I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” These sentiments are shouted on our street corners, clung to as armour by people unwilling to go deeper and unfold the paradoxes and discrepancies of our present life and age. A couple of weeks ago I spoke a bit about the Wisdom tradition as we receive it from the Old Testament; this will kind of act as part two of that address. You don’t need to remember the address however, because I can sum it up for you all in one sentence – “Stop. Be still. And ask, what’s the greater thing.” Today, when we think about life and death, we think in entirely literal terms: being alive, and moving about, being seen, and talking to people; and being dead, being in the ground, being no more. In the Wisdom tradition this is not how the words ‘life’ and ‘death’ are used at all. Life and death are present states we can be in now. Present realities. They are choices we make. We choose the way of life, or we choose the way of death. That means that your body can be dying, you could be terminally ill, you could be sick, you could be frail, but more alive than ever before. Or vice versa, you could be a physically very impressive specimen, but be spiritually vacant, dead to this present reality. “Stop. Be still. And ask what’s the greater thing.” This is an important question to ask ourselves because it shocks us into the present reality.
Think of that landlord, he needed to be shocked into the present reality, because it is so easy to glide into a normality which makes us blind to the truth, blind to the bigger picture. In Deuteronomy Moses speaks to his people, he says, ‘Today I am giving you a choice. You can choose life and success or death and disaster.’ Isn’t it funny how similar this choice Moses presents his people with is to what Jesus later says? Jesus presents us with a choice - ‘I am the way, the truth and the life. Follow me. Or don’t, but I warn you that that way leads to death and destruction’. Here we usually trip up in one of two ways. Jesus is speaking through the lens of the wisdom tradition, so when he talks about life, he is not talking about magical immortality, he is talking about a present state, an invitation to enter into the fullness of life now. Do you want to live now? Or secondly, speaking through the lens of wisdom, or Sophia, meaning that he in effect is putting that voice on. In the same way that if I say, ‘I came that you may have life, and have it abundantly’, I am not talking as me, because that would be mad. I’m talking as Jesus, and Jesus in turn is talking as Sophia, or wisdom personified. So you could say, that the question is not so much, is there life after death, but rather, is there life before death?
So what is it to be more alive? We gather here for our Harvest celebration, a celebration of the abundance which comes forth and sustains us. It’s about connectivity, remembering those connections we have with everything else, because it’s when we feel that connection, that connection with others, say, over a meal with friends, that is when we feel most alive. Life is when you feel an abundance of freedom. You breath in the space of life, and out of that you feel a great sense of possibility, that we’re not imprisoned in a tomorrow which will be the same as today. Tomorrow will hold all the possibilities of new creation, a new way of being in tomorrow, holding our energy differently, being liberated to hold life anew. Living out of the depth of our being, the depth of our soul, the depth of our true self, being alive, freedom, connection, possibility, that is the harvest we are being called to reap. It goes deeper than our current circumstances. The choice to be alive comes right out of our core. No matter what crap life is throwing at us today: difficulties with health, or broken relationships, or finances, responsibilities, burdens - we can choose life. I’m sure we can all think of people who were in a big mess, or sick, and yet somehow more alive than ever.
Stop. Be still. And ask what’s the greater thing. Ask what is the thing that makes you more alive. Even when the exuberance of summer is gone, even when the world externally seems to be drawing in, as the night is drawing in, and winter is coming, even then, we can pick life. If we don’t in those moments pick life, then there will always be an excuse, we will always be subject to circumstances, afloat upon the turbulent seas of this life. We must pick life, we must travel our own journey. Is life feeling "meh"? Then stop, and ask what’s the greater thing. Better to have nothing and be alive, than everything and be dead inside. Life… more life… more life I pray… Amen.