Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church

The choice is not ours


"You didn’t choose me, remember, I chose you, and put you in the world to bear fruit, fruit that won’t spoil. As fruit bearers, whatever you ask the Father in relation to me, He gives you."—John 15:16 (The Message translation by Eugene Peterson)

By Robert Hayes Jr.

At the end of July, an Oklahoma newspaper reported its "Readers' Choice Awards" for 2009. Every year, the publication invites the public to vote for favorite businesses. The results appeared in a Sunday special section.

This year, readers learned what hospital the voters preferred to go to in an emergency. If you were in search of a family vacation spot within easy driving distance (and requiring only a tank or two of gas), voters rated Dallas, Santa Fe, Branson, and a few other places. If you had an urgent need to know what store was considered the best lawn and garden center in Oklahoma, the people spoke (voted).

The opinions of many were offered there, all for your scrutiny. Especially rankings for restaurants. Who has the best barbecue or Mexican food?

At this point I want to add a disclaimer. No pounds were gained during the writing of this article.

When it came to barbecue, a franchise in the metro by the name of Earl’s ranked first in this poll.

Indeed, that establishment does have very good smoked meats but, outside the city, in my opinion the best barbecue comes from Pauls Valley. My choice can be confirmed by the people at First United Methodist Church there, because they enjoy food catered by an outfit known as Stevenson BBQ.

Brothers and sisters, take it from someone who knows a thing or two about the art of cooking in a pit. They know what they are doing! And when you finish the ribs, chicken, or beef, the homemade bread pudding will make you believe you are in New Orleans. It’s the best barbecue I’ve found in all of Oklahoma, followed closely by Elmer’s in Tulsa. Some people may disagree with me. My response: Prove it! I await your invitation!

When the newspaper’s readers chose Mexican restaurants, their top choice was a perennial winner in the poll.

Diners seem to flock to Ted’s, as if the metro franchise is giving food away. Once you sink your teeth into the delicious enchiladas and fajitas, you want to speak Spanish on the spot. It’s just that good. I agree with the Readers’ Choice on this one.

I bring this poll to your attention because, as we contemplate choosing businesses and service producers to serve us, it might surprise you to know someone has chosen YOU to serve him.

His name is Jesus.

In the 15th chapter of the Gospel of John-in what is often called the Farewell Discourse-Jesus is clear about this. He says, "You didn’t choose me, remember, I chose you and put you in the world to bear fruit."

Jesus reminds the disciples (and us) that our place with him is the result of HIS initiative-not theirs, nor ours. Our relationship with Jesus is a result of grace. Think of that. This prophet calls on you and me to enhance the Gospel message in spite of all of our faults, weaknesses, and limitations.

We have been commissioned by Jesus to go and do works of love and bear fruit that will last, which ultimately speaks to the abiding presence of our union with God through the Son, Jesus Christ. And God’s business comes with a certain guarantee that anything we ask in the name of Jesus will be granted!

How’s that for a vote of confidence?

Some years ago, newspapers nationwide carried the story of Kathleen Nelson Collie. Her neighbors called her "Garbage Mary." She begged for cigarettes from them, rummaged through garbage cans for food, and lived amid mounds of debris and trash in an apartment.

One day police saw her sifting through a shopping center’s dumpster and stopped her for questioning.

When she led them to her $150-a-month apartment, they were shocked at what they found. Garbage was stuffed in the refrigerator, stove, sink, cabinets, and bathtub. There was no place to sit because all the chairs were piled with what she had scavenged.

They were dumbfounded by other things they found in Collie's apartment: oil company stock worth more than $400,000; papers indicating she owned oilfields in Kansas; stock certificates from U.S. Steel, Uniroyal, Squibb, and other firms; and passbooks from eight large bank accounts.

"Garbage Mary" was a millionaire, but she lived like a beggar.

Many of us live like spiritual beggars. Jesus has chosen us; we are wealthier than can be described! This wealth is not measured in money, but rather by to whom we belong, which is Christ.

The choice is not ours and has never been. We must realize that we are the sons and daughters who have been chosen as heirs to avail ourselves of the divine resources God puts at our disposal to live up to our calling in Christ Jesus.

As I studied those Readers’ Choice Awards, it was reassuring to know Someone voted for me—and for you—long before we knew it!


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