Philippians 4: 1-9
Matthew 22: 1-14

Before we go to bed at night we already know something about our new day; what time will we wake up?  Now, some of us need a variety of alarms to go off with buzzes, ding dongs, and songs of our choice whereas others have an amazing inner clock that opens the eyes, stretches the arms and moves them from a lying position to sitting and then standing but for more of us … we have a choice.  We decide when we answer the next day’s wake up call to start a new day.

When you consider God … first of all when you consider God don’t you feel the need to be in awe of the Creator of the universe?  Don’t you just want to bow down and worship God when you think about how great God is?  How amazing God is?  How loving God is?  Friends, in this limited human life we live with all of our imperfections, faults, and challenges … when we consider God … a God with creation powers to not only create a universe but who weaved a human being out of nothing with all of our complexities that can only be explained by admitting that there was a Creator … a God behind it all … If a mere human being paused long enough to think about God … do you think you would agree with David who declared in 2nd Samuel, “You are so great LORD God!!  No one can compare to you, no god except you; you have done great and awesome things.” An awesome God … when you or I consider God shouldn’t we be ready to get down on our knees in awe of God … in praise of God … in worship of God.  You would think we would … wouldn’t you?  From the moment when that alarm clock wakes us to the moment we go to sleep … you would think God was worthy of worship … worthy of praise … worthy of devotion … and of our love; WOULDN’T YOU but then again we have a choice don’t we.

God has prepared the feast for us … just like the king in the parable Jesus taught.  Every single day my friends … every single waking moment … during each breath you and I take … God; that God who created the universe … that God who throughout history has done awesome things … the one and the only God whom David declared there was no comparison to … the God who sent Jesus to teach you and me and the people on the street and the leaders of the world; every single individuals regardless of their skin tone; no matter their language; ignoring the human defined boundaries that cause countries to be named; and frankly not discriminating based on who they live with … that God gives us a sign of God’s power every single second that invites us to the party.  God even sends servants in this world to extend the invitation but God also gave us a choice.

So, on this Sunday in October … every human being has a choice about being in a relationship with God.   Frankly, God does not fire off lightening bolts when we slip fall and sin because otherwise none of us would be here.  It doesn’t mean that there won’t be judgment … it doesn’t mean that God does not expect his creation called humanity to believe … to have faith … to live lives with works that verify faith beginning with loving God and then loving all of our neighbors … Jesus shared in the parable from Matthew how people invited to one of the most incredible wedding parties ever thrown by the king chose to pay no attention … they went away to their fields and their businesses.  In fact, some abused the messengers suggesting that they should attend the wedding.  They had a choice … to be amongst the chosen or to move on with their lives.

On occasion, I have mentioned my son-in-law Ryan.  He is an incredibly smart man but he is also a “GEEK.”  Well, he was a math major and his work involves using mathematical formulas to derive solutions for the United States Navy.  When you look at the white board above his desk at home you will often see a sequence of letters and numbers.  One day I asked him what all those letters and numbers were … his answer, “it’s a puzzle I am having fun with.”  Friends it was just letters and numbers.

Well, we were at Ryan and Colleen’s on Friday … like many his age, Ryan has his share of video games but on Friday I was finally getting the chance to experience VR.  VIRTUAL REALITY … you see Ryan owns this headset that covers your eyes and takes you into a place you can’t get to without the headset.  Suddenly I was plunged into the ocean and everywhere I looked I could just see these images created by a computer.  Schools of fish … sea rays … jelly fish … I was in a steel cage being lowered in the ocean.  The world was gone … I was focused on what my eyes could see … out of nowhere a GREAT WHITE … bashing at my cage … I tried to kick at it but there was nothing to kick at … it wasn’t real.   When the goggles were lifted once again I saw reality; the shark was gone and my now broken steel cage that somehow survived the shark attack was back sitting inside the computer game console.  Thankfully, I had a choice to lift up the mask … I could see the light again.

Paul in his letter to the church in Philippi writes to these early Christians about the need to help his friends in ministry but then he very pointedly weaves a message that is profound in its simplicity.   A message for living life that was essential to those early Christians but I am here to argue with you today that these verses from this letter are all about the fact that WE HAVE A CHOICE … there are new neighbors on Woodland Avenue … there are people working out at Riverwinds … there are sleeping adults and children a stone’s throw away from this church but they are not here … we are … and WE HAVE A CHOICE.

BE glad in the Lord always!!  Again, I say, be glad!!  Let your gentleness show in your treatment of all people. The Lord is near.”

When you go back to your moment of waking up … eyes opening and breathing once again noticeable … the LORD is there there with you … reason to be glad … reason to REJOICE!!!   The God of Creation is right there with you … but do you hear God’s plea contained in Paul’s letter reflective of Jesus lessons and frankly tied directly to our ability to truly be glad in the Lord … Let your gentleness show in your treatment of ALL people … LOVE ALL YOUR NEIGHBORS … they will know you are CHRISTIANS BY YOUR LOVE …

Friends, the LORD IS NEAR … we have a choice about living life.  We have a choice in the words we speak … we have a choice in the priorities we schedule ourselves into as a new day starts or as our weekly planners get filled or our days of retirement melt slowly one day into the next … are you sensing God in your moments; and just what are you focusing your thoughts on?

Yesterday on TWITTER that was a message that perhaps some of you may relate to … “IF YOU DON’T CHANGE DIRECTION … you may END UP WHERE YOU ARE HEADING.”  If you don’t change direction; you may end up where you are heading.

If when you wake up in the morning you are focused on your anger with someone; your work schedule; the success or failure of your sports teams; your political frustrations; or on you you and you rather than God; the Creator … well that is your choice.  That is your focus … it might not seem like an awful choice because after all … God can wait; can’t God?   There will be lots of time for God down the line … no need to add God to the planner.  Do you know what your direction for life is and is God part of it?

So, here we are … in this little church, where there are far too many empty seats in our pews for a community with people whom God loves each day … are we hearing God’s Word … FOCUS YOUR THOUGHTS on all that is holy … all that is just … all that is pure … all that is lovely and worthy of praise?  We are told to practice what we have learned … practice so we get better at doing what God wants us to do because none of us are perfect.

If … and that word if is ripe with our ability to choose isn’t it …. IF you are glad in the LORD … then your gentleness will show in your treatment of ALL people … we already know or I would think all of us here know … that the LORD is near.  So, we don’t have to be anxious about anything …. We can bring our requests to God in our prayers … but tied to those requests is giving thanks … when we do that … friends; when our faith is our choice … when God is our priority … when the world ‘s demands are secondary then we have nothing to fear … when we have made the active choice of faith, which means we believe with all that we have … our actions in life feature works based on our faith and the reality that we love all of our neighbors not just those who are like us … when we make that choice then … that’s when … “the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.”

Last week I shared the story of when I received this Bible … well this translation is the one that I memorized Philippians 4:4 from.  Memorized because its easy but memorized because in this life making a choice for God matters … even on our toughest days; even in our saddest moments; even when our human brains sense hopelessness … we have a choice … REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS!!!  I will say it again; REJOICE!!!

Let your gentleness show in your treatment of ALL PEOPLE … THE LORD IS NEAR.

WE HAVE A CHOICE … I pray your choice is living for the God who created all and who is worthy of our worship, praise and yes even falling on our knee in awe of God.



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