First Lesson: Genesis 32: 22-31
Responsive Reading: Psalm 17: 1-7, 15
Second Lesson: Romans 9: 1-5
Gospel Lesson: Matthew 14: 13-21
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
“God doesn’t choose the people we might choose; that’s why some of us got chosen.” –Derek Prince
George Mason University is primarily a commuter campus for students in the Washington D.C. area. The George Mason Patriots lacked much in the way of resources often necessary to compete in big time college athletics. The 2005-2006 George Mason Men’s Basketball Team had no players seemingly destined for the NBA. They didn’t even win their conference the Colonial Athletic outright, let alone a better basketball conference like the Big 10, or ACC. The Patriots season was seemingly over after losing in their conference tournament. The biggest day in NCAA Basketball is the second Sunday in March known as “Selection Sunday.” Selection Sunday is the day where a selection committee chooses the “65” best teams in all the land to play for a chance at a championship. Few people thought George Mason would be selected. George Mason somehow some way was selected to the NCAA field. CBS’ lead Basketball analyst Billy Packer proclaimed “They don’t deserve to be there.” The experts thought George Mason would lose the first game and be shown to not belong in the first place. George Mason’s first game was against Michigan State who had played in the previous year’s Final Four Championship. George Mason won! The second game was against another basketball power in North Carolina the defending NCAA champions. George Mason won again! They then won in the next round! Finally, George Mason was standing toe to toe with the Connecticut Huskies considered to be the best team in the country that year. Cinderella facing Connecticut was certainly going to have her midnight. Only George Mason won again; the Patriots were going to the Final Four. The moral of our story is Selection Committees will get it right, even in the face of evidence to the contrary.
Today, I want to look at another selection process. Today’s lesson from Romans 9 deals with Heaven’s selection process. When Paul wrote the Book of Romans people believed for generations and generations that only his people the Jews should occupy heaven. The George Mason like outsider Gentiles didn’t belong. Paul in his letter seeks to make the point that God doesn’t choose people by resume or birth but purely as a matter of God’s grace.
To illustrate this, Paul later invokes the famous Old Testament Story of Jacob and Esau. Isaac had two sons. Esau would seem to have been the perfect heir to receive his father’s blessing. Esau was a man’s man, a rugged hunter. Jacob was what some might call a “mama’s boy” who liked to spend time in the kitchen. Jacob could also be a bit devious and underhanded at times. You compare Esau and Jacob’s resumes, Esau would appear to be the perfect son to take over his father’s estate. Esau was legally entitled as he was the older brother. God had other plans though. Jacob the brother who would later wrestle with God would eventually receive the name of “Israel.” Jacob’s descendants had previously been the unlikely recipients of God’s choosing.
Paul’s message for today is that it isn’t always the likely candidates who get chosen. If you think politics are exciting today, they had nothing on the year 1876. Samuel Tilden was the Governor of New York. Tilden ran for President against Rutherford B. Hayes, the Governor of Ohio. Tilden won the popular vote, Tilden won the Electoral College, and Tilden according to the submitted results won the disputed states of Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina. Tilden because of the disputed states he seemingly won was still one vote shy of a majority within the Electoral College. Samuel Tilden seemingly had as legitimate a claim to the Presidency as anyone could ever have. Hayes’ supporter claimed the voting process was unfair and Washington was stuck in partisan gridlock. Both political parties agreed to set up a panel of seven Republicans, seven Democrats, and one independent to sort out this convoluted matter. The one independent U.S. Supreme Court Judge David Davis was thought to be the Independent tie-breaking vote. One problem though, the Illinois Legislature unexpectedly elected Davis to the Senate. All other Supreme Court Justices that could be appointed were known backers of Rutherford B. Hayes. Rutherford B. Hayes was elected President in 1876 despite how all people thought the process previously should work. It took 1876 Presidential Election to cause people to never think about politics the same way again.
It was the same thing at the time of the Apostle Paul. Growing up God’s chosen people were those who were circumcised at birth. God’s chosen people were those who maintained strict diets. God’s chosen people were those direct descendants of Jacob. God certainly couldn’t select George Mason or Rutherford B. Hayes when all the evidence says otherwise. The whole point of the Book of Romans is this. The Cross changes everything. Because of the Cross: Jew and Gentile now stood equally before God. The only hope either Jew or Gentile has alike is the promise of God to commit to the unlikeliest of people.
