Sunday, May 14, 2017

Chosen to Proclaim

May 14, 2017 - 5th Sunday of Easter

Made my me using an image by Swinx on

1 Peter 2:1-10
Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. 2Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— 3if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God’s sight, and 5like living stones, let yourselves be built* into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6For it stands in scripture:
‘See, I am laying in Zion a stone,
   a cornerstone chosen and precious;
and whoever believes in him* will not be put to shame.’
7To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,
‘The stone that the builders rejected
   has become the very head of the corner’,
‘A stone that makes them stumble,
   and a rock that makes them fall.’
They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.
9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people,* in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.
10Once you were not a people,
   but now you are God’s people;
once you had not received mercy,
   but now you have received mercy.

Sermon: “Chosen to Proclaim”

“You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people.”

Now doesn’t that just feel GOOD?  We’re chosen by God.  Take a moment, turn to your neighbor, and tell them, “You are chosen by God.”

Chosen.  Hand-picked by God.  Do you remember playing as a child, and having to pick teams?  Oh, the horror of being the last one picked.  Standing there awkwardly shuffling your feet, praying that someone, anyone would call your name.  The shame of being too short and being the consolation prize for the last team to pick someone.  Or remember a time when you were going for that promotion you’d worked so hard for, only to not be the CHOSEN one.  It’s not a good feeling. 

But 1 Peter this morning tells us that we are chosen by God.  We’re God’s first choice for the heavenly dodgeball team.  The first pick for a promotion into heaven.  A chosen race.  A royal priesthood.  A holy nation.  God’s own people.  Ah.  It feels good to be chosen. 

A lot of Christians have talked about how good it feels to be God’s chosen people.  Here are some examples:
“I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator.”

“Who says I am not under the special protection of God?”

“But God knows he has given us an extremely difficult, complicated mission.  I have seen his hand in history, and I see little miracles everyday.  He loves his people so much he came to earth and walked among us and sacrificed himself for us—to redeem his people.  He will preserve his people.”

We might say these same statements.  They sound pretty good.  These people knew what it meant to be chosen. 

But before we shout our (inner) Presbyterian “Amen” to these statements, I have to tell you the whole story.  The first two statements were made by none other than Adolf Hitler.  The last, by a member of the Klu Klux Klan.

Do you see the harm caused by wrongly interpreting being chosen by God?  Dwelling on the idea of chosenness is dangerous. History has shown us this again and again.

So that we can safeguard against doing this, let’s look at the 1 Peter text again: “But you are a chosen race (which means “family” in the Greek, by the way), a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who brought you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”
So much meaning in three little words.  We are chosen in order that we will proclaim God’s great acts.  We are chosen to proclaim the One who chose us.  So you see, if we stop at the ‘being chosen’ part, focusing only on that, we miss half of the equation.  We end up sounding very much like Adolf Hitler or the KKK. 

The writer of 1 Peter doesn’t just tell us we’re chosen; he also tells us what this chosenness should look like.  Who’s the first person who is said to be chosen?  The one “rejected by mortals, yet chosen and precious in God’s sight.” Jesus Christ. The chosen one is rejected by people, suffers and gives his life for all.  The chosen one dies.  So chosenness, then, doesn’t look so much like a mighty victory or sense of superiority. Chosenness looks like self-sacrifice.  It looks like giving entirely of yourself for others. 

We see this in scripture through those chosen people of Israel.  Their chosenness led them to hardship and wandering in the wilderness, longing for home.   Their chosenness gave them such an accountable and intimate relationship with God that God demanded great faithfulness of them, and even punished them when they fell short.  Their chosenness meant that if they oppressed the needy in their midst, or the foreigner, or the widow or the orphan, they themselves suffered for their actions.  So, we have to ask ourselves a very honest question: do we really want to call ourselves chosen, with all that demands?   
Perhaps it would be more comfortable to have less demanded of us, to simply be tolerated by God, or enjoyed even, but not chosen. But our chosenness never was of our own choosing – God chooses to be in relationship with us flawed people, again and again. And if God makes that risky choice, we too must take a risk. We must risk proclaiming what this relationship with God means. We must risk naming that we are not little gods in little worlds of our making. We belong to God and to this one world family. We are chosen to proclaim this.

 So, how do we do this?  Another look at 1 Peter reminds us that we are to “rid ourselves of all malice, guile, insincerity, envy and all slander.”  So a good start is choosing to hold ourselves to a higher standard, God’s standard. We do not descend into the bickering, malicious tactics that are so seductive and prevalent these days, but instead practice sincerity, contentment, kindness, and honesty (whether we’re shown that or not).

From that place, we can proclaim who God is with authenticity and relevance. And who would you say God is? How would you proclaim God’s mighty acts in your life? I’m betting none of you would name God as hateful, or bitter, or spiteful. And yet, sometimes we people of Christian faith have done just that: proclaiming a God very unlike our own through acting exactly opposite to how we should.

It’s not enough to say we’re chosen. We have to say we’re chosen for something: for proclaiming. But it’s also not enough to proclaim any old thing: we have to proclaim the God who chose us first. Not our pride, not our superiority, not our rightness, not even our most deeply held political convictions. We proclaim the God who gave us a voice in the first place.

It’s scary stuff, this proclamation work. You won’t often find us Presbys on a box on a street corner with a megaphone. But we don’t need the props – we’re proclaiming all the time, whether we mean to or not.

How we treat the person who pulls out in front of us in traffic is a proclamation.

Whether we bother to make eye contact with the waiter who refills our coffee is a proclamation.

How quickly we react to one another with impatience is a proclamation.

How much of our time and money we give to those in need is a proclamation.

The value we place on women in our society, and the histories we teach our children is a proclamation.

Just as we’re chosen all the time, out of God’s grace and not of our own doing, so we are proclaiming all the time.

Let’s proclaim the mighty acts of the One who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Let’s proclaim that we were once scattered, divided and alone, but God made us one family. Let’s proclaim that our faith is not about perfection, or racial or political superiority, but about God’s mercy for all of us in Jesus Christ.

We’re chosen – but that’s only the half of it. We’re chosen to proclaim. So, I suppose the question really is: what do we have to say?



No comments:

Post a Comment