Jesus Choosing Us
May 5 and 6, 2018
John 15:9-17 – No longer do I call you servants for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide.
In our Easter sermon series we are focused on Jesus building His Kingdom near and far. We have said it again and again in recent months that Jesus is on a mission to seek and to save lost sinners, and He has invited every local congregation big and small to join Him on that mission. Our Easter Sunday sermon focused on Jesus risen and living for us, the week after that Jesus preparing us to be kingdom builders, then Jesus persuading Thomas and us, then our Good Shepherd shepherding us, last weekend Jesus abiding in us, next weekend Jesus praying for us. Today, we explore what it means for Jesus to be choosing us.
The Frozen Chosen is a term used in at least five ways:
The turning point in world history, of course, is marked by Jesus Christ living the sinless life, suffering under Pontius Pilate all that he was appointed to suffer, being crucified until he was dead and buried, and rising up again on the third day. In our text for today, Jesus makes it a point to let his disciples that they didn’t choose him, he chose them. In Jesus’ day, it was common for men to choose a teacher and to attach themselves to him as his disciples, to learn from him, and to catch his spirit. But as Jesus often did and still does, he turned everything upside down, or as my Aunt Linny would say, kittywampus. In his quest to seek and to save lost sinners in all of world history, he does the choosing, he gives the assignments, he reaches out, he calls, he equips, he leads the way. Three truths about what it means to be chosen by Jesus Christ today.
No longer do I call you servants….but I have called you friends…Truth #1 is that we are Chosen not just to be servants, but (friends). In Jesus’ day, bondservants or slaves would simply receive the master’s orders and carry them out. The master would not confide his plans and his purposes to a mere underling.
But the status of his disciples would be different. To them Jesus had confided all that he had heard from his Father. They would be friends in every sense of the word. Jesus never wanted his disciples to be simply carrying out their duties, he wanted them to be intimately acquainted with all of his heart’s desire he wanted them to be angry with whatever made him angry, he wanted them to care about all that he cared about, he would invite them to lay down their lives for others, even as he had laid down his life for the world.
There is an old Russian proverb that says one old friend is better than two new ones. In Jesus Christ we have the oldest and best friend possible. He has loved us with an everlasting love, in all of our days, His inclination is to be kind with us, it is to be patient with us, it is not to keep a record of our wrongs.
The kingdom of God is like a father and a son who were in church one Sunday with hearts that were as sad and frustrated as they could be. In the months preceding that Sunday, the son’s marriage had stumbled right into divorce court, nobody was a winner, there were losers all the way around, the day before father and son had loaded up a uhaul truck and with the help of a used furniture store moved into a small apartment. The son was pretty stoic for the most part, he kept his emotions in check right up to the point at which we sang What A Friend We Have in Jesus. The tears flowed hot and heavy in that hour, and how comforting it was for them both to know that their friend Jesus and his father were crying right alongside of them.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit….Truth #2 is that we are Chosen not just to be friends, but to deliver Good News (for here and now). There’s another old saying that “if you really want to know who your friends are, just make a mistake.” Almost always, our best friends are folks with whom we have spent lots of time. Almost always, our best friends have experienced us being stupid or crabby or annoying or stubborn or mean or any combination of the above or maybe all of the above, and yet they forgive as they were first forgiven by God. They listen to our stories, in response to Jesus listening to their stories. Good friends find a way to be gentle when it’s time to be gentle, and they find a way to speak hard truths when it’s time to speak hard truths.
We are called not only to be friends, but to bear fruit in the lives of others near and far. Galatians 5 teaches us that the fruit (singular) of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Just as surely as the purpose of a vineyard is to produce grapes, the purpose of every Christian congregation near and far is to let their collective light shine before others that they might see their good works and give glory to our Father in heaven.
Jesus would look us in the eyes this morning and declare, “You are my friends if you do what I command you.” And again, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” Of course the first great commandment is to love God with all of our hearts and souls and minds. And the second is to love our neighbors as much as we love ourselves. The apostle John, the one who seems always to be writing about the love of God, says it this way, “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.”
In the early stages of Christian faith, we tend to keep the commandments out of a sense of duty. God says to do this and don’t do that or else, and so we obey. But the more and more our Good Shepherd follows us around with goodness and mercy, the more we find that the Ten Commandments are not burdensome. We find ourselves thinking of it as a privilege to give a neighbor a ride to the doctor, we find it to be a privilege to walk alongside of others when they are suffering the consequences of their own actions.
The kingdom of God is like a prominent member of the community who gets his name in the paper for driving while intoxicated. Some of his friends think to themselves “it’s about time he got caught.” Others talk about it behind his back and even delight in his misfortune, and then there are a few good friends, one right after another who text him, they call him on the phone, they show up at his court hearing, they knock on his door, they deliver the Good News of God’s forgiveness right into his soul. They deliver the Good News in a way that he will never forget. One by one, they deliver the Good News as one messed up sinner to another messed up sinner
Truth #3 is that we are Chosen not just to deliver Good News for here and now, but to deliver news of a victory that (stretches into eternity) Our lessons for the day are filled with victory language. Psalm 98 joyfully celebrates the victory won by our Lord through his crucifixion and resurrection in the sight of all the nations. It’s a victory freshly realized and celebrated in our first lesson today when Peter proclaims to the Gentile centurion, his household, and gathered friends who are then baptized into the family of God. In today’s Epistle lesson, the Christian faith is described as the victory of faith that has overcome the world. And in our text, Jesus makes a point that we have been chosen not just to bear fruit for here and now, but to go and bear fruit that abides.
The fruit that abides is the seeds of God’s Word that are planted, nurtured, watered, cultivated, and fertilized. The fruit that abides is faith that is created in the waters of Baptism, nurtured and watered in the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, and cultivated and fertilized in the eating and drinking of the Supper. The fruit that abides is the work of the Holy Spirit not just through preachers, day school teachers, and Sunday School teachers, it is the working of the Holy Spirit through every day Christians laying down their lives for friends that are easy to love and acquaintances not at all easy to love in a thousand different ways in every one of our days.
Choice #20 The kingdom of God is like a congregation whose pastor took a call away from a little country church about two hours away back in 1976. This congregation proceeded to call not just one, not just five, not just 10 or 15, but 19 experienced pastors to come and be their undershepherd. All 19 of those pastors, for one reason or the other, declined the call. Finally, this congregation said to her District President and to her seminaries, send us a seminarian, send us a rookie, we don’t know anything about him, just send us somebody! That somebody was yours truly. Debi and I were sent there sight unseen. For Immanuel Lutheran, we were Choice #20, but for Jesus Christ, we were #1 choice.
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, so also are you the #1 choice of Jesus Christ to bear fruit this very day in your marriages, to bear fruit in your family circles, to bear fruit at the Welcome Center, to bear fruit in the lives of those who are sick or alone or in prison. To bear fruit in a thousand different ways in the lives of people you know well and in the lives of people you’ll never see again. And not just fruit, but fruit that abides. Or to say it another way, to deliver news of a victory that stretches all the way into eternity.
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