May 10, 2015 - John 15.9-17

“Jesus Chose You”

John 15.9-17

May 10, 2015

 

9 As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.

12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father. 16 You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name. 17 I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.[1]

 

Today is Mother's Day. Mothers, and fathers, remind us of a truth we too easily forget. Parents remind us of our indebtedness to others for most everything that is important to us: our lives, our looks, our values, and our tuition. Parents keep teaching us a great truth: none of us is selfmade.

Any ought to Sunday remind us of our indebtedness. Every time we gather here in church, we join our praise with the voices of the saints in heaven and on earth. Faith is a gift. We believe only because someone lived the faith before us and told us the story in a manner that was worthy of our imitation. Saints are our great-great-grandparents and we are their children in the faith. None of us is a selfmade believer.[2]

 

Today's gospel is from the long farewell discourse that characterizes the chapters of John's gospel before the crucifixion. Jesus teaches his disciples and comforts them. In John 15, we find an interesting statement by Jesus to his followers, "You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit . . . " (15:16).

Most of us think of our religion as something that we have chosen. No, Jesus reminds his disciples that discipleship is his idea, not their idea. He reached out to them and declared them to be his followers before they reached out to him.

Our faith in God rests upon the choices of God, rather than upon our efforts. We love because God first loved us. We, who were once enemies of God, have been called friends by Christ (15:15), even children of God.

Why is this text, spoken by Jesus before his crucifixion, found here in Eastertide? I think it may be because it is a good reminder that our God is a living God. Our God is not an abstract idea, a detached notion, or a set of beliefs. Our God is a living God who reaches, intrudes, comes to us, and chooses us.[3]

 

We did not first choose Jesus; Jesus first chose us. God in Christ reached out to us, made us his disciples. This is not the way we think of our lives. We are taught to think of our lives as our creations, as the result of our savvy choices. Christians are those who are taught to construe their lives as creations of the choices of God.[4]

 

Those of you who know something of the Bible and its stories of these saints may be less than pleased to have a Samson, David, or a Sarah as your grandparents. They may look saintly when they are now safely tucked between the covers of a leather bound Bible. But in their day, few called them saints. People seem saintly after they've been dead a thousand years. But if you had to live with them, had to stare at them across the breakfast table rather than across a gothic church, well . . . Which reminds me that one thing unites these biblical saints in a funny sort of way – all of them had a lousy family life. I mentioned Samson and David - the mess they made of their marriages and families is legendary. Not many of them were model parents. Sarah, grandmother of a whole nation, was a conniving schemer who managed to pass on most of her psychoses to her children. If you knew their stories, as the Bible tells them, you might question why they are our saints. Of course, we don't choose our saints. They are given to us by the tradition of the synagogue and the church.

"Aw, leave them alone," you say. "It's bad taste for us to speak ill of our grandparents in faith." And that pinpoints a major difference between us and the Bible. Today, when we speak of family, parents, and children, we're apt to speak rather sentimentally, unrealistically, if not downright deceitfully. Ours is the happy family - Ozzie, Harriet, June, Ward, Wally, and the Beaver. When the Bible speaks about parents and children in faith, it speaks honestly - Sarah, Samson, David, and Bathsheba.

Our dishonesty about our families is surprising, considering the state of American family life. Never has the divorce rate been higher, never have we had more problems with spouse/child/elder abuse. In the name of freedom, we Americans created something called the individual. Nothing is more important, to Americans of the political right or left, than maintaining the sovereignty of the individual and his or her options, freedom, and independence. As a result, relations between husbands and wives become a contract between two individuals who jealously guard their rights and prerogatives. Family relations come to resemble the rest of our society - a conglomeration of friendly strangers. We've created a world where privacy is sought more than community, where no one is asked to suffer for anybody else, and where we want both to be intimate and still to be able to shake hands, say goodbye, with no bad feelings. Such thinking makes relations between parents and children incomprehensible. The odd factor that makes being a child or a parent so unusual in our society is this: You didn't choose your parents and they didn't choose you.

Think about it. You don't choose relatives; they are given. Even if you adopt a child, that child will grow to be so unlike the baby whom you brought home from the adoption agency that you will continually know that this child is someone who has been given rather than selected. As parents and children in a modern world that worships individual rights and freedom, nothing is odder than learning to love someone whom we didn't choose.

To a surprising degree, this lack of choice extends even to the person whom we marry. Most people think that the toughest part of marriage is deciding whom we ought to marry, making the right choice. We say we are deciding whether or not we are in love with this person; that is, are we emotionally attached.

Sometimes I ask fellow pastors, "What is the purpose of your premarital counseling?" Most of them say something like, "To be certain that the couple knows what they are getting into. Does a pastor know what people get into in marriage? Did you, those of you who either are or were married; did you know what you were getting into?

Nobody knows what he or she is getting into as a husband or wife, a parent or a child. Don't get me wrong. I'm all for marriage preparation, and we ought to do more of it. I'm in the marriage preparation business. But the trick is to prepare for a lifetime of commitment to someone who is always changing. How can you prepare for how annoying another person can be when he or she is so close to you so early each morning? How can you prepare for all the ways a child will challenge you, disappoint you, worst of all, come to look just like you only to desert you for college?

You can't. And because you can't, what you need is some means of being part of an adventure, which you can't control, the end result of which you do not fully understand. Morally, we move into the future on the basis of the commitments that we made without knowing what we were getting into.

What you need, when you marry or have a child, is some means of turning your fate into your destiny. As Christians, our faith provides us the means to live together as parents, children, husbands, and wives. Just as you didn't choose Samson or Sarah to be your grandparents in faith, so you didn't choose Jesus to be your Savior. He came to us, not the other way around. John's Gospel makes this explicit: Jesus says to his disciples, in this morning's gospel, "You did not choose me. I chose you so that you might bear fruit" (15:16). Life cannot be mainly about our choice and our decision since the Bible says that God must save us by what we cannot have by our efforts or striving. The Bible, its stories of folk who were commandeered by God for God's work, is a long story of God's continued determination to love us even when we are unloving and unlovable.

 

Jesus chose you.  I have often heard of people “losing their religion.”  I believe this is the wrong way to understand that experience.  While a person might feel more distant from their religion because of life experiences, if that person entered into a relationship with Jesus  - a genuine relationship with Jesus – Jesus is never going to let that go.  It really is a 2 way street.  You might try to abandon Jesus, or even shake him loose, but Jesus is not going to break a promise.  Jesus chose you and he meant it for all time.

 

So…if Jesus chose you, does that mean that you are completely out of the picture?  Does that mean that you have no role in all of this?  Not at all.  You do have a choice.  You have a choice about how to respond to God.  How do you react to knowing that Jesus chose you?  How do you react to God’s profound and mysterious love?  What will you do since Jesus chose you?  Does this not matter to you?  Or does nothing matter more?  You have the choice to respond to God or not.  You have the choice to follow Jesus or not.  You have the choice to be a disciple of Jesus or not.  Jesus chose you.  Will you chose him?

 

 

[1]The New Revised Standard Version, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers) 1989.

[2] Willimon, Pulpit Resource, May 21, 2006.

[3] Willimon, Pulpit Resource, May 21, 2006.

[4] Willimon, Pulpit Resource, May 21, 2006

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