Rev. Dr. John J. Lolla
Text: Ephesians 1:3-4
Old Testament: Jeremiah 31:7-14
New Testament: Ephesians 1:3-14
What do a mother, a teenager, a little girl, and a soldier have in common?
After many attempts at having a child, a doctor told a young woman and her husband they could not have children. The couple loved children and decided to adopt. After adopting two children they loved, the woman gave birth.
A 14-year-old boy was living a secret life which his parents didn’t know. Finally, he asked if his parents would pay for him to have voice lessons. His mother was shocked, “Why Collen, you don’t sing. I’ve never heard you sing.”
“I’ve been working on some things and thought I would give it a try.”
On New Year’s Eve a year ago, Collen and a 17-year-old girl sang “The Prayer” at the Benedum before a capacity crowd. He didn’t need a microphone. His spectacular tenor voice filled the theater.
A little girl is diagnosed with a disease nobody wants to associate with their child. She isn’t supposed to live more than a year. She undergoes considerable treatment. Her recovery astounds her physicians. Five years later, she’s a youth advisory delegate to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church.
A soldier stands alone at the perimeter of democracy in a remote land from home. He defends his family’s freedom, and that of his nation. His adversary condemns him as an occupier. The soldier’s anonymous except to his family and band of brothers in his unit. Today, he’s the unit’s only survivor.
What ties this unique group of people together is not their common humanity. What ties these people is not their unusual skill at transcending trials that cause people to give up on life. They’re not immune to fear. Neither are they free from sin.
These traits could be said of anyone.
They could be said to share everything that’s ordinary and mundane. As my football coach used to say about the perennial power in our high school football league, “Boys, they put their pants on one leg at a time, just like we do.”
Walk through Pittsburgh’s streets. You’re surrounded by ordinary people. Watch the crowds gathered in New York, Beijing, London, and Paris on New Year’s Eve. Each face is unique. Yet not one face stands out in the light of the holiday festivities. Humanity is beyond our imagination. The number of people on our planet exceeds our comprehension.
Still, certain people stand out. They don’t stand out because they have superhuman skills and abilities. They stand out because they’re chosen.
They were selected by God to represent more than who they are as individuals. They didn’t want this for themselves. It’s a responsibility into which they’ve learn to live. They will fail people, and God. But they’re chosen, nonetheless.
To be chosen is both a blessing, and, a challenge to keep it in perspective.
Some people never sense they’re chosen. American culture trains us to choose, not to be chosen. To be chosen is not what anyone can choose. Choosing to be chosen is impossible. Chosen-ness is a blessing that comes to a person. Chosen-ness comes from God.
Only God choses the genuinely chosen. God’s light shines on the chosen like the Nativity’s star shone over Bethlehem, or David’s star over Israel. Those heavenly lights weren’t simply shining over Jesus and David. Their light shone on God’s chosen people to illuminate His salvation plan.
The chosen know they haven’t created the conditions for God’s selection. Being chosen isn’t based on their inherit goodness. It doesn’t come from what they’ve done. It’s a gift not of their own making – a blessing with responsibility.
The couple who was told they couldn’t have children understood the blessing of children. They accepted this responsibility to adopt children from their own free will. Their third child was purely a gift – an impossible gift. Only God makes the impossible possible.
The 14-year-old tenor was like all teenagers searching for his life’s purpose. Neither he nor his parents knew he had been blessed with an extraordinary gift at birth. It took time and curiosity to find His heavenly endowment. He’s still learning if God has chosen him to sing on earth like the angels in heaven.
The 20-year-old cancer survivor learned through her long fight against cancer to count each day as God’s blessing. Joy radiated from her. Her joy wasn’t because she thought she was lucky to have lived beyond her doctors’ diagnosis.
Her joy was in her sense of responsibility to use each day as a gift to glorify God with gladness. She never said she had been chosen by God to be His missionary of Good News. She never thought of herself as being chosen. She simply lived as if she was chosen to show others God’s glory through her life.
She was dedicated to living for God’s glory – for as long as she had to live. It was clear to those who knew her story she had been chosen for this unique purpose.
