Monday, 29 May 2006

On Marriage and Being Chosen: A Sermon with Reference to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and The Choosing of Judas' Replacement in Acts 1

…it’s been a while.

First, a thought, or two, about marriage:

For our Sabbath morning devotional Jude and I have been using Spiritual Classics: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups on the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines, (HarperCollins, 2000), ed., Richard J Foster and Emilie Griffin. Today we got to Pierre Teilhard de Chardin on Love and Happiness as expressed in a sermon he preached at the wedding of Odette Bacot and Jean Teilhard d’Eyry on the 14th of June, 1928. He asks the couple,
At this moment can you not feel this spirit, to which I am urging you, concentrating upon you; can you not feel its mantle spread over you?
And I am reminded of the prayer of blessing I pray over each couple who’s marriage I witness,
Let their love for each other be a seal upon their hearts, a mantle about their shoulders, and a crown upon their foreheads.
de Chardin continued by drawing the couple’s attention to the source of that love,
the infinite tenderness of Him who sees in you two, forming one, the wedding of one more precious link in his great work of creative union.
What lovely idea. And what a great tragedy it is, therefore, that every time a marriage fails, there is one precious link less in that great work. No wonder God hates divorce (divorce itself, not those who are victims of it).

de Chardin again,
In very truth, grander than the external, material ceremonial which surrounds and honours you, it is the accumulated forces of an invisible loving-kindness which fills this church.
Very truth, indeed. May the accumulated forces of that invisible loving-kindness fill our lives.

Second, a thought, or two, about being chosen: we all want to be chosen. “Pick me! Pick me!” is, so often, the cry, as teams are chosen for some school playground game. I suppose this applies to marriage, too, and I grieve for those who ache to be married, but are not chosen, and those who are, and find themselves wishing they were not. God’s infinite tenderness and the forces of that infinite loving-kindness remain; felt, or not.

Yesterday we had that lovely passage from Acts, chapter 1, in which the disciples, reeling from the emotional roller-coaster of the crucifixion, resurrection, and trying to figure out what to do next, were waiting in the upper room for they knew not what. While they were waiting, they decided to do something about a replacement for Judas. They chose two men, Joseph called Barsabbas, and Matthias. Then they prayed and offered the final choice to the LORD by drawing lots. Matthias got the nod and Barsabbas did not. It is interesting to note that neither of them are heard from again in the Scriptures. I find myself wondering more about how Barsabbas felt, than Matthias. Was Barsabbas the loser? Is that the way he felt? I probably would have.

So, a comparison on being chosen, or not, from Acts, chapter 1:

THOSE WHO ARE CHOSEN:

  • May never be heard of again
  • Will have their work cut out to avoid the pride that can so easily arise when one is chosen and someone else is not
  • Are chosen for a specific task (to be a witness for the resurrection, in this case)
  • Are responsible for staying on the mission for which they are chosen
  • May end up dead because of it

THOSE WHO ARE NOT CHOSEN:

  • May never be heard of again
  • May have their work cut-out to avoid the bitterness that can so easily arise when one is not chosen and someone else is
  • May enjoy a sense of relief having avoided being called to carry out a difficult task
  • Will still end up dead, but might live a less stressful life in the meantime
  • Will need to continue to be ready in case s/he is chosen in the future.

The LORD tends to call the most unlikely people. He qualifies the called rather than calling the qualified. For us, calling and chosing probably has more to do with our availability than our ability.

For that reason, I sometimes wonder about gifts identification workshops. It seems to me we ought to identify our callings before our gifts. Identifying our gifts encourages us to block ourselves in; I can do this, I cannot do that. God seems to call us to do the things we think we cannot do.