The Rev. Paul J Cain
I Have Chosen You
Easter 6B, 13 May 2012
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, WY
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Is Jesus right, or not? What a dangerous question! Let’s safely assume that He is and conform our teaching and practice to His teaching and practice:
9 As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10 If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
12 “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
So, is Jesus right, or not? Why would I ask such a question? Many American Christians and a growing number of Christians around the world have a very different teaching about choice and salvation. Allow me to explain the false teaching of “decision theology” with a brief review of a popular Christian movie.
Imagine a Sheriff's Department populated with familiar actors from Facing the Giants and other films. This movie aims to do for fatherhood what Fireproof did for Biblical marriage and faithfulness. "To serve and protect" is a powerful motto for fathers! The movie Courageous is heart-pounding action, clean humor, life and death, sin and redemption, church-going people, dancing, and a theme song by Casting Crowns.
At the shooting range, two deputies have a deep talk about guilt and judgment that concludes with this dialog:
"I hope my good outweighs my bad."
"That's not how it works."
As a Lutheran viewer, I rejoiced. Right: Jesus is the Savior. He chose us (John 15:16).
Unfortunately, the altar call of the final scene and closing Bible verse teach and practice decision theology. (The movie makers are Baptists, after all.)
Today’s Gospel reading from John 15, building on last week’s “apart from me, you can do nothing,” helps us wrestle with the film’s use of an incomplete quote of Joshua 24:15.
Consider the way it was used at the end of the movie: Choose this day whom you will serve... But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."(Joshua 24:15 ESV)
I assert that this restatement of Joshua 24:15 is inadequate and misleading: Choose this day whom you will serve (DOT DOT DOT) But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."(Joshua 24:15 ESV) There is a lot left out in the middle replaced by that DOT DOT DOT. And a significant phrase is left out at the beginning.
Consider the whole verse in context without the DOT DOT DOT: And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15 ESV)
You get to choose only "if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord." And then, your choice is between one set of pagan gods or another set of pagan gods. Because it is NOT evil to serve the Lord, Joshua declares, "But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD." This is not a text to support our choosing to be saved. Jesus did it all: It is finished!
In context, Jesus says, 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. 17 These things I command you, so that you will love one another.
Also, Ephesians 2 says: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.(Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV)
The fatherhood "resolution" or vow of the film presents challenges for a Lutheran to properly distinguish God's Law and God's Gospel in His Word, but could be considered similar to promises made at Confirmation or by a new member of a Christian congregation. I do like the idea of "ceremony"!
The title of the film comes from a pastor's call for the need for courage to live out the resolution. Films like this also lead to sales of associated "ministry" items. I have mixed feelings about that. And I'll wrap-up any showing of the film before the altar call scene at the very end.
Courageous succeeds because it has a purpose and a plot. Good family films (and good films, period) don't need large budgets and lots of special effects. I'll be watching for more from these filmmakers. (I recommended to them that they make films on Biblical faithfulness, godly citizenship, and how God delivers His gifts on Sunday morning as the primary reason Christians go to Church.)
You did not choose Me, Jesus says, but I chose you. What wonderful news!
Today we rejoice with our mothers and thank the Lord for them, as we should every day. Yet, our focus remains on the Lord’s message this day, and He who gave us our mothers and our mothers in the faith as a gift.
The occasion of a Baptism this morning reminds us that we are all adopted into the Lord’s family by grace and not our own doing, emotions, experience, reason, suffering, or works. Your Lord Jesus has chosen you. He has gathered you together with this family of Christians in this place. He has called you to receive His gifts, abide in His love, keep His commandments, and love one another.
One of the ways we love one another is by caring for each other, pastor for congregation and congregation for pastor and his family. Thank you for your help as I prepare for surgery. Please gather to hear the Lord’s Word on the Lord’s Day in the Lord’s House even on the Sundays I must be away. The Lord has good gifts for you here. Pastor Simonson has graciously agreed to cover the Communion Sunday and any pastoral emergencies with the permission of our Elders.
Another way we as brother Lutheran pastors and sister LCMS congregations care for one another is to visit one another. At the LCMS Wyoming District Convention last Thursday through Saturday, The Rev. Richard O. Boche was re-elected District President. The Rev. Kirk Peters was re-elected as our regional Vice President and will serve as Second Vice President of the Wyoming District. And I was officially elected as Circuit Visitor for the Yellowstone Circuit. I will help the District President and the Rev. Matthew Harrison, our LCMS Synodical President by visiting the other congregations in our circuit at least once over the next three years. The Yellowstone Circuit consists of Sheridan, Buffalo, Worland, Thermopolis, Cody, Powell, Lovell, Emblem, and Greybull. Emblem and Greybull are a dual parish and will celebrate the installation of a new pastor on June 10th.
Next week, we will install our new or re-elected congregational officers, Board Chairmen, and Board members. We thank the Lord for the dedicated service of all who have completed their terms and are now serving the Lord in other ways according to their vocations. I ask you to thank the Lord for the lay servants of our congregation and pray for all of our Boards, congregational leaders, and volunteers.
We thank the Lord for people who heed Jesus’ words that “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” Most especially, we thank the Lord for the sacrificial death and victorious resurrection of Jesus, He who laid down His life for us. Amen.
In the Name of Jesus . Amen.