Chosen Not Frozen
Sunday, May 10, 2015
St. Timothy’s UMC Rev. Mark M. Norman Vickers
This morning we have the text of the commandment following Jesus’ parable of the vine and the understanding that we are to bear much fruit being a part of that vine, that plant which started with God in Jesus Christ.
Our Gospel writer this morning takes a rather abrupt turn to the concept of love and what our responsibility as a Christian is to love in the proper context. That is to love out of the necessity of reaching those who do not know what Christ has to offer.
In our world today, we are perplexed by the notion of our identity. We are consumed to be “what we are, by what surrounds us”!!! We identify with those things that “somewhat” give our life some type of meaning. We tend to find our identity in the comfort of those things around us. Our material items for the most part! Our gadgets, our cars, our homes, our churches, our clothes, all of those things that tend to “mark” us as someone! Now, please hear what I am saying, “identity” is not a bad thing, rather it is an essential element of our faith and our presence in the Gathered Community of Christ, it is how we establish and understand our identity that becomes confusing and bothersome.
I preached several weeks ago about the uncomfortable nature of our ability to receive gifts. We as a society and a human person, do not accept gifts very well. We are uncomfortable because we have in some way come to think that if we receive a gift, then we must do something in return for receiving it! Hence, we have lost the entire understanding of “gifting”. We hear in the gospel text this morning the understanding of gifting as a commandment of love! In verse 15, Jesus says, “I do not call you servant’s 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. You did not choose me but I chose you!!”
st Our life is a gift!! Our lives are not our own according to scripture, they are God’s. We, as a 2
Century people have taken on the notion of a very individualistic society with a persona of one. We have trouble refocusing our notion that we have been chosen by God! We have forgot where we started from and who made us who we are.
Will Willimon, United Methodist Bishop and former professor of mine, said, “We live not for ourselves, as we think we live, but for our machines, our gadgets, our things. We die, not attached as the disciples were to the Lord of heaven and earth, but in the thoroughly modern way, attached to a machine.” What we have forgotten over time and must find our way back to the gospel is that discipleship is not our idea! It was not the Disciples idea, it was not by choice, and it was God’s choosing them through Jesus to do the work of the Kingdom.
Discipleship is important because they have Kingdom work to do not because they “want” to do it, but because God has chosen them to do it. Same as we who are here! We may have come to St. Timothy’s or The United Methodist Church because we like the arena, the people, the message, when really, we came because God called us to this place to do God’s work!
I’M NOT HERE BECAUSE OF WHO I AM, BUT BECAUSE OF WHO GOD IS IN MY LIFE AND IN YOUR LIVES.
WE ARE HERE THROUGH THE GIFT OF GOD AND OTHERS, NOT BY OURSELVES.
James B. Duke, founder of Duke University is noted for saying, throughout all of his philanthropic efforts this quote from his daddy, “My old daddy always told me that if he amounted to anything, it would be because of the Methodist Circuit Riders. If I amount to anything, it will be because of the Methodist Church.” Few of us today would be comfortable acknowledging our lives as the result of others. That is the problem with the grounding of our faith, we think WE have done it all!! When in fact, as we hear in the gospel this morning, we didn’t do anything, God chose us!!
People often ask us preachers to explain, “How did you called into preaching?” They usually expect a long drawn out theological answer, or the story of a bolt of lightning, but if they listen carefully, they will hear the answer is “them”. You, as people of God have surrounded me all my life, taught me the Kingdom stories, explained the biblical texts, showed me examples of mercy and grace, and gently brought me into the place where God was calling me to go!!
I’m often amused when I visit the maternity wards of hospitals. If you listen to the fathers speak as they stand outside the nursery window, “that one’s mine”!! Like they picked out their child in the K&W serving line!! I want to say to them, rather slap them, and say, you no more chose that child, than that baby chose you. God gifted you with that child and now it’s your responsibility to raise that child in the correct way.
We are here this morning, on this the day we call Mother’s Day, to celebrate the fact that we are here because of what others have done for us!! We need to come and give thanks for those who have gifted us with the love, care, and nurture that has made us who we are. Just as Christ has gifted us with so many people in our lives of faith.
The second part of this understanding that we are not selfmade people, that we are people of the Kingdom, is to acknowledge those who have gifted us with the ability to love, to bestow mercy, and to act in a kind and compassionate manner. It is okay to give thanks in that manner!! It’s biblical!! For in our text this morning, we hear that proclaimed in v. 17 “I am giving you these commands so that you may love one another.” These commands, these lessons, these acts of grace that have been given to us throughout our lives need to be acknowledged. How we acknowledge them becomes challenging.
Do we just send a card once a year, flowers once a year? You know the drill. How do we deeply and earnestly say “thank you” in the midst of our lives as human beings? It is a challenge. I think Jesus tells us in this scripture that if we earnestly love one another then that is thanks enough!! Again, we become caught up in our identity that it requires so much of us, so much of who “we” are in NOT getting caught up in our identity, our mundane gifts, but learn to bestow the gifts of love in unconditional ways to those who love us and have loved us throughout our lives.
I encourage you today, as we celebrate Mother’s Day, let us thank God for the people and the gifts that put us here this morning. We are not here through our own efforts but rather through the gifts of so many otherspeople who loved us and showed us the way, some who are still with us today, some who have left this earthly world. People who loved us and showed us the ways, people like our mothers, for instance. Let’s thank God for the gift of our mothers. We didn’t choose our mothers, but look how God has blessed us through them. We didn’t even choose Jesus. He chose us. And look how he intends to bless the world through us.