Pentecost 8, 2017, Hillsboro Il. Deuteronomy 7:6-9
We all likely have something that we hold as a treasured possession. It may not have much value in itself, but it has value to us. Abby, our 11-year-old granddaughter, has two prized possessions. Number two is a new Iphone she recently received. But Number one is “Blue Bear,” a small nondescript stuffed bear, which she received from her uncle Adam when she was I year old.
God also has his treasured possessions. In our Old Testament lesson Israel is about to cross the Jordan River and take possession of the Promised Land. Through Moses, God reminds them “For you are a people holy to the Lord your God. The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession out of all the people who are on the face of the earth.” In fact, God reminds them of their status two more times in the book of Deuteronomy. However, Moses also recalls that during their wilderness wandering, they had wandered away from their God, their king. While on Mt Sinai God had been writing in stone with his own finger how Israel should live starting with, “Don’t have any other gods beside me, at the base of the mountain His treasured holy people were busy fashioning with their fingers the golden calf to whom they credited with their rescue. They had hardly gotten on the road to freedom when they began to complain, “What shall we drink? What shall we eat?”
It would be like if we, freed in Jesus Christ from slavery to sin, death and devil, would not fully trust God to care for us. That we would worry about what to eat, drink and wear. Oh, wait, that’s one reason we are here this morning, isn’t it? We too have wandered. Let’s consider whom we are and to whom we belong? Peter writes you are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people who are God’s own possession.” We have been given the treasure hidden for ages, the good news of salvation through Jesus Christ in whom we believe. God has given us the priceless pearl of the kingdom of heaven, that is, living un der God’s rule through the victory of Jesus’ resurrection. God has given us his Holy Spirit as a guarantee, a down payment, on all the blessings which are already ours and are kept in heaven until we come into full possession of them when Christ returns. Therefore, we ourselves are God’s treasure, a pearl, not paid for with gold and silver, but with Christ’s holy, precious blood.
St. Paul tells us that God appointed us to this gospel a long time ago, before God even said in the beginning, “Let there be light.” All of this was God’s plan from the beginning. Therefore, Paul writes, that for those called according to his purpose all things work together for good for those who love God. Sometimes it’s hard to cling to that promise and really trust that it is true. No wonder God reminded Israel three times in Deuteronomy that they were God’s treasured possession. Again, and again, they had to come to God to ask forgiveness for their wandering and straying ways. So, we are here again this morning confessing that as we watched TV or met in coffee groups or worked in our jobs, or have sat in the doctor’s office we have been worn down, not just physically, but in our faith life with the pressing concerns of gold and silver and health and just working and living with other people.
Nevertheless, maybe, just maybe there is something in us that led God to choose us. Maybe God said, “you know, those people in Hillsboro are such nice people. I think I’d like to hang out with them for eternity. They could play a key role.”
Remember when we would play a game of pick up softball? Two captains would toss a bat and go hand over hand until one could not get three fingers under the nob. That captain would choose first. Now there was always someone, I’ll call him Dale who couldn’t field, throw or hit a lick. Dale was always picked last and batted last and assigned to right field. But what if the captain made Dale his first choice? And then as Dale headed, for right field the captain, “Dale you play shortstop today and you’re batting cleanup.” You see, we, you and I, were as inept as Dale when it came to qualifying to be on God’s team. We had nothing to offer. God says it this way to Israel, “It was not because you were more in number that any other people (that I chose you) for you were the fewest in number.”
Ok, then why did God choose Israel? Why did God choose us before the light began to shine in the beginning? Why did God set his affectionate love on Israel and you and me? God did it because he decided to do it, because he was fulfilling an oath sworn to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Listen to these familiar words, “All this he does only out of fatherly divine goodness and mercy without any merit or worthiness in me.” Martin Luther hit the nail on the head once more. The world might well ask, “What did God see in you anyway?” We do well to answer, “It’s grace and grace alone, that I was drawn to the cross.” As Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” Jesus is God’s loving grace in the flesh, through whom God chose to choose us.
Through Jesus, God put his loving grace into action. Moses told the Israelites, “It is because the Lord loved you and because he kept the solemn pledge he swore to your ancestors that the Lord brought you out with a strong hand and saved you from the house of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh, Egypt’s king.” God’s strong arm in saving us from the house of slavery to sin, was that of Jesus, who though he would not break a bent reed or snuff out a guttering candle, stretched out his arm, not over the Red Sea, but upon the cross and died as the cost of ransoming us from sin, death and power of the Evil One.
So, Moses concludes: “Know now then that the Lord your God is the only true God! He is the faithful God.” God is faithful. God keeps his pledges and proves loyal to you and me. At St. Anthony’s Hospital in Sunset Hills, Mo. on the wall of each room is fixed a small crucifix and beside it is a plaque quoting the first part of Isaiah 41:10, “Fear not, for I am with you.” But rest of the verse tells us how God is with us. I will strengthen you, I will surely help you; I will hold you with my righteous strong hand.” The verse doesn’t promise that health and healing will be the result of the wonderful work of the medical world. But it does promise that God will be with us no matter what. He is present with his Holy Spirit strengthening us in our trust, and upholding us in the strong arm of our risen Savior. Or as St. Paul concludes in our epistle lesson, nothing in all creation, “will be able to separate us from the love of God-in Christ Jesus our Lord.” What more is there to say, except, “Amen, and the peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”