You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name.John 15:16, New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, and are used by permission. All rights reserved
You did not choose me, says God. I chose you. It is important to know that we are loved by God for who we are. The Psalmist writes that God “knit us together in our mother’s womb” and that “you created my inmost being”… let’s not get tied up in literalism: this is a song of the intimacy with which God knows us personally. “You know when I sit, when I rise, when I go out and when I come in. There is not a word on my lips but you know it completely.” The knowledge that God loves us is perhaps too wonderful for us.
I was asked recently, “when did Jesus know he was the Son of God?” This question reveals an understanding that faith develops… as our life develops, our understanding about God and God’s love for us develops.
Listening to the stories that we tell each other about our faith sometimes creates a sense of hierarchy – as though some people’s faith stories are better than others. This is simply not true. Every faith story is important because every person is known and loved by God in a unique a personal way. “You did not choose me, says God – I chose you”.
Sara, Val, Joanna and I shared our faith stories with each other while we were away on the “Leading Your Church into Growth” conference in Swanwick. We decided to share them here in the hope it encourages you to think about your own story.
Sara’s faith is a personal and private faith that has sustained her throughout her life. Sara describes herself as “being a Christian from a very young age”. Even when Sara went away to University, she continued to worship at a local church. Sara has never really known a time when she didn’t believe in God, and her faith is a constant that has given comfort and reassurance throughout her life. Sara’s hope is that others might have this knowledge and be comforted by God’s presence in their lives too.
Val was not always a Christian – and no one in her family went to church. One day (in her later adult life) and completely out of the blue, Val went to church on her own. She thinks it was Evensong. The experience felt awkward because she didn’t have a clue what was going on. Val didn’t know whether to stand up, sit down or what words were being said. Val didn’t know how to join in, but she had a sense of being in the right place despite it being so strange. So the next time Val wanted to go to Church, she asked two ladies who she knew went to church already, “Can I go with you?” Val hoped to feel less awkward, and discovered that Church was better with others.
After a couple of weeks, Val felt the need to go and knock on the Vicar’s door… He opened it and Val said, “I need forgiveness and help”. She thinks perhaps the Vicar could have been knocked over with a feather, but he then spent time helping Val towards baptism and confirmation. It wasn’t just the Vicar who helped, it was a friend from work who was a Christian full of fun and joy who helped her and then came to her confirmation.
Val has continued to worship at St Bartholomew’s Church ever since, and her faith in God has contained to grow. Val is currently the Churchwarden at St Bartholomew’s and would be delighted to talk to anyone who felt the same way she did so that they can get to know God too.
I didn’t want to go to Church. I thought it would be boring. Also, they say things and you can’t say things you don’t mean. I really didn’t want to go to Church.
My wife and I were living in Swindon, and she wanted to go to Church because they had a Mum-and-toddler group and she had met some nice people through it. She wanted to make friends and thought going to church would be a good way to do it. I resisted.
Then, after a battle of wills, we went one Sunday. We went to Christ Church in Swindon. I can’t remember much about the service, all I can remember is that I was saying the words in the little red booklet and I was surprised to find that I meant them. This doesn’t mean I understood the words I was saying, simply that I knew that I meant them when I said them. As a scientist, this confused me. I needed to know more, I needed to understand the words. So began my journey of faith.
At first I was drawn to the idea of God as love – a concept rather than a person. Later I came to discover that Jesus was a human who lived, who said some very shocking things, and who died. I also learned that Jesus’ death wasn’t the end of the story – that Jesus is alive. This has transformed my life and liberated me from fear. Knowing that God is, and that I am loved has changed me completely. I long to share with everyone that they are known and loved by God. I would like people to know this for no other reason than the liberation it brings.
You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.
Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.
For you created my inmost being;Psalm 139:1-18: Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand –
when I awake, I am still with you.