Sermon – 01-19-20 – Epiphany II – Cycle A
Scriptures: Isaiah 49:1-7; Psalm 40:1-11; 1 Corinthians 1:1-9; John 1:29-42
Sermon Title: “Chosen for What?”
John the Baptist, a wilderness dweller – chosen to prepare the way for this new person named Jesus and then baptize this holy Son of God
Peter, a fisherman – chosen to become a disciple of this Jesus and then chosen to become the rock of the Christian church with the bonus of being given the keys to heaven
Andrew, Peter’s brother – chosen to bring Peter to Jesus
Moses, Jeremiah, Amos, Noah, Jonah – all chosen for specific tasks at specific times in specific places in the kingdom of God on earth
About us? Several were chosen to be beauticians, several were chosen to be car mechanics, some were chosen to be leaders in companies, some were chosen to be loving parents to specific children, nurses, musicians, computer whizzes, realtors in the real estate world. Some were chosen to understand mysteries, others to know how to use the mysteries, to communicate knowledge and systems, to track details, to teach, to preach, to pick up pieces when humans disagree and fall apart, doctors, carers of children, actors, plumbers, farmers, government workers from the lowest to the highest. Did she just say “lowest?”
The most humble positions may be the mightiest, may be the most important. It depends on the persons in those positions. Also, not everyone starts in the work or position for which God planned and chose for that person. It takes trial and error, sometimes, to find ourselves in the “right” job; the job that feels comfortable, the job in which we can make a difference, the job for which we have been talented by our Maker.
The question is: Are we making a difference for the kingdom as we do our jobs?
In our Hebrew lesson today, Isaiah tells of a fictitious character named Israel. God chose this female character and said to her, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the survivors of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Wow! A light for the nations. Big task!
Now I am taking us on a strange journey. I grew up in a Mennonite congregation where we were taught to think every last person on earth could accept Jesus as his or her Savior and be headed for heaven. It was our job to inform every last person on earth about this Savior named Jesus. Well, eventually, this Mennonite girl went to seminary – way past the girl stage of life. In church history, we came to the idea that only certain people are chosen by God to be saved. Imagine! I could not believe that not everyone on earth had the opportunity – the chance – to be saved.
As the weeks went on we studied slightly different beliefs, each one getting a tiny bit less obnoxious. Finally, we came to the group of believers who believed that each person born had an equal opportunity to become “saved.”
Some believers believe that being “saved” happens in a specific moment. This happens and when it happens it is a life-changing event. Some believers believe that being saved is a gradual experience and not necessarily one specific moment. Baptism is a symbol of accepting Jesus as our Savior. The protestant denomination called Baptists generally baptize individually when a person feels ready. Other protestant faiths have classes to give instruction and then baptize. Some denominations, including Roman Catholic, Lutheran, United Church of Christ, baptize as a free gift to a baby or child and then have classes and then the Rite of Confirmation for these same grown-up babies to say, “Yes, I believe and I want to claim my baptism for my life.” However, adults are also very welcome to request baptism in this kind of denomination.
We can see that there are different ways to come into the family of God, to be wrapped in his presence, to experience the love and acceptance, the forgiveness that transforms our souls. But, to think that some people can’t come into this fold is harsh exclusiveness. There is a place for everyone around the table of grace. Everyone is “chosen.”
Before Jesus came to walk on earth, people were expected to bring animals to the altar of our Lord in order to be accepted into the fold or to be re-instated after sinning. This was not a fluffly, sweet, living animal like a lamb. This was butchering at the altar – blood. Sometimes burnt animal flesh. You know how we, today, confess our sins – otherwise known as shortcomings – each Sunday without butchering anything.
Why has this custom changed? Jesus is the reason! Remember Good Friday. Jesus became our sacrificial lamb on the cross. Jesus is the Lamb. Jesus is the Lamb of God! That is why we can come here on a Sunday morning and say we fell short this week. Maybe something light, maybe something heavy. That is why, in the privacy of aloneness, we can fall on our knees and confess to God that we failed ourselves and God miserably. The Lamb of God takes away our sin. It is already done, it is happening now, and it covers the future. The Lamb of God died on the cross once for our reconciliation with God to happen over and over; not just for ourselves but for all people who ever lived and ever will live.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him, shall not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16
I believe that every person on earth is free to believe. There are no restrictions. Each person is chosen to make the choice – to believe or not to believe, to accept or not accept this great invitation into the full circle of God’s grace and love.
How will people believe in something they have not heard? That is why our closing hymn is “O Zion, Haste, Thy Mission High Fulfilling.” Watch for the words, “. . . to tell to all the world that God is light.” Remember the words that God gave to our fictitious Israel person, “I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
Is this touching my heart? Is it touching your heart? How shall we respond? Amen