“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed [you] in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose [you]in Christ before the foundations of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. [For God] has destined [you] to be his sons and daughters through Jesus Christ [~ set free to serve the needs of God’s creation through word and deed].” (Ephesians 1:3-5)
Have you ever heard it? Better yet, even said it? … “Mom! Dad! I’ve been chosen for the team … and I didn’t even have to try out!” What an exhilarating feeling, right?! But oh, how quickly we lose it as we grow older. We get all caught-up in the various “try outs” or matters of being “popular enough” … “wealthy enough” … “good looking enough” … “driving the cool car” … “living in the right neighborhood” … with the “right house.” And if we don’t cut-it in the world’s eyes, then we certainly don’t feel “chosen.” Right? Rather, we feel or think something like: “Well, I guess I’m just a nothin’, a nobody, alone.”
In what most biblical scholars consider to be the most sublime of St. Paul’s writings, this letter to the early church at Ephesus and us (which will be our sermon series over the next six weeks), is encouraging the Christian community to keep their hearts up – because despite all their hardship and persecution, they are still God’s beloved “chosen even before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4). Echoing the claiming word of God, spoken through the prophet, Isaiah: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine [always!]” (Isaiah 43:1; 45:3-4; cf. I Thessalonians 1:4). So … how does this Word of God relate to you, or in your life with others in your daily life?
A true story from my life, that I pray Christ’s Spirit will speak to yours … I was about to step into the dying room of the hospital. The patient’s name was Jack. I’d been there too many times before; but the incense of death and the deafening silence of fear that accompanied it, made me catch my breath. Why was I here? He surely hadn’t asked for me. And the nurses just told me how he’d told other chaplains to just leave! But he was all alone … And then, it just came to me. Ready or not, I had to go in. (Read chapter 3 of Henri Nouwen’s little gem: The Wounded Healer.)
As I came near his bed, he looked past me with that vacant thousand-yard-stare of combat fatigue – attacked, persecuted by cancer. Under the sheet stamped University of Chicago Hospitals, he was as rigid as a 6 ft. 4x10 oak plank. The timbers were rotting. His insides hollowed-out by all the dis-ease. And he knew it. Feeling lost and deathly afraid. He was coming to the Terminal of life; but there were no friends or family waiting for him, to say “Welcome Home.” And so, all was silent … “Silent night, unholy night.”
In a stumbling sort of way I mentioned something about my name being Pastor John, the evening Chaplain, and would he like to visit. Again, the silence. I felt very uneasy. Why was I here?! It was certainly not of his choosing. It was not really of my choosing. What was “It”?
I struggled for the right word, a graceful gesture – sensing a growing confidence that if anything, I was only adding to his misery. “Nuts!” I thought. “I’m otta here.” … “Would you like me to pray with you?” I asked. (You know, when in doubt, pray.) Silence. And then it just came to us. …
See you at worship this weekend, as we hear the conclusion of God’s Word for my soon-to-be friend, Jack. And for you!