Sermon 19 March 2023
Prayers from 19 March 2023
1 Samuel 16:1-13 / Fourth Sunday in Lent and Mother’s Day and COMMUNION SUNDAY / Elected. Chosen. Anointed: YOU ARE THE ONE
Some years ago, I was in the parking lot of Co-op on Tullibody Road when one of the primary school children yelled out to his dad, pointing to me, “Dad, dad, look! That’s the prime minister!!” Funny I thought: I was not even aware I had been elected.
On this Mothering Sunday, I want to talk to you about being elected, chosen, anointed.
On this Mothering Sunday I am happy to report that my mother’s favourite minister still preaches here in this pulpit. I shall call my mother today too. She gets 2 Mother’s Days per year from me. Both UK Sand USA.
I want to invite all of us this morning to travel back in time to our respective childhood. Some of you may not have to travel back far. Some of you will have go WAAAY back. And some of you may have to kick it Old Testament. Now. Think back to a time when you were on the playground or in a school gymnasium. There is Team A and Team B. Each side is taking turns selecting players. Do you remember a time like that? Let’s say there are 20 of you altogether in that gymnasium or playground. What number were you selected: 1, 10, last? Were you not chosen at all?
When you did not get CHOSEN at a certain number, how did you feel? Rejected? Forgotten? Passed over? PASSED OVER as they say.
How did Eliab and the rest of the brothers feel that afternoon, I have often wondered. Benighted? A future darkened? The Bible does not say. It does not say. The obvious question is why are some chosen whilst others are not? To be chosen can mean victory in a political election OR it may very well mean death by hanging in a Nazi concentration camp. What does it mean to be CHOSEN? Who is CHOSEN? How do you or I live into our CHOSENNESS? The Samuel passage is very matter of fact. Not this one. Not that one. Yes, this one. I often times think that the God whom we serve is the ultimate contrarian. First shall be last. Strong when we are weak. Die in order to live.
As much as we try, there seems to be no reason or logic to it. No scientific process at all. The modern person’s only comfort is that just as he cannot penetrate science, science cannot penetrate theology. As the astronomer Robert Jastrow reminds us at the close of his book, God and the Astronomers: “For the scientist…the story ends with a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.”
Astronomers are wonderful creatures for they have lost neither their sense of wonder nor their sense of proportion to ALL THAT IS.
What I want to say to you this morning is that you are the Beloved. You are CHOSEN. You are chosen because you are BELOVED before time. My only desire is to make these words RING in every corner of you being. You are the BELOVED.
It is the same voice present at Jesus’ baptism: “You are my Beloved, on you my favour rests.” It certainly is not easy to hear that voice in a WORLD filled with voices that shout: You are no good. You are ugly. You are worthless. You are nobody. YOU. Reality shows like, Britain’s Got Talent, Love Island, I’m a Celebrity…, The only Way is Essex serves as a warning: As long as we fight tribe against tribe, so long will WE be a little people, a silly people, greedy, barbarous and cruel. (pace Lawrence of Arabia). Perhaps we take perverse delight, indulging in reckless schadenfreude in judging other’s dirty laundry and their moral failing. And yet the only difference between the moral failing of others or King David and ours is, our sins have yet to be EXPOSED.
And yet and because, as the Beloved we are God’s chosen ones. This means that we have been seen by God from all eternity and seen as UNIQUE, SPECIAL, PRECIOUS beings. Long before your mothers admired you or your friends acknowledged your gifts or your teachers, colleagues and employers encouraged you, you were already: Elected. Chosen. Anointed.
This is absolutely essential. We touch here a great spiritual mystery: to be chosen does not mean that others are rejected. It is very hard to conceive of this in a competitive world such as ours. Even the consoling words like “The fact that you are not chosen does not mean that you are not good, only that someone else is a little better” does not work because the feeling of rejection is always there.
