In the Gospel lesson today, we heard Jesus command us to love, to abide in love just as he has loved us, to love one another. Jesus calls us his friends. He says there is no greater love than to lay down ones life for ones friends. This is exactly what Jesus did for us on the cross. No greater love he says. The gospel goes on to say, “You did not choose me but I chose you.” Wow. This verse gives me chills.
Recently I was awarded a scholarship from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The Fund for Leaders Scholarship, as it is called, is a full-tuition scholarship given to applicants going to a Lutheran seminary who show tremendous promise. In my acceptance letter they wrote, “You were selected for a Fund for Leaders scholarship because our selection committee sees in you extraordinary gifts and potential for leadership in Christ’s church. This scholarship represents an investment of the whole church in your ministry” Wow, another phrase that gives me chills.
Upon receiving the scholarship, we were asked to fill out a form and they asked what verse of scripture you used as a source of guidance or inspiration in your journey toward roistered ministry. I answered with this verse from John. You did not choose me but I chose you. How powerful that we are chosen by Jesus, By God, we do not ask for it, and we certainly do not deserve it, we are chosen and created and fearfully and wonderfully His. I sleep better at night after reading this verse. A Christian song I have been listening to lately called Reckless Love says “The overwhelming, never-ending reckless love of God. It chases me down, fights till I’m found.”
At the Seminary in Chicago, they gave us these bracelets; I haven’t taken mine off since I got it in February. It says Called into the world. We are chosen, we are called. But what does that really mean? How do we react to that call, how do we live in response to being chosen? I believe we are called not to be silent in our homes or in our church pews, but to go out into the world, to proclaim the good news of Christ. We are called to be uncomfortable, to be challenged, to be pushed to our limits, to be vulnerable.
Four years ago, I was called to Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, a town I had never heard of. Susquehanna University and the people I have met have pushed me. Pushed me to answer that call and pursue ministry. This town has most definitely pushed me with their confederate flags and trump signs. Being a part of All Saints and this faith community has challenged me in many ways. God called me to Jerusalem for 5 months to study in a place of turmoil and conflict. It was not easy by any means but it caused me to grow, become independent, become questioning, and more compassionate. Every piece and person on my journey has led me here today.
In a short 10 days, I will graduate college and venture out on a new adventure. God is calling me to Chicago, Illinois I believe. A Pennsylvania girl who has spent a total of 3 days in Chicago is about to call the Midwest home for the next 3 years. I have no doubt that I will be pushed, tested, challenged, and enriched. I look forward to whatever is in store for me and welcome it with open arms.
How has God pushed you? Challenged you? Where has God called you to? Where is God calling you to? When I think of my year here at All Saints I think of all the amazing things I have witnessed, the difficult conversations that have taken place and the faithful group of people I have grown to know. Through the Lenten program, we discussed where you want to go as a church, who you want to attract, what values you want to uplift. I think your continued duty as a Congregation, is to decide where God is calling you to and how you can get there.
God’s plan for us is usually not information we are privy to, but at the end of the day, we know that we are chosen. The passage continues saying “I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last”. What fruit have you bore? What fruit will you bear before you leave this earth? Will it be one that lasts? God calls us into tough places, to bear fruit. Finally, I challenge you all this week to do one thing that makes you uncomfortable, to listen to where God is calling you and go there. Not in this building and not in your home. Go out into the world, the broken and hurting world that your God created. You are chosen, you are called. Go out and bear fruit, fruit that will last. Amen.