The soldier who returned home alive from overseas had left our shores with the deep conviction he could save the people in a foreign land as well as the American people. He returned realizing it wasn’t his skill but God’s blessing that saved him. He discovered that only God saves. What we can do depends solely on what God does. Remorse and guilt intermingled with gratitude and joy.
Each of these ordinary people was chosen to fulfill a unique purpose. They were no different than the Apostle Paul. Paul thought his purpose in life was to suppress the Christian voice that Jesus was resurrected from the dead.
Paul thought his purpose was to identify, round up, and eliminate Christians. This is the life he had chosen for himself.
God had a different purpose for Paul. God chose this persecutor of the Church to become the greatest evangelist in history. God chose Paul to declare the Good News of Jesus Christ for the world’s salvation.
Joan of Arc was born in the obscurity of medieval peasantry. She thought her life was to be spent tending the soil and caring for a family. God chose her to lead her people to freedom 350 years before the French Revolution.
She was illuminated by the light of God’s purpose. Her French sense of fashion was to don armor to lead men into battle.
Love for God was her helmet of salvation. Faith in Christ was her shield of protection. She was girded with the breastplate of righteousness and spoke with the Spirit of God’s Word.
Each of these examples of chosen-ness glows with God’s illumination. Ordinary people are chosen by God for heavenly purposes. His light shines on them to inspire them to fulfill the purpose for which He chose them.
There are many Christians who never sense they’re chosen. Some never have given it a thought. Being chosen by God just isn’t part of their worldview. Others consider that chosen-ness is for the few, not the many.
If you fall into either of these categories, this is not God’s Word. Take God at His Word.
You were chosen at birth to be a holy people, God’s people. That’s why you’re here and not somewhere else this morning. Your parents recognized that in your conception God had chosen you for a purpose in life to discover. You were brought before God in the waters of baptism to begin your quest to learn the purpose for which you were chosen.
God’s purpose is for you to be Christ’s people: to teach, preach, lead, encourage, inspire, serve, and love others sacrificially with humility and grace in the name of Jesus Christ. God has given you all you need to fulfill this purpose. Your life is to glorify God by imitating Jesus Christ.
This is not your choice. It’s not yours to choose. It is God’s to give and yours to accept. If you haven’t accepted that God has chosen you for His purpose, then now is the time to accept it. Accept God’s choice for you with gratitude and humility. Repentance is a good place to begin.
Every day is a gift God has given you to fulfill His purpose in life. There’s no other reason for which to live. This is your blessing. This is your responsibility. This is your mission. You were chosen to fulfill God’s mission.
More than that, you are part of this congregation this morning beside Lincoln Avenue in Bellevue, Pennsylvania for a very special purpose. You are not here by accident. It is not your decision that you are here.
It is God’s decision that you are part of His mission in this location. You have been sent here by God to show His light in this community. Your job is to consider what He wants you to do to bring glory to Him through our mission.
There’s a reason why there are so few of us this morning and so many outside our doors who aren’t in any sanctuary of Jesus Christ this morning. It is your job to understand how you can align your life with God’s purpose to reach the people of this community with the hope of Jesus Christ! Bring them into this community of faith so they can be filled with the hope of Jesus Christ!
You weren’t brought here by God to refresh yourself spiritually, or to solve your personal problems by something you might hear or do this morning. You were brought here to fulfill that for which you were chosen – to bring God’s glory to the people of this community in the name of Jesus Christ.
Pray friends for instructions from Jesus Christ that will give you direction for this coming new year. And if you don’t hear an answer, then pray some more for guidance. If you still don’t receive instructions from God, still, then ask God what, if anything, is blocking you from knowing what God’s purpose is for which you are chosen.
If there’s some resistance within you to follow His will, then pray He removes that resistance from you. Pray that God opens your ears, removes the blinders from your eyes, or softens your heart – whatever it is that’s an obstacle between you and God that prevents you from accepting that God has chosen you for His mission.
There is joy in being chosen, friends. There is new vitality and a new excitement that comes from being chosen. May God’s work within you this new year rekindle your joy for being chosen! Amen.