Beethoven was told by some of his mentors that he should stick to being a concert pianist, that he would never amount to anything as a composer. But he felt “called” to composing. Others may not have believed in him, but he felt that God believed in him.
We know that baptism is a way that we know God believes in us. I had a conversation with the confirmation students a few weeks ago about baptism. We talked about how we do baptisms here at Faith vs a number of other churches who practice believers baptism.
I have a friend who has been baptized 3 times because he went from one church to another when he was younger and each time he went to a new church they told him that his last baptism did not count and he had to be baptized again. This is one reason he does not really attend church today.
The joy that I find in baptism is knowing that God chooses us. The way that we practice baptism in the Lutheran church — we say that God chooses us, that our parents choose us that our God-parents choose us and the church chooses us. This is the joy found in being chosen instead of having the responsibility of choosing.
As a kid I never was chosen first for very much. I did not run fast, I was not terribly athletic, and as much as I wanted to fit in with everyone else, I did not want the pressure to perform well in school yard kickball.
But I as I got older, I was more athletic, I still did not run fast, but there were certain games like football that my size and strength was an advantage and I was good at getting in people’s way and blocking them. After awhile I was chosen first for certain games.
I think about those moments and relate them to my faith. The joy that Jesus talks about in the Gospel today is the feeling of completeness, happiness, feeling fulfilled.
I could have given up as a kid, I could have those memories of not being chosen haunt me for the rest of my life. I could have given up on all athletic feats for the rest of my life. But instead I persevered and found out who I was, and use what I once thought was a disadvantage and turn it into an advantage == something positive in my life, something that brought me joy.
True joy is hard to come by and seems simply impossible when one starts down the road of real life. There have been points in my life where finding joy was a struggle. But I know finding our joy is important.
When Jesus talks about joy he is also talking about grace. Joy may very well be a feeling of grace, the emotion of grace, even the response to grace. Joy is that indescribable sense when you find yourself experiencing abundant grace.
When we can name the joy in our lives, in the life of our congregation we will have abundance. It’s an affirmation. It’s the guarantee of God’s grace when all that is good seems so far away. It’s the security of God’s love when it appears that love is nowhere to be felt, especially from those you thought would love you. It’s the hope that even in the darkest places of separation, God’s abiding and our abiding in God is promised and present.
This all starts in our baptism when God in our baptism says to us, “I choose you. I choose you as my blessed and beloved. I choose to give you grace upon grace, joy upon joy. I choose to love you, no matter who you are, what you have done in your life because I choose to give you forgiveness, grace, joy and love.”
Just as God chose us as God’s beloved children, Jesus chooses us to be his disciples.
This matters, I think, because if it’s finally up to us – to choose Jesus, to remain in him, to obey his commandments, to pursue happiness, or to choose joy, then we are lost. We simply don’t do it. Maybe we can’t.
But knowing that God has chosen us, loves us, and will use us gives us the courage to face the challenges and renews our strength to do something about the broken world. Ultimately, we cannot fix, let alone redeem, this world. That’s why that’s God’s work. But knowing that God has promised to do so can provide us with the strength and energy to work to make the life of our church and community a better place to be.
The future is God’s, a gift given, like joy, to God’s beloved children. Let us receive this good news that God has chosen us today and for the rest of our lives.
To listen to the full sermon click on the link below.