John 15: 9-17
Wesley, Doncaster East
May 28, 2000
It really was thoughtless, stupid and smart-alecky of me. I knew Harry Macpherson was mortally afraid of snakes. I’d seen him leap from one side of the bus to the other when a snake charmer had called up a cobra from his resting place. I’d seen other similar instances.
A harmless green tree snake had been caught and killed. Harry had given me a spare key to his room. I couldn’t resist. I opened up his room and carefully draped the body as if it was emerging from just under his bed.
Relationships between us remained strained for some time.
I wanted to say sorry, but felt foolish and apprehensive. I wanted a sign that Harry would forgive me. Somehow I expected him to take the initiative
Our relationship with God is like that. We want a sign that God will forgive our wilful, thoughtless, smart-alecky ways.
But God has already made clear his love and forgiveness. The cross is his sign –love emblazoned across human history for all time. God has taken the initiative.
That’s the crazy idea Christians have. God has given us a sign: God has taken the initiative.
And we have an even more crazy idea: we haven’t chosen God – God has chosen us. He has taken the initiative with us.
God is the God of surprise and the unexpected, breaking through, taking the initiative.
We can’t escape from that idea. It’s there in the Old Testament.
In Deuteronomy the people were reminded:
“The Lord did not choose you and lavish his love on you because you were larger or greater than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! It was simply because the Lord loves you.”
Whenever the first fruits of the harvest were offered, these words were to be said:
“‘My ancestor Jacob was a wandering Aramean who went to live in Egypt. His family was few in number, but in Egypt they became a mighty and numerous nation. When the Egyptians mistreated and humiliated us by making us their slaves, we cried out to the Lord, the God of our ancestors. He heard us and saw our hardship, toil, and oppression. So the Lord brought us out of Egypt with amazing power, overwhelming terror, and miraculous signs and wonders. He brought us to this place and gave us this land flowing with milk and honey!’”
The early Christians thought of themselves as “chosen.”
“We are thankful that God chose you to be among the first to experience salvation.”
“Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ..”
“God the Father chose you long ago..”
John, as if to remind all followers of Jesus that their special status has nothing to do with inherent worthiness, includes these words in Jesus’ farewell conversations with his disciples:
“You didn’t choose me. I chose you.”
Jesus was reminding his disciples that being his followers was neither their idea nor their choice. He chose them.
The love affair they had with God never was their idea. Nor is it our idea: it was and is God’s idea.
Following the way of Christ was never their idea – nor ours – it was Jesus’ idea!
That really does sound crazy.
We live in a world obsessed with control and obsessed with choices. We must be in control: we must make choices. We demand personal freedom, so we’re free to make our own choices. We demand the right to do what we want to do and go where we want to go.
In fact, to do anything but make deliberate choices, seems immoral. The birth of a child not deliberately planned and conceived seems, somehow, immoral. We are so obsessed with controlling and defying death that, for many, death too is planned, either through pain-controlling drugs or by life-supporting machines.
“You didn’t choose me. I chose you.”
There’s comfort in these words for those who are disquieted by a world obsessed with freedom of choice. I don’t always look like a Christian. I don’t always feel like a Christian. And, as any of you who know me are aware, I don’t always act like a Christian. So it’s comforting to be reminded that my appearance, my feelings, my actions are not what determines my relationship with God. I am a Christian, not because of who I am, but because of who God is. God in Christ has chosen me and given me the opportunity to bear fruit in his name.
Our life as Christians isn’t a matter of shoulds, oughts and musts. Jesus says, “Relax. You didn’t choose me - and my way. I chose you – to live my way.”
I like this story William Willimon tells.
His church was on a busy road. Every week there were requests for petrol, a meal, cash. Each came with a sad story of woe. Most ended with the question, “Could you spare $25 in cash?”
He was walking down the walkway from the church on his way home, when he saw a forlorn looking man with a small bag, coming toward the church.
He sighed as he watched the man approach. It had been a long day and it wouldn’t be long before he was back for yet another meeting. He decided he’d head him off, give him the only cash he had – about $15 – send him off, and be on his way.
“What can I do for you?” he said, barely suppressing annoyance from his voice.
“I wondered whether you’d be able to help a fella on his way south. I’m headed down..”
“Yes, yes,” Willimon said, cutting him short. “I’m in a bit of a rush. Here’s all I’ve got.”
He took the money, looked at it, and without a word turned and headed toward the street.
Then he stopped and turned back to Willimon. “I guess you think I’m supposed to thank you and to be grateful,” he said with a tone of defiance.
“Well,” Willimon said, “now that you mention it, a little gratitude wouldn’t go astray.”
“Well, I’m not going to thank you. You want to know why?” he sneered.
“Because you’re a Christian. You don’t help me because you want to. You have to help me because he (thrusting his finger up into the air) told you to help me!” And he turned and left.
Willimon stood there, stunned and angry. The nerve of such people!
On his drive home it finally hit him. He was right!
“You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit..”
We have no choice in the matter. I’m glad of that. I’m glad chooses people like you and me to bless the world.
 Deuteronomy 7:7-8a.
 2 Thessalonins 2:13.
 Ephesians 1:4a.
 1 Peter 1:2a.
 John 15:16.
 John 15:16a.