In 2006, a rumor began circulating that on any given day, in any given Starbuck’s, the coffee consumer is faced with a choice of 87,000 different drink possibilities. Clearly, “pour me a coffee” will no longer do. Since then, the number has been both confirmed and denied – by marketing agents inside the company and mathematics geeks outside. But – give me a break – even if the number were only 87 instead of 87,000, that’s still way too many choices.
There’s nothing that we North Americans love more than our choices. We love having what we want, where we want, when we want it. And most of the time, we get it.
This flies directly in the face of our lives of faith, although most of the time, we ignore that. We like to be in charge of faith as well. To call on it when we want to, to create it in the image of ourselves, to take God out when we need to and put God away when we think we doing fine. We love to have a choice.
But: You did not choose me, but I chose you, Jesus says. And there you have it. You can pick one of thousands of choices at Starbuck’s, if you’re thirsty for a cup of coffee. But when it comes to God you are sunk. You are not the chooser. You are the chosen. We all are. I chose you.
There are things in life that you can choose, and things that you cannot. When it comes to God, God’s people are the chosen. God chooses us.
The text from First Peter takes it one step farther. Urging us to model our lives after the life of Jesus, he reminds us that we, like Christ, are both chosen and precious, in the sight of God. By being built by God into a spiritual house, we have the joy of living life as chosen ones. And precious ones. Precious to God, and precious to one another.
In the spiritual house of a marriage, we become, through our partner, chosen and precious. Darren, against all odds, John chose you. And John, against equal odds, Darren chose you. And over time, you have become precious to one another – so precious, in fact, that tonight you are choosing to make this precious relationship permanent and public.
Here’s the thing – try as we might, we cannot force God to choose us. Jesus reminds us – you did not choose me, but I chose you. Imagine it – God loves us so much that he chose and continues to choose to pour out love on us without end. And in just the same way, the two of you get to live out in a human way that same sort of outpouring of love and tenderness to and for one another. Try as you might, you can’t force Darren to love you, John. Nor the other way around. The love and faithfulness that tonight you vow to share is a gift. Pure gift. A gift that can only be given, never taken. In the eyes of the other you have become so precious, so desirable, so loveable that the promise is this: I will choose you day after day. I will be faithful to you day after day. I will do my best to find you precious day after day. No matter what. I choose you.
Jesus said: You did not choose me, but I chose you. And appointed you to bear fruit – fruit that will last.
This union is not about just pouring out an endless store of passion and attention upon one another. God puts us in these intimate relationships in order to strengthen the world. So chosen ones that you are, you are chosen for a purpose. To bear fruit. Fruit that will last. The kind of loving work and service in the world that will make a difference. The kind of loving work and service in the world that will help others to know that they, too, are chosen by God. Loved by God. Precious in the sight of God, and precious in the sight of God’s people. You are strengthened by this work by your own love for one another. But it is not an end in itself. Grace is the gift that keeps on giving. Love, as the apostle writes, never ends.
Like concentric circles that embrace first you, then others, then still others, then a whole community, and finally the world itself, God arranges for our lives to be enriched and fulfilled by choosing to love us endlessly. In that first circle, that church of two that is this marriage, you learn and grow, rejoice and rehearse, strengthen your muscles of compassion and care between one another, and then reach out through churches larger and larger with that fruit that will last. This is your holy calling. And God – the first and greatest chooser of all – has chosen to set us to work in the world in just this way. Like living stones, chosen and precious, let yourselves be built into a spiritual household.
Every one of us in this room looks forward to watching and supporting you as you live and grow under the careful, tender love of the Vintner, God. And we pledge to you our prayers and support and friendship as together, entwined with Christ the Vine, we rejoice in all that God has given.
In the name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.