Flawed but chosen

Pentecost 3 2012

Mark 4:26-34 (1 Samuel 15:34-16:3) http://bible.oremus.org/?ql=

Marian Free

 In the name of God who chooses very ordinary people to do extraordinary things. Amen.

During the week I was talking to the moderator of the Uniting Church about today’s gospel. To her, it spoke about vocation. She equated the secret growth of the seed with the seed that God plants in our hearts and which quietly grows until it comes to maturity and we recognize what it is that God is asking us to do with our lives. You may recognize that seed in your life as the quiet tug of conscience, a sense of disquiet about the way your life is going, the conviction that you must change your career, get a new job, take on a role in the Parish or community and so on. Sometimes, this sense of call (or purpose) comes as a blinding flash of insight, but even then God will have laid the groundwork. The seed will have been sown some time before. The sudden experience of God may come as a shock, but when we look back over our lives we will probably be able to identify the ways in which God has been trying to get our attention.

The series of meditations to mark the twentieth anniversary of the ordination of women as priests (http://20thanniversarywomenpriests.wordpress.com/) in this country reminded me of my own sense of call and also gave me an opportunity to learn about the journeys of other women – ordained and lay. Many of the participants expressed a belief that God had been quietly working in their lives for some time, so that when they came to accept their vocation they could look back on their lives and see how God had been leading or prompting them until they finally acknowledged their call or responded to a more dramatic event which they could not ignore.

Today’s reading from the book of Samuel tells the story of God’s choice of David as King. As we heard last week, the people of Israel had demanded a king to rule over them so that they could be more like the neighbouring countries. The first king – Saul – was not only mad, but he also rejected God and failed to trust God so that God was determined to take the throne from him and from his heirs. Unlike the situation in Europe where royal families are often related to each other, there was no obvious family from whom to choose a replacement future king, so God sends Samuel off to find the man of God’s choice – a son of Jesse. Jesse has eight sons, all of them appearing to Samuel to have the bearing and character of a king. However, one after another they are rejected by God. The seven elder brothers pass by Samuel but not one is chosen. The youngest son is not even present. No one imagines that he is of any importance. However, despite his youth and his inexperience, David is the one whom God has chosen to be king over Israel.

Samuel had thought that of the eight sons, Eliab was the obvious choice for king, and if not him, then Abinadab or Shammah, or any one of the older sons but, despite what Samuel sees, none of them are acceptable – for God sees what we do not see. God does not judge by outward appearance, but by the heart.

Over and over again, in both the Old Testament and in the New we can see that God’s choice is not determined or limited by human standards. God chooses the younger, slyer Jacob over his brother Esau, Jacob’s second youngest son, Joseph, is the one out of the twelve brothers who is set for greatness. Moses, who by his own admission is no orator, a selected to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt. Ruth – the Moabite – is chosen to be the forebear of Jesus and so it goes. God chooses the most unlikely people to do

God’s work in the world.

God does not choose the good, the brave, the rich or the powerful – just the opposite. Very often God chooses the unscrupulous (Jacob), the cowardly (Jonah), the proud (Joseph), the vulnerable (David), the sinful (Moses), the outsider (Ruth) and the sulky (Elijah). Our Old Testament heroes are deceivers, murderers and adulterers – hardly the sort of people whom you would expect to have held up as exemplars of the faith and certainly not the sort of people whom we would want to set up as role models.

In the New Testament, the disciples are slightly more conventional – that is, so far as we know they do not include people as flawed as Jacob and David. We don’t think that they were murderers or adulterers. However, they are not exactly hero material either. They compete with one another to be Jesus’ favourite, they try to talk Jesus out of his mission when it gets dangerous, they push people (including children) away from Jesus and they fail to trust in him and in his sense of purpose. Peter denies him and when Jesus is arrested and crucified, the disciples are nowhere to be found. Paul, the imposing figure of the early church, is the last person you would expect to be chosen by God. He was so convinced that Jesus was a fraud that he actively persecuted those who believed and yet, without his passion and enthusiasm it is possible that the church as we know it simply would not have come to be.

All these frail and very human figures were chosen by God to do God’s work. These most unlikely heroes formed the people of Israel and ensured that the memory of Jesus lived on in the generations that were to come. These broken and very human characters were chosen because God knew what was in their hearts and of what stuff they were really made. God knew that despite their very obvious flaws, these would be the people who would be able to carry and spread the faith and, that in many cases, it would be their very frailty that would enable them to depend on God and to allow God to work through them to achieve God’s purpose for them and for the world.

God’s choice is the most extraordinary thing and not something that we can easily comprehend because God is not bound by human expectations or confined by human conventions. God chooses those who can carry out God’s purpose and God chooses them regardless of their strength, their influence, their appearance, their stature or their state of perfection.

So it is with us. We are not necessarily set apart by our piety or our goodness, but by our frailty and brokenness and our belief that despite all our imperfections, God has chosen us, God loves us and perhaps most amazing of all, God can use us to achieve God’s purpose in the world.

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