A People Among All the Peoples
Exodus 19:2-8 & Acts 2:1-13
Do you remember your first girlfriend or boyfriend? Do you remember what it felt like when you decided to go steady? That you would be their only one and they would be your only one? Maybe you gave them your class ring as a sign of your devotion. Maybe they gave you their letterman’s jacket. But now you were in a steady relation-ship. Sometimes people will call this an exclusive relationship. You are exclusive to each other. And it is a wonderful thing to have someone who is your very own, for someone to be devoted to you above all others. It is a wonderful thing to be united to another.
This is what God does. God chooses a people and makes them his own people from among all the peoples. God enters into an exclusive relationship with that people. He is their God and they are his people.
In the Bible reading from the book of Exodus, we hear God declare his exclusive commitment to the Israelite people. He says, “You shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples. Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.” God enters into this exclusive relationship with the people Israel.
And then in the Bible reading from the book of Acts, we hear about the Spirit growing that people and reaching out to every nation under heaven. The Bible says, that when the Spirit came at Pentecost, there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And all of them heard, each in their own language.
As the book of Acts unfolds, God will greatly expand who this people is. Individuals will be drawn in not only from the Jewish people in every nation under heaven, but also the Gentile people. They will be called and graft-ed into God’s people.
What does this mean for us as a congregation? What it means is that insofar as we are a congregation of the on true Church, we are God’s treasured possession. God holds us in his hand and cares for us like an eagle cares for her young. This is good news and a great comfort. God has chosen a people, from among all the peoples of the earth, and God has a unique and intimate relation-ship with them.
This is also very challenging news. Because one of the first questions that comes up in our minds is: Why does God choose this one people at the exclusion of all the rest of the peoples? Why does God choose Israel to be his treasured possession? What about all the other nations? As Christians, we ask: Why does God choose some to be Christians and leave others out?
The first response to this question is a warning. Do not presume to have knowledge of who is left out of God’s people. When the relationship was between God and Israel, it was easier to see who was not a part of the people, but in Jesus, God has gathered in Jews and Greeks, male and female, people from every nation under heaven.
Anyone who is united to Jesus Christ is in God’s people. So how would you know if someone is not in Christ? You could ask them, but what if they lie or what if they don’t know? You could try to judge by their behavior, but Jesus calls all kinds of sinners into his people.
So we don’t know. If we try to judge who is in and who is out, we are trying to do what only God can do. Judgement is the Lord’s. God does not give us a clear word about who is outside his people.
But God does give a clear word about who is in his people. God sends Jesus, who makes it clear that the only way to the Father is through the Son. Jesus makes it clear that everyone who receives God’s grace and forgiveness is reconciled to God
And what is more, God gives us clear signs of this gracious love. God gives us the Good News that is preached, God gives us his body and blood that is given as communion, and God gives us baptism. These are the means by which God joins individuals into his people. We call them the means of grace. Where these things are happening, we can have faith and believe that God is forming his people there. And new individuals can be added to this people. God seems to be doing this all the time. People who were out are brought in. God is exclusive to this people, but the people is changing.
It is like being married. I married Mallorie five years ago. At that point I promised that I would be her husband and she would be my wife. She would be my one and only until death. But Mallorie is not exactly the same person that she was five years ago. Like all people, she has grown and developed. It is mostly in little ways. Her style has changed, her habits have changed, some of her hobbies have even changed. She is still my one and only, but she continues to grow.
And so it is with God’s people, the church, the bride of Christ. There is only one Church, and it has existed as one true church ever since Jesus united himself to it in his death and resurrection.
But the church grows. New people are brought in. The look and feel of the church is different. The Church’s understanding of itself has grown. But it is still the same Church. It is still the same, constant committed relation-ship that God has with his people through Jesus Christ.
God is your God and you are his people. He committed himself exclusively to his people way back in the days of the Israelites. We, as Gentiles, were grafted in through Jesus Christ, but God remains committed. God has born you on eagles’ wings and brought you to himself. You are God’s treasured, precious possession, and he holds you in his hands. Amen.