You know how in our extremely competitive society the chosen ones are looked at with special attention. Whole magazines are dedicated to “Heroes” of sport, film music, acting. They are the chosen ones and their devotees try to extract some vicarious pleasure from knowing them or being close to them. If someone is chosen then someone must be unchosen- so we think.
However, to be chosen as the Beloved of God is something RADICALLY different. Instead of excluding others, it includes others. It is not a competitive, but a compassionate choice. Maybe our minds will never understand it. Every time we hear about chosen people, chosen talents or chosen friends, we automatically start thinking about elites and find ourselves not far from feelings of jealousy, anger or resentment (H. Nouwen).
But the Lord says: Don’t listen to the world. Listen to me. You are the one. YOU.
On this mothering Sunday, I want to speak to all the mothers in this place. Mothers, Think about your children. Why did God choose you to be mother? Why did God see it fit that you were going to be mother to your daughter, your son. Whether your children bring you joy or pain. Whether your children love you OR swear at you. You were CHOSEN before time itself. Your motherhood existed in the heart of God and he saw it fit that you should become MOTHER to your child so that you can tell them that they are beloved. YOU were CHOSEN. Heck, the angel of the Lord called the Angel of Chosen has but one job. Mary and Joseph met him some 2000 years ago. Do you remember?
Long before any person spoke to us in this world, we are spoken to by the voice of eternal love. Our preciousness, uniqueness and individuality are not given to us by those who meet us in clock time – our brief chronology – but by the One who has chosen us with an everlasting love, a love that existed from all eternity and will last through all eternity through all our broken Hallelujahs. There will be many more Broken Hallelujahs before our Chronology comes to an end. But these stories will be the summation of our chosenness. When we keep claiming the light we will find ourselves becoming more and more radiant like the Son: Jesus Christ.
Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.”
If you can be honest with yourselves and each other, the real reason why such stories of electing, choosing, anointing causes us discomfort may well be that they bring us too close to the molten core of the Christian faith. We prefer to leave the control rods safely in the reactor, but as much as we might like to domesticate the gospel, we CANNOT. The fact of the matter is that the gospel is at root, at its VERY HEART a RESCUE story.
Even Jesus’ name itself, means literally “the Lord saves.”
Several years ago, one of my favourite theologians was interviewed on television: Bono of U2. Bono was talking about his commitment to Christ and how he was trying to live out Christ’s love in the world. It was this Christian commitment that prompted the interviewer to ask an important question.
“What makes Christianity different from all the other religions of the world?” he asked. “What does Christianity have to offer that the other religions do not?
Bono paused for a moment then answered “All the other religions of the world, one or another, teach KARMA. Only Jesus offers GRACE. In all the other religions of the world, people end up having to pay a penalty for their sins. Only Jesus Christ, by HIS Grace, makes it possible for people to be delivered from the consequences of their mistakes.
After another poignant pause, Bono, added, “Sadly, all too often, the church, contrary to Jesus, teaches Karma. Most of the time, the church teaches KARMA, instead of offering GRACE. You are the one. YOU. This “You” in Hebrew is the very same “You” that is used when Prophet Nathan comes to confront King David for having Uriah the Hittite murdered and getting Uriah’s wife pregnant. Nathan says in 2 Samuel 12:7: “You are the man! This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul.”
I anointed you. There is it again. Anoint. You.
Have you ever been to a funeral where someone young has died or someone dies tragically in an accident and people say to you or you keep hearing people murmur “It’s not fair.” Not fair. Minister it’s not fair. Not fair. Well, the word Fair, much like the word BEST, is not a theological category. I am sure glad that our God is a Gracious God and not a FAIR God because such a FAIR GOD would no longer be a GOD worthy of our worship.
Whatever I have said to you over the last 12 years and whatever I may say to you in the future, this is the sum. Within the circle of these words my theology is contained, so far as it refers to the salvation of people on this Mothering Sunday.
