Tuesday, June 29, 2010
A Life of Joy
I preached my first sermon after Ordination on June 20- Being called and chosen is a "Life of Joy"
Rev. Beth Anderson
John 15: 1-16
A Life of Joy: Called, Chosen, Connected
As I tried to decide what text I would preach on this day- on this first Sunday preaching as an Elder in Full Connection- on this first Sunday after being ordained, I couldn’t help back to this text in John. It is the text that Messiah’s mission and vision is rooted in and it is the text that tells us where our roots are. It tells us how we live a life of joy. Complete joy. It tells us who we are and whose we are. It is a text of remembering and growing, of how to know how to deal with change, and how to know where you are going. It is a text that guides and focuses. That leads and comforts.
Monday was the fourth best day of my life.
I have had a lot of wonderful days and some hard ones too- but these four mark these moments of call and completion- of feeling and knowing God had chosen and set me apart. Have you ever sat down and written out your very best days? Those moments of complete joy? Those days where your cheeks hurt from smiling so much? Those days where you didn’t realize you were exhausted until your head finally hit the pillow…but you still didn’t want to close your eyes because everything was just too good to be true?
July 27, 2002 I married my very best friend and the love of my life- Kevin.
I was called to be his wife. We met in an odd way- in the middle of a street at a music festival. He chose to come and talk with me out of anyone else there. He asked me the time. What did I find out months later? Anyone know? He had his watch in his pocket!
March 7, 2007 Grace was born. She is grace- she pours out generous, unsolicited love. God called me to be a Mom and Kevin to be a Dad. I spent the first few weeks just staring at her with tears of joy.
June 25, 2008 Sophia was born. She is wisdom- she is insightful, observant, and intuitive to everything around her. God called us once again to be her parents and for her to be ours. One of the midwives at my practice said that your first child teaches you the depth of your love and your next child teaches you the breadth of your love. Having my beautiful daughters has taught me that God can stretch me more than I imagined, God has taught me that love never offers scarcity only ever widening abundance.
And then Monday- June 14, 2010 Ordination- The Bishop laid her hands on me saying, “Almighty God, pour upon Elizabeth Spencer Anderson the Holy Spirit, for the office and work of an elder in Christ Holy Church. Amen.” And she said, “Elizabeth Spencer Anderson take authority as an elder to preach the Word of God, and to administer the Holy Sacraments in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”
A friend of mine asked me if I felt differently- and I do.
I felt changed when I was married- I was now Mrs. Anderson- I wear a ring- a circle that never ends showing my love that is eternal with Kevin’s. The pastor who married us took his stole and wrapped it around us our hands as we prayed symbolizing that we were tying a knot now together and with Christ.
I felt changed as a mother- I was Grace’s Mom, Sophia’s Mom—they had been bound to me and still are. I have new marks as a Mother- they show as lines of smiles, some of worry- I wear jewelry made of noodles and bumps/bruise of being climbed on, and eagerly embraced.
And now I feel changed - I am fully ordained as Reverend, as elder – I now where a stole-symbolizing the yoke of Christ— a yoke is used to pair oxen together as they pull a load, plow a field, and go about their work.
The stole symbolizes the fact that I am “yoked” I have “teamed up with Jesus” in the work sharing and spreading the kingdom. I share in a covenant with in the Order of Elders to pray, conference, and intentionally nourish one another in the means of grace.
I have new names- I have new symbols, I have new responsibilities, new joys.
Covenants change us-
We make a covenant when someone is baptized in the church, we make a covenant when we join the church, and when we marry.
We say and declare, “I choose you” when we covenant.
In baptism God says, “I choose you and we as the church remember our own baptism and say we choose God and we choose to love and encourage one another in the body of Christ.” The pastor lays hands and baptizes you in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In a marriage a husband and wife choose one another for all time.
Covenants mean we are teaming up together.
They mean we are now abiding together.
They mean we are not alone.
They mean we are connected in a new and more powerful way.
They mean we are stronger together than alone.
And that is what this John 15 text tells us- Jesus says, “You did not choose me but I chose you.”
