Summary: Proper 15 (A) We rejected God, in the Garden of Eden and at the Cross. But He has selected us. Therefore we live confidently knowing that salvation is based in His election, not our selection.
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in Thy sight,
O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
“Rejected and Selected”
It seemed unreal this week, when the news broke that actor Robin Williams had died, a shock which reverberated again as it was confirmed a suicide. One of our first thoughts was, “How could a person in his station, of his fame and fortune, feel compelled to such a dire end?” And we learned of his long time battle with depression. While that helps to explain the matter, it doesn’t really satisfy our yearnings. We are left with a persistent wondering of how could this happen?
Yet it does happen. Perhaps it brought to mind the tragic end of actress Marilyn Monroe. Her life, too, had its ups and downs. I pray that you are not suffering from the clinical depression that vexed Robin and Marilyn. But if you are – let us know. God loves you. I love you. Your church loves you. We may well not do the best job of expressing our love, and in fact, we sinfully do the opposite at times. But the fact remains – We Love You. And if you find yourself chased by the mental demons of depression, and they are calling for suicide – Call us. Call me. Call each other. Call 911. Killing yourself won’t kill the demons. They will live to torment another. Don’t let depression end up the winner.
Marilyn is known to have said, “Sometimes I feel my whole life has been one big rejection.” Rejection. In contrast to depression, rejection is an emotion we all can relate to. Like rain, some rejection falls into every life. Been there, felt that. And it is real. Its hurt can go deep and last long. It stings so much we may be prompted to ask, “Why, God?” or “Why me, God?” Rejection leads us to wonder whether God has abandoned us.
St. Paul, in our epistle today, is dealing with that very question: “I ask, then, has God rejected his people?” So, what is the answer? “No!” “By no means!” “Absolutely not.” Paul then explains that He is an Israelite. God has not rejected him. If God were rejecting His people as a people, as a whole, then God would have rejected Paul, too. But God did not reject him. Instead of rejecting Saul of Tarsus, God selected him as Paul the Apostle.
If God is not rejecting His people, if God is not rejecting us, -- and He is not -- then what is the source, what is the cause, of this rejection we experience in our lives? The rejection which comes against us, actually starts from within us. In the Garden of Eden our parents Adam and Eve rejected walking with God. They struck out on their own path, seeking to be like God. “You will be like God,” the serpent said, “knowing good and evil.” The temptation was not so much to have the knowledge of good and evil, as it was to be “like God.”
Adam and Eve rejected God’s way for their way. More so, they rejected God. And that rejection continues today: around us and in us. We want our own way. We want what we want when we want it. The theme song of our lives, from Frank Sinatra, is “I did it my way.” God does not reject us. We reject Him.
And when He came to rescue us, to redeem and save us. We rejected Him. He proclaimed Good News that the reign of God was near. But we would not have the reign of God, we wanted our independence, to rule ourselves. So we whipped Him and beat Him. We gave Him a crown and a cross. He who brought Good News was despised and rejected. A Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief.
Even so, with all this, as Paul tells us, “God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew.” He has not rejected us. No, God has chosen us. He has chosen you and me. He does not reject us who have rejected Him. He elects us and selects us. Christ was crucified for us. But He did not remain dead and buried. The Father raised Him on that glorious morn. He is ascended and reigning on high. Yes, the reign of God is at hand. And He has built us into His Church, for the stone which the builders rejected, as become the chief corner stone.
We were born as children of Adam, rejecters of God. Yet, God has selected us to be in His family. Listen to Paul: “So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.” (verse 5-6) Yes, vicar, we know that we are saved by grace, but isn’t Paul telling us that it’s up to us, because he writes in verse 22, “ provided you continue in His kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off.” Doesn’t that make it all conditional, on my doing? No, not exactly. Yes, we must continue in the kindness of God, but what is that? The kindness of God is His grace and mercy towards us. As the Psalm says, and that we often pray, “O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, and His mercy – His loving kindness – endures forever.”