Here are this Sunday's lectionary texts.
When you're a little kid -- a fat, unathletic little kid -- nothing says "despised and rejected" like not being picked for a team in gym. This formerly fat, unathletic little kid even experienced the humiliation of being forced to hear the rest of her classmates, with the smirking approbation of the gym teacher, arguing over which team would be forced to take her.
All of us have, I think, experienced this kind of humiliation. Which is why I think it's so hard for us to wrap our minds around the concept of justification by grace -- that God chooses us. Because in our heart of hearts we're terrified that God won't choose us; that because of some deficiency on our part we'll wind up eternally benched, while others are picked for God's team. Perhaps this is why we cling so tightly to the notion that we are, in the final analysis, the team captains of our fate, the masters of our souls, who "choose God," who "make a decision for Christ," who have to do X and Y and Z to achieve and maintain our position in God's game plan.
Our texts this week point to an entirely different reality; one in which God chooses us. Not because we're particularly good or gifted or insightful or successful; not because we're beautiful or popular. God chooses us because God wants to.
I'm trying to think of one instance in Scripture where Jesus ever turned anyone away, or "fired" any of his frequently clueless, inept disciples. Even in that intriguingly problematic story of the Syrio-Phonoecian woman, where Jesus seems to be both confused and ultimately surprised by the scope of his calling -- in the end she and her daughter are brought within the embrace of God's inbreaking Reign. Even Judas isn't ejected from the Jesus team; in fact, the great tragedy of the Judas story isn't so much that he betrayed Jesus -- something we all do, if we're honest -- but rather that he ultimately despaired of the grace of God, tragically appointing himself both judge and executioner.
How do we know we're chosen? Because, as the song says, we are the world -- the world that God so loved that God came down to be our God With Us. We are the "all nations" that the Suffering Servant in Isaiah was sent to gather into God's Reign. The challenge is not "winning souls" for God's team, but proclaiming the good news to the sad and sick and poor and alienated -- the rejects of all the various "teams" organized by the powers and principalities of society -- that we all have a place in God's franchise.
God's got game -- and God says we've made the team. Thanks be to God.