1 Peter 2:4-12
4 As you come to Him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to Him--5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame." 7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone," 8 and, "A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for. 9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul. 12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us."

How have you been feeling about yourself lately? How does it make you feel to know you are chosen by God—that you belong to Him? What is God doing in your life? How is He changing you? How would you like Him to change you? Do you feel like a prince or princess? How easy is it to believe that that is what God makes you? What renovations do you suppose God might like to make in your "spiritual" house?

Choosing Mary
(from Letters to My Children by Dan Taylor, Intervarsity Press, 1989)

When I was in sixth grade I was an All-American. I was smart, athletic, witty, handsome and incredibly nice. Things went downhill fast in junior high, but for this one year at least, I had everything.

Unfortunately, I also had Miss Owens for an assistant teacher. She helped Mr. Jenkins, our regular teacher. She knew that even though I was smart and incredibly nice, there was still a thing or two I could work on.

One of the things you were expected to do in grade school was learn to dance. My parents may have had some reservations at first, but since this was square dancing, it was okay.

Every time we went to work on our dancing, we did this terrible thing. The boys would all line up at the door of our classroom. Then, one at a time, each boy would pick a girl to be his partner. The girls all sat at their desks. As they were chosen, they left their desks and joined the snot-nosed kids who had honoured them with their favour.

Believe me, the boys did not like doing this—as least I didn’t. But think about being one of those girls. Think about waiting to get picked. Think about seeing who was going to get picked before you. Think about worrying that you’d get picked by someone you couldn’t stand. Think about worrying whether you were going to get picked at all!!!

Think if you were Mary. Mary sat near the front of the classroom on the right side. She wasn’t pretty. She wasn’t real smart. She wasn’t witty. She was nice, but that wasn’t enough in those days. And Mary certainly wasn’t athletic. In fact, she’d had polio or something when she was younger; one of her arms was drawn up, and she had a bad leg, and to finish it off, she was kind of fat.

Here’s where Miss Owens comes in. Miss Owens took me aside one day and said, “Dan, next time we have square dancing, I want to choose Mary.”

She may as well have told me to fly to Mars. It was an idea that was so new and inconceivable that I could barely hold it in my head. You mean pick someone other than the best, the most pretty, the most popular, when my turn came? That seemed like breaking a law of nature or something.

And then Miss Owens did a really rotten thing. She told me it was what a Christian should do. I knew immediately that I was doomed. I was doomed because I knew she was right. It was exactly the kind of thing Jesus would have done. I was surprised, in fact, that I hadn’t seen it on a Sunday school flannel board yet: "Jesus choosing the lame girl for Yeshiva dance." It was bound to be somewhere in the Bible.

I agonized. Choosing Mary would go against all the coolness I had accumulated.

The day came when we were to square dance again. If God really loved me, I thought, He will make me last. Then picking Mary will cause no stir. I will have done the right thing, and it won’t have cost me anything.

You can guess where I was instead. For whatever reason, Mr. Jenkins made me first in line. There I was, my heart pounding—now I knew how some of the girls must have felt.

The faces of the girls were turned toward me, some smiling. I looked at Mary and saw that she was half-turned to the back of the room, her face staring down at her desk. Mr. Jenkins said, “Okay, Dan—choose your partner."

I remember feeling very far away. I heard my voice say, "I choose Mary."

Never has reluctant virtue been so rewarded. I still see her face undimmed in my memory. She lifted her head, and on her face, reddened with pleasure and surprise and embarrassment all at the same time, was the most genuine look of delight and even pride that I have ever seen, before or since. It was so pure that I had to look away because I knew I didn’t deserve it.

Mary came and took my arm, as we had been instructed, and she walked beside me, bad leg and all, just like a princess.

Mary is my age now. I never saw her after that year. I don’t know what her life’s been like or what she’s doing. But I’d like to think she has fond memory of at least one day in sixth grade. I know I do.

The good news of the Gospel is that we have been chosen by God. You are someone special in the eyes of God. “You did not choose Me, but I choose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last” (John 15:16).

I can remember lining up in gym class to pick teams/partners for basketball or archery or yes—even dancing. I was a middle of the road athlete—clumsy and uncoordinated and certainly not beautiful (and from my perspective as a girl—beauty seemed to have more to do with some of the choices than skill!) I used to dream of how lovely it would be to be chosen first.

When God chooses us He doesn’t do so because we’re the best at things. He chooses us despite the fact that, in His eyes, we are broken, stained with sin and good for nothing. He knows exactly what he's getting. He sees our sin, our pride, our need to feel good about ourselves at another's expense. His love is perfect and still He chooses us to be His own.

God chooses us in Holy Baptism. In the water and the Word, God gives us the Holy Spirit. He takes away our sin. He gives us the gift of faith. He has the power to change us to be His people. And He makes us a part of His family.

God also makes us part of His family—the church. We meet together to hear God’s Word, to share Holy Communion, to sing, to pray and to be encouraged. As we grow, we learn what it means to be a "living stone" that is being built into a "spiritual temple." God has a place and purpose for each of us in the church and He blesses us as He helps us to see who we are in Him.