It was August of 1988 and it was my first week as a fourth grader at Bonita Springs Elementary School. My family and I had just moved to the area, so I was the new kid. I didn’t know any of the other students. I didn’t know the routines of the school. And I don’t remember very much about that first week, except for the fact that on Friday afternoon, our PE coach took us outside to one of the athletic fields and announced, “Everybody line up! It’s time to choose your kick-ball teams!” And my heart began to beat a little bit faster. Because nobody knew me and no fourth grader wants to be the last one chosen for a kick-ball team. Of course, it’s awesome to be chosen first or even second. It’s respectable to be chosen third, fourth, or fifth. But it’s utterly humiliating to be chosen last, because at that point it’s no longer even a choice.
Now most of us are probably no longer worried about being chosen last for a particular kick-ball team. But the same dynamics that played out in my fourth grade PE class play out in so many other facets of our lives. We all have experiences of being chosen. Experiences of being acknowledged and desired. However, the paradox is that all our experiences of being chosen are inextricably link to experiences of not being chosen. We live in a world characterized by competition and comparison. We live in a world in which there are winners and losers. There are those who are “in” and those who are “out.” There are those who celebrated as successful and those who are rejected as failures.
In the midst of the competition and comparisons of this world, there is something deep inside each one of us that longs to be chosen, to be acknowledged and desired simply for who we are. No strings attached. No expectations. No judgements. But simply chosen for who we are.
If we step back into the world of the first century, the disciples that were following Jesus found themselves in a similar world of competition and comparison. A world of winners and losers. Masters and servants. Lords and subjects. Now the followers of Jesus were fishermen and merchants. They would not have been considered the most qualified, the most skilled, or the most educated.And throughout their time with Jesus, the disciples seemed to get things wrong way more often than they got them right. If Jesus was the team captain choosing the best players for his team, these guys are not the ones you would expect Jesus to choose first.And yet, on the night before Jesus died, he says the most remarkable thing. He says, “You thought all this time that you were the ones choosing me. The fact of the matter is I’ve been the one choosing you.” No strings attached. No expectations. No judgements. I simply choose you for who you are.
In that moment with his disciples, Jesus articulates one of the most profound spiritual promises in the entire Bible, the promise that we have been chosen by God. The promise that God acknowledges and desires to be with us. The promise that God chose to enter into the brokenness and messiness of our lives in order that we might have life and have it abundantly! Jesus chooses you! But there are some things I want you to understand about what it means to be chosen.
Being chosen is foundational to our sense identity and purpose. In other words, this goes to the core of who we are. The Apostle Paul says, “before the foundation of the world, God chose us.” Psalm 139 says that “God knit us together in our mother’s womb and every day of our life was written in God’s book before even one came to pass. Spiritual author and teacher Henri Nouwen says, “To be chosen means we have been seen by God from all eternity and seen as unique and special and precious in his sight.” To know deep within you that you are chosen is foundational to understanding who you are and the depth of God’s love for you.
Being chosen is irreversible. In a world in which we inevitably experience the pain of rejection and isolation. The promise of being chosen by God can never be undone. It can never be canceled. It can never be lost or reversed. Because the fact of the matter is you and I can never stray or wander so far from God that his grace cannot track us down. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more or love us less. Our chosenness is permanent spiritual reality. And to drive home this point, think about the fact that in our gospel reading, the fellowship of disciples to whom Jesus declares, “I choose you” includes Peter who would deny him and Judas who would betray him. Our chosenness is foundational to who we are, and it is utterly irreversible!
Being chosen is relational. In the economy of God’s grace, to be chosen doesn’t result in someone else being rejected. Contrary to our world of competition, to be chosen as God’s Beloved is something radically different. Instead of excluding, it includes. Instead of dividing, it unites. Instead of separating, it draws us together. In the kingdom of God, there are no winners and losers. There’s no “in” and “out.” Because in the kingdom of God it’s not about competition; it’s about compassion. It’s about seeing one another as God’s Beloved.
Last week, I attended a virtual clergy conference on the topic of preaching. And one of the speakers reflected on the things that have changed for him as a preacher during the pandemic. And one of the things he said resonated deeply with me. He said, “People are not looking for more information; they are searching for meaning.” In the midst of the competition and comparison of this world, people are searching for meaning and purpose. They’re literally searching for a reason to live. They’re searching for hope. They’re searching for joy. They’re waiting for someone to point to them and say, “I choose you.” No strings attached. No expectations. No judgements. I simply choose you for who you are. That is promise that has been revealed to us through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. We have been chosen since before the foundation of the world. But this is a promise that cannot just be believed; it must also be received. So, if you would stand with me this morning. Extending your hands out in front of you. And just receive the promise of your chosenness this morning.