How many of us have told a little white lie that came back to bite you? How many friendships have been lost through a lack of honesty?  How much damage has there been to people and our relationships because we lusted, or hated, or broke promises.  How many times have you spoken in anger then wished you had cut out your tongue rather than spoken. Jesus speaks today of the meaning of the law …and our readings speak about choices…the choice of good or evil, salvation or damnation, life or death.             “he has placed before you fire and water; stretch out your hand for whichever you choose.  Before each person are life and death, and whichever one chooses will be given.” We are always given a choice…not clear, often complex, but choice nonetheless and as Sirach says  “to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice.”  To live in the kingdom of heaven, to live in righteousness and as salt and light requires choice.  The Ten commandments, the laws and the prophets who interpret them, were given out to guide our relationships and our choices.  They are set out as we have been reading these last weeks, throughout the bible, old testament and new, we have been given guidance, laws, commands to help us grow in relationship with God. You cannot live in right relationship with God if …you don’t believe in his reign, if you worship anything other than God.  And you can’t live in righteousness with others when you don’t honour them or if you murder, lie, envy or wish to take what is not yours to take.  These actions break, not build relationship. Now, most of us wouldn’t say we have any major problems obeying the ten commandments… you’re not running about stealing and killing folk…or at not that I’m aware of.   But as everyone who has ever truly been angry with another knows…it is also certainly possible to utterly destroy a person in your own heart without touching them…to deeply damage them with words, rumors and sowing malice.               And at those times…if we are honest with ourselves… we begin to notice how these seeds of hate we’ve sown fester and grow in us…causing nothing but ill, like weeds breaking through a walkway causing damage and divisions. I think this is what Jesus is speaking of when he says “if you say, “You Fool”, you will liable to hell” or to tear out your eye and chop off your hand and toss it away lest it cause you to sin.  We know, we have experienced that even committing these deeds in our hearts is hurtful and sinful…pushing us away from God, and in turn damages our relationship within our selves wasting our energy in maintaining a bitter and long term grudge.               We are called to live in relationship with one another…in right relationship… righteousness         and things like anger, lust, insult, name calling, accusations, divorce, and promise breaking hurt all of us.  We are all affected.  We are a family and if two members of a family treat each other badly the others relationships are affected as well.  Perhaps it would have been better to have cut off the hand that struck your friend or spouse or child or father before damaging these relationships so very deeply. There are very few people who jump from friendship to murder, anger and hurt come first.  Very few people wake up and decide to get divorced, there are often a lot of ill words and broken promises in the process.  Very few people move from mere admiration to adultery, covetousness and lust play their part. As Sirach says each of us have placed before us fire and water….we each have a choice.  Like fire and water these choices are often complicated and difficult to work with.  Both fire and water are life giving AND life taking, they nourish and kill in varying amounts, just as many of our options aren’t simply black or white, but “if we choose we can keep the commandments and to act faithfully is a matter of our own choice”.  So how do we choose? Our Psalm set us a guide… Happy are those whose way is blameless,  who walk in the law of the Lord. Happy are those who keep his decrees, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways. The law of the Lord, of course this refers to the Torah, the first 5 books of the bible, the ten commandments and the laws that are interpreted and defined in them.  But for us, as Christians these laws continue in the teachings of Christ…the law continues from the Torah to all scriptures and not only to the letter of the law, but the spirit of the law.  Remember Jesus said “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.”  Jesus calls us to move beyond all debate of thou shall not kill vs thou shall not murder and brings our attention to the motivations behind our deeds.    From the letter of the law, from the grand choices to the small daily choices we make and how they affect our relationships with God and neighbour.    Love the Lord your God and love each other, all the rest is commentary. Are the choices we are making made in love? In respect? In righteousness?  It is difficult and exacting to look at the reasons behind each choice we make…to discern the right amounts of fire and water for each situation.  We have been given the privilege and responsibility of choice, a heavy responsibility to be sure, but what are the alternatives?  A life where God controls our every movement and thought, each life a mere puppet on a string…or perhaps a life where God doesn’t care at all and leaves us to our most primitive instincts without guidance or inspiration to be a better people.  A law of strict do or die, with no get out of jail free cards?…or a hedonistic anarchy?, or the responsibility to interpret the laws under the guidance of the spirit of God living in our lives.  A measure of pleasure and chaos, with love and responsibility…fire and water balanced and in harmony with one another. Christ repeatedly says you have heard one thing, but I say to you the following, reinterpreting the laws of his time and place in a deeper and more relational way.  We are called to do the same…to look at ourselves and our choices in a deeper and more relational way.  That each of us can grow closer to God and to each other.  amen