Sixth Sunday of Easter 10 May 2015
(Acts 10:44-48 Psalm 98 1 John 5:1-6 John 15:9-17)
“You are Chosen!”
I read an editorial in a newspaper this past week where the writer spoke of struggling with finding meaning in today’s world for himself and his family. The analogy he used in describing, what he considers to be a difficult endeavor, went like this: “finding meaning in my life today is like trying to unstuck one strand of pasta out of a bowl of cold spaghetti.”
I received a phone call the other evening from a person whose wedding I celebrated more than 25 years ago. I don’t think I had talked with this person for at least 20 years. She called to tell me that her life appears to be going in circles and she needed to talk with someone to help her sort things out. She said that religion no longer makes sense in the same way it used to when she was younger.
It seems to me, that almost daily I am in conversation with persons who are searching, maybe searching for seemingly different things, but a big part of it is they are trying to get a handle on some understanding of what is happening around us today, a deep struggle to discover God in the midst of today’s world.
The image works: it is our attempt to pull out that one piece of spaghetti when everything is clumped together.
I often suspect these circumstances of ours are not that much different from the ones encountered in the early church. Since Easter Day we have been hearing stories from the days of the early church, from Acts of the Apostles. We hear of a time when a powerful government was attempting to create a world of peace. It was a time when internal and external forces threatened to annihilate the powerful nation. It was a time when people were driven to find meaning in a life from which they did not feel very secure. Sounds an awful lot like where many people are today!
I don’t pretend to have simple answers to any of this. I simply want to bring you the Good News of the Gospel to bear upon you when you feel the disconnect of a anxious life!
Today’s Gospel is not so much about action as it is about relationship. It is the conclusion of the text from last weekend where Jesus uses the “Vine and Branches” image, where we are reminded that before we can bear fruit, the branch must remain connected to the vine.
As always, I begin with context. Keep in mind that this conversation we hear in the Gospel takes place on the eve of Jesus’ crucifixion. In just a few hours he will be arrested, tried, convicted, and executed as an enemy of the state. The disciples are already feeling deprived, alone, and frightened. They know something isn’t right, something has begun to happen that they are unsure of, but they do not like it.
Which is why Jesus first urges them to abide in his love. Especially in the Greek, there is an implied intensity. Stay again and again! Be rooted in my love! Be here! Dwell here! Stay here! Don’t go anywhere! Don’t look for other places! Be in my love! It is as if we are listening in on a powerful conversation between two people in love!
And then Jesus says something that may be even more important. He tells them that they did not choose him; rather the other way around. He just plain loves them….enough to give his life!
Moreover He is pretty clear that, whatever they may have thought, they did not actually choose him, or decide to follow him, or consciously become his disciples. Rather, he chose them.
To be chosen by God is the invitation to be centered and rooted in a love that is boundless, endless, all-engulfing, so generous, so caring, so true. To know that we are chosen by God is the foundation of a confidence in God’s providence. To know that we are chosen by God leads to a deepening trust that frees us to take risks for the sake of justice.
This matters, I think, because if it’s finally and totally up to us—to choose Jesus, to remain in him, to obey his commandments, to pursue happiness, to choose joy, then we are lost and confused. We may simply not do it! Maybe we can’t. We can try, and there is something valiant and noble and important about trying. But when push comes to shove, whether you’re telling someone to “accept Jesus” or “choose joy,” you may be giving good advice, but you are not proclaiming the Gospel.
So there you have it! The Good News is that God chose you! God loves us! God plans to use us to make this world God loves a better place. That can be hard to remember especially after the recent events in Baltimore, Nepal, Nigeria…..and more likely in any number of marriages and households right here in this community.
Don’t get it wrong! God choosing us is no panacea, as if none of the difficulties of this life matter. Rather, knowing that God has chosen us, loves us, and will use us, gives us courage to face the challenges and renews our strength when we are uncertain and disconnected.
Ultimately, we cannot fix, let alone redeem, the world. That’s why that’s God’s work! But knowing that God has promised to continue God’s redemptive work can provide us with the strength and energy to make the little corner of the world we live in a better place, as well as to work with organizations like LWR to step beyond our little corner!
My prayer for each one of you, as we move into a new week, is that we live in the Word and promise of God’s love for us……once and for all time.
I pray you hear this word of grace, especially in those confusing and uncertain places of your upcoming week, because you may not hear such Good News anywhere else.
So there it is! You are chosen! You are loved! Even when you cannot feel it! Because the love of God for you goes much deeper! Amen.
1 A word of gratitude for some of the thoughts taken from a May 4, 2015, blog by Pastor David Lose, entitled “On Being Chosen.”
Sixth Sunday of Easter 10 May 2015