Sunday July 5, 2020 The Fourteenth Sunday Ordinary Time (Cycle A)
The tie in between today’s readings: Circumstance, choice, and destiny
Before the beginning of creation, God knew that man would rebel against Him and join Satan, but the Lord had a grand purpose in mind for His wayward deserters. Our reading in Psalm 145 touches on the aspects of the plan. First, He would offer mercy and grace to sinners (Psalm 145:8-9; 14). Then, He would defeat the Devil and establish His own kingdom (Psalm 145:11-13, Colossians 1:13). In the end, God will receive honor, praise, and blessing forever from His people for their salvation (Psalm 145:1-2). To accomplish all of this, the Lord decided to work His intentions in a mysterious combination with our wills by using circumstance, choice, and destiny.
For simplicity, I’ll define circumstance as an opportunity for a decision. Choice, of course, is your will in making that decision. Destiny will be the direction in which your choice is taking you. The Game of Life, a board game by Milton Bradley, gives a good example of what I mean. If you are unfamiliar with it, everyone lines up at the start with $2000 and a car. The board is a highway of segmented spaces, each of which has its own circumstance. In the middle is a large spinner numbered one to ten. This is the God wheel! The number that comes up sends you to a space. There you decide to do something (or not). Whatever you choose directs your destiny to either winning the game by retiring on Millionaire Acres or losing by ending up in the Poor House. Your turn comes around again. You spin and receive a new circumstance with a new choice to make, and maybe a new destiny. In real life, we exist in the tensions of causes and effects. Some we can control, others we cannot. Human thought runs the spectrum on how much these conditions play into our destinies. Nobody knows. The point that I want to make is this: you own the decision and God owns the circumstance.
Our reading in Zechariah 9:9-10 offers an interesting look at circumstance, choice, and destiny. In verse 9, we see the Lord’s familiar Triumphant entry into Jerusalem that begins His Passion week. That’s the circumstance, the spin of the God wheel, if you will. In verse 10, the prophet jumps to Christ, having defeated Satan at the cross, ruling the nations in peace as King of Kings. That’s the destiny. The choice happens in the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s a strange thing, too. Jesus, as God the Son, had already committed the plan when he became the Lamb of God slain from the foundations of the world (Revelation 13:8). The totality of the Divine purpose turns on the crucifixion. Yet, the Bible goes to great lengths to tell us that a real choice is made in the Garden on Holy Thursday. The purpose of Jesus’s entire mission is at hand and here He is on His knees looking for a way out. Finally, He submits, “Not My will, but Thine be done” (Luke 22:42). Was it possible that at the last minutes, Jesus could have said “no” and called the rescue angels to get Him out of there, crashing the eternal plan of Redemption like a house of cards (Matthew 26:53)? Was everything holding on by a thread that night? Was the Godman conflicted? Could the frailty of human will have won out over the power of Divine decree? If not, why bother with the narrative at all? You could play the choice scenario out with others like Judas, Mary, and what about Jonah? He actually did say no! Its food for thought.
We see another curious aspect of the God wheel in today’s gospel, Matthew 11:25-30. Jesus has just finished His condemnations of the surrounding towns that have rejected Him saying that if His miracles were performed in past cities that were destroyed that they would still be around today (Matthew 11:20-24). We’ll leave the question of why God didn’t do more to save them and focus on the reading at hand. Starting at verse 25-27, Our Lord launches into a prayer of praise that He and the Father hide and reveal important information. Then, in the next verses, Jesus offers an open call for the people to come to Him and find rest for their souls. Did He reveal enough for everyone there to make a destiny decision? The gospel says that many are called but few are chosen (Mathew 22:14). Who does the choosing? Well, if we look at verses in Romans 9:11-18, “…Jacob I loved, Esau I hated…and I will have mercy on who I want…” then it is God. Without getting too deep into predestination and election, let’s observe that God doesn’t owe us salvation. It’s all a gift of grace. He would be totally just in sending everyone away to the punishment they deserve for their sin. While He is righteous and His mercy personal, He isn’t necessarily fair from our point of view. So, God, it seems, directs the circumstances of eternal destinies by giving disclosures to some over others. It’s a hard doctrine that we need to work into our theology without mangling it. Let’s admit that in the real game of life, the Lord is sovereign, has His own agenda, and everybody doesn’t start out with $2000 and a car.
As I mentioned earlier, no one knows the answers to the dynamics of destiny but, no matter your philosophy of free will or election, the call to salvation is clear. Romans 8:9-13 lays out the gospel’s message in the form of circumstance, choice, and destiny. The circumstance: believe in Jesus for the forgiveness of sin and be born again by the indwelling Holy Spirit. The one choice: reject Christ and live as you want. Its destiny: hell, and eternal death or the other choice: believe in Christ as your Savior and live according to the Spirit of God. Its destiny: life eternal in heaven. This is your turn at the God wheel. The message is plain. Nothing is hidden. At this moment, God gives you a decision to choose life or death. If you haven’t already come to a conclusion, and you pass on your turn to make a choice then it is in effect to choose “no”. Your destiny is still damnation. You don’t know when the game of life will be over for you. There will come a time of no more spins, no more choices, and your fate will be sealed. Today is the day of salvation. Choose Christ! Choose life!