When our daughter Grace first started saying full sentences she would sometimes run over to us and throw her arms around and say, “I love you too!” completely out of the blue. We hadn’t said anything, yet she comes over and says, “I love you too!”
It got me thinking that- anything and everything we do is a response to what God has already done for us.
Anything we do is an I love you too to Christ- who first loved us.
Anything we choose now- is a response to Christ first choosing us.
Jesus chose you- He came and lived and died, and shared all this for you- so that His joy may be in you- so that your joy may be complete- so that you will love others the way he loves you- so that you may bear fruit for the kingdom- fruit that will last…
Tell someone next to you- Jesus chose you! Jesus chose you!
Say to yourself- Jesus chose me.
Our choice now is will we abide, will we love, will we bear fruit?
Will we choose to be changed?
Christ chose us – and we can choose a life of joy when we respond to his love.
The response flows first from his love – from Christ choosing us.
When we remember that Christ says, “I chose you.”
We remember and know that it isn’t about us- we remember that
- doesn’t come from us.
It flows and responds back- it becomes a reflection of what Christ has done in us.
The word of God came to Jeremiah the prophet and he said, “Ah Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But the Lord said, “Do not say I am only a boy; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid…for I am with you to deliver you.” (Jeremiah 1: 6-8).
Have you ever felt like Jeremiah?
Do you say I’m only? Only young, only old, only a mom, only a dad, only single, only divorced, only widowed, only rich, only poor, only a kid, only a teen…
When I began answering my call to ministry, I was in my first years of college and I had been drawn to the chapel, to the hymns, to God’s word, I was feeling called to ministry—but didn’t understand how that could be possible…and my chaplain spoke with me and began asking if I had considered a call to ministry—I thought- yes, but How could God want me? There was just too much wrong with me that I could list… too much that was , “But I’m only this or that.. only me.”
And its just that –that Jesus says, “I choose! I choose you I want you- all of you.” The only thing you are to Christ is his chosen to be redeemed, to be changed, to be built up for the kingdom, to abide in him, and bear fruit.
Its pretty hard to wrap our minds around- especially if we’ve been told we weren’t wanted – weren’t chosen by others… especially if others said we were too much of this or not enough of that…
It’s easy to think we don’t have it in us- that we don’t have the words or the skills, the knowledge, or the strength. It is easy to become weary, to feel not good enough, to be weighted with all that is left undone, all that remains to do—that’s all shame.
Its all the weight of going it alone- its fear- its worry
- it consumes us rather than completing us.
And Christ is here to make your joy complete.
And Christ has come and called you --chosen you and filled you
And given you the Word that has cleansed you so that you may say,
“I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God
for salvation to everyone who has faith.”
Calls out to you- saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.”
Chooses you-saying, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.”
Christ connects you- - saying, “Abide in me.”
Christ uses you for the sake of the Gospel-saying-
“Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit,
because apart from me you can do nothing.”
You are called, you are chosen, you are connected!
Will you choose to abide?
Will you bear fruit?
Will you choose to be changed?
And experience a life of joy?
It’s a life where you are teamed up with Christ?
A life where you can be complete in the joy of Jesus Christ?
A life where you no longer feel the shame of what others have to say
- because you can stand and say, Christ chooses me! I am not ashamed!
That’s what happens for you when you choose to abide in the Christ who has already chosen you.
Let us Pray:
Jesus, We love you too! Let our lives reflect our love for you. Thank you for loving us, thank you for choosing us. As you have chosen us, let us choose you. Let us answer your call to follow your commandments and love one another. Let us be yoked with you and one another bound together with you in the Body of Christ so that we may be fruit that will last for your kingdom. Let us here at Messiah always remember you, follow you, and share your joy with all the world…living a life of joy. In the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, all your children said, Amen.
I invite you – if you’ve been struggling- or if you simply need a reminder.
I invite you to come and pray as we sing this final hymn
“Oh, I Know the Lord’s Laid His Hands on Me.”
I invite you to come and to feel that the Lord has laid his hands on you,
Christ has called, chosen, and connected you to him.
I invite you to know and abide in him and live a life of joy.
I invite you to know who you are and where you belong.
I invite you as you reminder you are chosen.
I invite you to chose a life of joy abiding in Christ.