Episcopal Diocese of Virginia
The Episcopal Church »  |  The Diocese of Virginia

Sixth Sunday of Easter, May 10, 2015

Here’s an issue lots of people get wrong: What does it mean to be chosen?

Some folks, thinking of the Jews as God’s Chosen People, decide Chosen means to be uniquely privileged, better than others who don’t have God’s favor as they define it. The Church Lady might add, with a sneer: “Chosen: Isn’t that space-shull.”  Nope. In a Jewish context, Chosen means selected to be a light to the world, bearing the truth that there is only one God, and God loves everybody. Even the people we can’t stand…God loves them, too. Radical Good News. Sadly, in a lot of places, saying stuff like that can get you killed.

As one Jew said to God, “Couldn’t you just choose somebody else this time?”

Other folks, banking on the theology of Deuteronomy, decide that being Chosen gives you prosperity…good health and a big, fat bank account. I can only say that I wish it were so.

Others decide that Chosen means being given the right, even the obligation, to pass judgment on your fellow human beings and set them straight regarding their business decisions, politics, theology and even their romantic relationships. Not so. Judgment is for God alone.

Okay, those are some major wrongs, but occasionally we can slide into some that are more subtle. The reason you are Chosen may just be something as little and arbitrary as proximity.

For example, you may be the one person chosen by God to hold the door for an old handicapped broad, just because you are the person nearest the door. You may be the person chosen to send a note to someone suffering, just because you have an extra stamp. You may be the person chosen to write the check just because you have the money to cover it, and you can’t take it with you. You may be the person to, as John the Baptist teaches, count the number of coats in your closet and, finding you have more than just one, give a coat or coats to someone who is cold. It is not worthy of debate: Just do it.

Moreover, being Chosen for one task does not mean Chosen for everything. This is where knowing one’s own gifts can be very helpful. For example, I may have my moments, but I personally am not Chosen to star in the ballet or opera, to serve on vestries, or to endure any meeting that requires sitting on folding metal chairs while someone drones on to satisfy their own ego. In science, No is a good answer…it means you don’t have to waste any more time headed down that blind alley. This above all, to thine own self be true.

Being Chosen does not mean we get to choose our own predilections and prejudices and position statements. In fact (and I shudder to say this), it may very well mean that we are called to go against everything we thought we believed. Remember the pacifist Dietrich Bonhoeffer was called to try and assassinate Hitler. They hanged Bonhoeffer, by the way.

You may not like what you are chosen to do…certainly the prayers of Gethsemane prove that Jesus did not like the idea of being crucified; he feared and loathed it. Today’s God message is: “You did not choose me; I chose you.”  And, as a friend and I recently discussed with some irony, “It is a fearsome thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.”

Those are some of the negatives…what are the positives?  Well, one that I rely upon is the certainty that is reflected in the old adage “God does not choose only the qualified; God qualifies those he chooses.”  If we are well and truly Chosen for a particular task to foster the Kingdom of Heaven and Tikkun Olam, even if we don’t feel we can do the job, we will be given what our souls and our means truly need to do it.  Remember the old hymn: “Trust and Obey.” Remember the hymn: “God will take of you; God will take care of you.”

If we are Chosen, we are not responsible for the results.  We cannot take the blame, and we cannot take the credit….all we can do is the work at hand.

If we are Chosen, but the task is too big for any one person to do in one lifetime, we can trust that others will add their efforts to ours. The Rabbis have always taught: Just because you are unable to complete the work, does not mean you may desist from beginning it. Life is short…get on with it. Trust God, and plant a tree in whose shade you will not sit.

If we are Chosen, we will find joy in the work… and my own experience tells me that the joy will come from nothing we could have thought up on our own. God has this warped and wonderful sense of humor and is full of surprises.  Do the work and keep your eyes peeled for the funny stuff. You would hate to miss all the God jokes!

If we are Chosen, we will find companions on the way. We will get to share the jokes and the joy, and take special delight in the jokes and the joy experienced by our sisters and brothers….that’s why we tell our stories.

If we are Chosen, we have the incredible but true sense of rightness, of meaning, of certainty. Lady Julian was correct when she said: “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”  We know that because, astonishingly, it is well…it is well with our soul.

We snuggle into the arms of God and realize: Oh, I see…it may have been a small calling or a huge issue, but I did not choose God; God chose me. Yes, now I see what Chosen means…for this, I was transferred to Virginia…or For this, I was rescued from that abusive situation…For this, I had the unexpected pregnancy…For this, I headed the PTA…For this, I dared to join the dating service…For this, I gave the neighbor’s child some extra attention…For this, I left the past behind and turned toward the future. In truth, what we are affirming, in our Chosenness, is: God chose me, just me, to do exactly this, at just this place, at just this time.

We feel it.  We know it. And, on the really big issues like vocations, we can say God chose me for this work. We can rejoice and sing

Praise God’s Holy Name, for this, I was born. 

AMEN

     -- Prof. Patricia G. Bleicher