††††††††† There is an event in life which all of us have experienced, an event that unites us and defines us in so many different ways, an event that both built our confidence and sometimes deflated it, an event that we will never forget.† What is this event that Iím talking about?† This one event that we have all experienced is the picking of teams for pick up games during school recess and in our neighborhood.
††††††††† When I was in elementary school, the bell would sound for recess and in a flash a herd of students would go crashing through the door making a beeline for the kickball field.† Everyone knew that the first two people to grab the big, red kick ball got to be the captains of the teams, and they would get the honor of picking the teams for the kickball game.† Of course, the two captains were always the strongest and fastest kids in my grade, and I wasnít one of them.†
You can imagine, Iím sure, how the rest of us felt, standing around, shuffling our feet, anxiously waiting, inwardly hoping that we would get chosen to be on the best team.† Of course, we tried not to look to eager, but it was hard not to especially when it was time for the captain of the best team to pick.† We would weasel our way up to the front of the group and give the captain that ďIím right here, pick meĒ look.† Our hearts would rise with expectation, then plummet with disappointment when we werenít picked, when we were passed over for the bigger, faster, stronger kids.†
Until that great moment, when the captain would finally call my name, and my head would snap up, and Iíd say, ďWho, me?,Ē and the captain would say, Yes, you.Ē† Then in a single bound I would jump to the team Iíd been chosen for.
Even as teenagers and adults we still want to be chosen.† We want to be chosen to go to the prom, chosen to go to the better colleges and universities, chosen for the better jobs, chosen for awards and commendations, even chosen so we can just be included with our friends.† Sometimes we are chosen and sometimes we arenít chosen.† It has been a good life lesson for me to learn that there is always someone better than me at something and there is always someone worse, but we still want to be chosen.†
But thanks be to God that God doesnít chose us this way.†
This is why the text we read from Paulís letter to the Christians in Asia Minor is so powerful for me, so wonderful, and so utterly amazing, because God has chosen us simply out of the good pleasure of Godís will, not by our athletic ability, not by how smart we are, not by how we look, and, thankfully, not even by how we act.†
My friends, in Jesus Christ, a great mystery has been revealed to us, a great mystery of glorious good news, that before the foundation of the world, before the creation of even the cosmos, God chose us.† Before the creation of the stars and planets, God blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing. Before the creation of the highest mountains and the lowest seas, God destined us for adoption as Godís own children.† Before the creation of any living creature, God lavished upon us the riches of Godís grace, redeemed us through the blood of Christ, made known to us the mystery of Godís will, and marked us with the seal of the promise of the Holy Spirit.†
It truly is glorious good news that before we even knew God, God knew us, and called us by name, and how wonderful it is to be called by our name because they identify who we are and to whom we belong.††† †††††
I will never forget what happened moments after my daughters were born.† I remember walking out into the waiting room after Hollie had been born, to where my family was sitting, and I said to them, with no problem at all, ďItís a girl,Ē but as I said her name, Hollie Elizabeth, I feel on my knees and just balled my eyes out.†
When Kara was born, I walked out into the hall where Hollie and the rest of my family were waiting, and I bent down, and said to Hollie, ďAre you ready to meet your little sister.Ē† Then someone said, ďWhat is her name?Ē† And with tears swelling up in my eyes, I said her name, Kara Grace, and that was all it took for the flood gates to open again.† At that moment I realized why I had cried both times, because for the first time I called them by name.† For the first time, they were not just anybody, they were somebody.
By the grace of God, we are not just anybody, we are somebody, we belong to God, we are Godís very own.† What an blessing!† What an affirmation for all of humanity!† In Jesus Christ, God has claimed us, called us by name, and given us all that we need to be better than we could possibly dream, all that we need to live a life of holiness, all that we need to rise to the challenge of all that life brings to us, all that we need to make a dramatic difference in lives of people around us, all that we need to do Godís work in this world.
Today, we celebrate Godís affirmation and calling as we ordain and install those, who will and have been set apart, through the laying on of hands, to the office of Elder in this particular church.† These people have answered Godís call in this particular way, but I want to remind all of you that you too are also called to serve and be a part of Godís ministry here at Finley.†
In a few moments, we will also celebrate the Lordís Supper, which is the clearest example of our belief in the priesthood of all believers.† Iím not Godís special agent that imparts Godís grace to you, nor are the Elders who will serve you.† Through this sacred act whereby we remember Christís redeeming death, it is you who will embody to each other the grace God has given to each of us, through Jesus Christ.†
The real power of this act comes not from what I do, but from what God does through you.† By taking the bread and the cup, each of you is a priest to yourself, reflecting on your own personal relationship with Jesus Christ through faith.† But then something glorious happens, in passing the bread and the cup to your neighbor, you share with them the grace and peace you know in Christ, and through your prayer-filled act for them, you become a priest to your brother and sister.†
My friends, God did not just choose the best of those from us, God chose all of us.† God chose all of us to be loving servants and faithful witnesses to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, not just with each other here at Finley, but to everyone we meet, everyone we pass on the streets, everyone we interact with in our daily lives.† Because in Jesus Christ, Godís divine plan and purpose is being carried out, a divine plan that encompasses more than just you and me, but for all people who walk this earth, for all of Godís good creation, a divine plan that connects us with the people of God whom we have neither known nor seen, with people whom God has also said, ďYes, you.Ē††††
In the powerful name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.