We are drowning in a sea of choices…but Jesus says, “I choose you.” No choice required on our part.
6th Sunday of Easter (Year B) – May 10, 2015 – Acts 10:44-48, John 15:9-17
St. Jacob’s-Spaders Lutheran Church, Harrisonburg, Virginia
I Choose You – Pastor Evan Davis
Have you ever been in line at a Starbucks and stood there as someone ordered a “grande, double shot, soy, no foam, extra hot latte?” (Maybe it was you!) And you were like, I thought they just sold coffee here?? According to the company, there are at least 87,000 ways to order coffee at Starbucks, and every one of them says something about who you are. At least that’s how people think about it.
We live in a world of choices. Many of you didn’t grow up in this new world in which everything is a choice. There was one kind of coffee, one kind of restaurant that served pretty much one kind of food, one way to dress, one way to live, one way to believe. Some of you inherited a very strong identity – Shenandoah Valley, hard-working, American, Christian, Lutheran. You didn’t choose your community – it was your family, your neighbors, your town.
But here we are today, in a world of choices. Today both identity and community are, for many people, something chosen, not inherited. This started changing decades ago…I’ll say, the 1960’s. What you wear, how you live, who you vote for, what you believe…all of a sudden it could be different from your parents, your family. The choices have multiplied. Maybe some of you sent a message by the car you drove or what clothes you wore. I drive a Chevy Cobalt and wear jeans from Target, so what am I trying to say about myself…. “I’m economical??” Today it’s which phone you whip out of your pocket. But it’s more than that. For kids today, every instagram, twitter, and facebook post is one more choice in a carefully constructed identity. Every picture, every selfie is a brushstroke in a constantly-evolving self-portrait. It may start with clothes, technology, carefully staged selfies, but as those kids grow up, they can choose from hundreds of colleges and careers, where they will then make hundreds of more choices. When they get hired or graduate, as so many are this weekend, they choose not just where to live in town but which city to live in. They will choose not between ABC, NBC, and CBS for their news, but they’ll be faced with hundreds of news outlets online, each of which promotes a slightly different worldview. And when it comes to belief, they choose not just between their childhood church and a spouse’s, not just Lutheran or Presbyterian or Brethren, but Lutheran or Buddhist, Lutheran or nothing in particular. You can choose.
In this world, where you can be whatever you want to be, it’s so easy to wonder, what am I really supposed to do? Who am I supposed to be? Where do I fit in? It’s understandable to wonder, maybe only in the silence of our own hearts, “who’s choosing me?” Is there someone who really wants me to be around?
It’s at this point that we need to hear from Jesus, “you did not choose me but I chose you.” God didn’t just “like” your page on facebook, God has chosen you from before the foundation of the world. God didn’t just “friend” you with the click of a button, but our Lord Jesus calls us friends….friends for whom he quite willingly lays down his life. Friends he has chosen – called, gathered, and enlightened to bear the fruit of love in their lives.
It’s kind of like the teenager running out the front door, screaming, “I hate you, Mom, you’re not my family anymore,” and Mom has to remind this child, “guess what? You didn’t choose me, but I chose you! You have no choice in the matter, you’re mine!” As we remember this Mother’s Day, it’s when we get older that we appreciate those words ever more deeply. “I chose you, I’m your Mom.” So it is with God. We may feel like we have to choose everything in our lives…that we have to stake out our position, and make sure we’ve chosen the right side, the best option, but guess what? God says, I chose you. You are my child. You don’t have to choose. It’s not up to you. Creatures don’t decide whether they are created. Children don’t get to decide whether their Mother will love them. Like it or not, you are a part of God’s global family.
And like it or not, God chooses lots of other people too. God’s global family is big. The story from Acts reminds us. We heard just the very ending of the story, but we have to hear the beginning:
There’s a Roman commander named Cornelius who worships God, gives to the poor, and prays constantly, but he’s not a Jew. An angel says to him, send men to Peter in Joppa. Peter’s a Jew. But Cornelius sends his guys to Joppa. Meanwhile, Peter is praying on his roof when he gets hungry and just then he sees a vision of all kinds of tasty but non-kosher things he’s not supposed to eat because he’s a good law-abiding Jew. A voice says to him, “get up, Peter; kill and eat.” Peter says, “by no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” The voice comes again, and declares, “what God has made clean, you must not call profane.” So when Cornelius’ men arrive at his house, Peter and “some of the (circumcised) believers from Joppa” go with them back to Caesarea (Gentile, Roman city). In the same room, around the table together, Peter preaches that the one they hung on a tree God raised up as forgiveness for all God’s global family, and “while Peter was still speaking,” the Holy Spirit shows up, and “fell upon all who heard the word.” Peter asks, “can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?”
God said to Cornelius and his family too, “I choose you.” Who’s God saying that to in our lives, in our communities? Those we would call enemies? Criminals? Drug dealers? God breaks our boundaries – even the boundaries we think God has put in place. God says, yes, I choose her, I choose him, too. Who can hold back the overwhelming tide of God’s grace?
Our Lord Jesus Christ rescues us from despair and self-doubt, from drowning in a sea of choices, saying “I chose you.” Then he drowns that old creature we were in the waters of baptism, so that he might raise us to new life… chosen, forgiven, free. Free to be whomever God’s made us to be, in the security and wholeness of our identity as a child of God.
People all around us need to hear it too: “I choose you.” There’s a lot of people who aren’t sure, who feel they must make all the right choices. Our neighbors do hear it, when you simply make space for them in your life. When you take the risk of inviting someone to coffee or dinner, or the risk of accepting someone else’s invitation. When you stop to listen to the other side. When you welcome a guest here.
God is always knitting us together into a brilliant, multi-colored garment – because when God chooses each of us and brings us together as a mother gathers her children, God doesn’t make us all the same. The kingdom of God isn’t a melting pot, it’s a tossed salad…but trust me, all the ingredients really do work together. It’s God’s tossed salad, and it tastes good!
So whatever little choices we make in our lives…..
grande double shot latte or tall skim mocha, or for goodness’ sake, a cup of coffee…
MSNBC or Fox News or just the newspaper thank you very much
Ford or Chevy or please, a Toyota;
city or country
lifelong Lutheran, staunch Catholic, believin’ Baptist, or still figuring it out…
God’s choice is the one that matters. I choose you. All are welcome in this place. Amen.