BB Warfield was considered one of the great religious minds in these United States around the turn of the 20th Century. Pastors still quote Warfield nearly a century after his death. To understand BB Warfield, you need to know the story of his wife, Annie Kinkead. Annie Kinkead was the daughter of a prominent attorney who once defended Abraham Lincoln in Lexington, Kentucky. If you were looking for a mate in 1875, Annie Kinkead would have been at the top of the popularity list. She was known not only for her beauty but also her brains and wit. Annie and BB Warfield married in August 1876, before moving to Europe so BB could study theology. While in Europe, Annie and BB’s life would change forever. One day while out walking, Annie and BB got caught in a terrible thunderstorm. The experience was so scary that Annie Warfield’s nervous system never recovered. The shock was such that Annie Warfield was homebound from the age of 25 onward. BB Warfield dedicates his life to his wife’s care. BB Warfield would spend hours a day reading to his wife. BB would arrange his schedule at Princeton day after day to assist in his wife’s care. Annie could only be seen by BB because she felt comfortable in no one else’s presence. Those around him were not so much amazed by BB Warfield’s legendary scholarship, but even more so by his compassion towards Annie.
BB Warfield had his world flipped upside down by Annie’s troubles, yet it was his experiences with Annie that opened him to the true nature of God’s ways. They affected every day of his ministry. Warfield became convinced that God’s selection process is ultimately more certain that any process of this world.
I Peter says: “You were not saved because of any silver or gold that you possess, but rather because Christ was destined for us before the foundation of the world.”
What these words get at is the meaning of our lesson for Today. Our God’s commitment to his people is such that neither any thunderstorm nor defect shall cause him to abandon the promises of his gospel to us. God chooses his people, even when we reject him along the way, even when we have seemingly nothing to give back in return.
One final story for this morning. Once upon a time, there was a clergyman looking out his window to see his melon patch. A group of boys was stealing his melons. The clergyman calmly rose from his chair, opened his door, and attempted to call the boys over. The boys began running away. What did the clergyman do? He tried getting them to come back; he shouted: “Boys, boys take as many melons as you want.” The boys certainly didn’t expect this. The boys were spooked at this point. Who was this crazy guy attempting to give us melons they were trying to steal? The minister began to chase the boys. He soon came across the two smallest boys unable to climb over a fence to escape. The minister escorted the young boys back to his melon patch, where they picked the best-looking melons there. As he sent them on their way, he encouraged the boys to invite their friends back. When the older boys heard about this, they were mad; it was so unfair that the younger boys got the “best” melons. The melon selection process was so unfair was the complaint! The only reason, the younger boys, got melons is because they were slower and smaller.
The minister realized the point of our lesson from Romans 9 that Kingdom of God is not about fairness. The Kingdom of God is about God selecting George Masons regardless of their resumes. The Kingdom of God is about God selecting the younger, weaker brother Jacob and not only giving him a birthright but a nation. You see the Kingdom of God like the Election of 1876 does not select by traditional voting mechanisms. Like in the story of Annie Kinkead Warfield, The Kingdom of God rather isn’t about what you bring, at all but rather the nature of God’s commitment to you through all the ups and downs of life. Just like in the case of the Apostle Paul, you might even be daring to persecute Christians, but Our God has a way of even tracking down people running away from a melon patch.
 Quote was taken from Hot Sermons.com on July 27th, 2017. The quote deals with Predestination.
 “2005-2006 George Mason Patriots Men’s Basketball Team.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 17.June.2017. Web. July.27.2017.
 2005-2006 George Mason Patriots Men’s Basketball Team.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia.
 Romans 9:1-5.
 Romans 9:12-13.
 Genesis 25:24-34.
 Genesis 32:22-31.
 “United States Presidential Election, 1876.” Wikipedia: The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. 16.July.2017. Web. July.27.2017.
 Wormser, Richard. “Hayes-Tilden Election 1876.” PBS Jim Crow Stories. Web. July.27.2017.
 History.com “Compromise of 1877.” Web. July.27.2017.
 Jones, Scott. “Avoidance Issues and Unavoiding God.” Mockingbird Ministries (MBird). 2.May.2017. Web. July.27.2017.
 Jones, Scott. “Avoidance Issues and Unavoiding God.”
 Jones, Scott. “Avoidance Issues and Unavoiding God.”
 1 Peter 1:18-19.
 Stier, Leon. “Not Fair?” Email Mediations. 17.Oct.2016. Web. July.27.2017.
 Stier, Leon. “Not Fair?”
 Stier, Leon. “Not Fair?”