Salvation may be called Theodora, or God’s gift: and each saved soul may be surnamed Dorothea, which is another form of the same expression. No matter how you Multiply your phrases, and expand your expositions; one thing is clear: salvation flows from the fountainhead of Christ Jesus. The Lord who saves.
Elected. Chosen. Anointed. Then the Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; this is the one.” You are the One.
In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Thanks be to God.
Prayers of Thanksgiving, Confession and The Lord’s Prayer (adapted from prayer by Rev S Greenway on re-Worship.com)
Let us pray. Holy One, You anoint us with living water, so we may go to serve the world in these troubled days. You open our eyes so we will see everyone as our brothers and sisters. As a gardener plants seeds, you place our faith deep within us, so we can bear witness to your just and loving kingdom. Your love regulates our hearts so we can welcome all in your name.
Gentle Spirit, when we cannot see the way, you take us by the hand so we can step forward in faith into the kingdom. You fill us with hope so we can sing God’s praises all of our days.
Heavenly Father, you are great and we are small. You see straight through to the heart but our eyes are often fixed upon ourselves, our doubts and our challenges. Sometimes these seem so big and you seem so small. Remind us each day of your greatness and power. Increase our faith and our trust in you. Enable us to discern your will for our lives. Gracious God, please walk with us each day. Calm our fears and frustrations. Help us to fix our eyes on Jesus, the source of our faith.
God of light, we ask you to forgive us for the way we act. We are people blinded by appearances. We glance at the surface. We look at the obvious. We do not want to peer into the depths or worry over things beyond our control. God of truth, we ask you to forgive us for being obsessed with ourselves. We want to look good. We want to seem righteous. In trying to keep up appearances we often ignore the substance of our lives. Jesus, light of the world you see our hearts and you know the truth. May we walk in the light rejoicing in the knowledge that in Jesus Christ our sins are forgiven.
Almighty God, to you belong the mysteries of the universe. You transform shepherds into Kings, the smallest seeds into magnificent trees, and hardened hearts into loving ones. Bless us with your life-giving spirit, re-create us in your image and shape us for your purposes. Unite us by your spirit as we join together in the words that Jesus taught us to pray in the language of our hearts.
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil for thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever. Amen
Prayers of Thanksgiving and Intercession
Heavenly Father hear us as we intercede for others. Let us pray.
We give thanks Lord for the love of our mothers, for their care and concern; for the joys they have shared with us; for the pains they have borne with us, for all that they give to us. Bless all parents, grandparents, teachers and carers who nurture children. We ask you to strengthen those families living under stress in these difficult times and may they know that you love them all dearly.
Loving God, we thank you for this church – and this church family gathered here. We pray that all may find a home here, that the lonely, the marginalised and the rejected will know the love of Jesus here. We thank you for the blessing of children in our Sunday School and the dedication of Ann and Marie and Sang who make learning about Jesus such fun. We give thanks for new families who have joined us recently and we ask you to help us to welcome them and nurture them as part of our church family.
We pray for those who have found this a hard day; for those who are afraid, for those who may have been involved in an accident. For those who are ill and their recovery is not certain, for those in hospital for the first time in their lives; for anyone who has committed a crime and is now paying the price in prison. Hold all these needy ones close to your heart, O Lord.
Hear us as we pray for our broken world. For Ukraine and Russia still in conflict and for those places in the world experiencing fire, flood and famine -for the lives lost in a cyclone in Malawi and Madagascar. We pray for the agencies who are helping in these situations. And we know that you will be there helping those affected in the gentle caring way that mothers care for their children. Bring comfort to the injured, the homeless and the hungry, bring freedom where there is oppression, joy where there is pain, that your love will bring peace to all your children.
Merciful God, we pray for those who have recently lost a loved one and the pain and distress they are feeling now. We ask that you tenderly enfold them and guide them in the difficult weeks ahead. Father God, thank you for being the loving parent who cares equally for us all and help us to follow your example always. We offer these prayers in Jesus’ name. Amen.