souls while on earth and the bliss of eternal life after death. Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians, which we heard earlier, assures us that we will rise to be with the Lord forever.

God so loved the world as to provide for the eternal spiritual progression of every one of us, his beloved children. Let us choose with our whole hearts to follow our loving God!

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