Predestination. Baptists and Presbyterians love it; Methodists and Lutherans not so much. I remember years ago having lengthy conversations with Sunday School teachers and even a few pastors about the subject, which inevitably came around to whether or not we humans had any measure of free will. After all, if God has predestined something, it was a foregone conclusion; free will was merely a figment of our imagination, something we wished were true, but couldn't be.
So is predestination true, or not? St. Paul speaks of it in the first chapter of his letter to the Ephesians, so we can't just dismiss the concept, but if it is true, how can anyone be held responsible for his actions? If Assad's unleashing chemical weapons on his own people is predestined, how can we say he is evil for using them? If everything is predestined, the actions of the racist, child abuser, murderer carry no more culpability than someone eating an ice cream cone.
Unless we have misunderstood what Paul was saying.
This morning, pastor Roy filled in for pastor Joe while the latter was on vacation. He preached from Ephesians 1:4-5. "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved."
"God has chosen you. Now, choose your chosenness," Roy intoned repeatedly. "God chose us because of his great love for us, but for it to do us any good, we must claim that chosenness for ourselves." Then he spoke of this word 'predestination.' "Back when we sent letters through the mail, we would put something on the outside of the envelope. We addressed the letter. That address was a pre-destination, indicating the destination, the purpose of the letter. Letters didn't always get to their destination, often because two of them would get stuck together. In the same way, God predestined us to be conformed to the image of his Son, but we don't always get there. Sometimes we get stuck to another letter, and end up where we aren't supposed to be. Be careful who you allow yourself to get stuck to. Stick to Jesus. He will get us to our destination of holiness."
In all my years of preaching, I have never heard a better definition of pre-destination. It is the address that tells us our destination-where we are supposed to end up. I am thankful tonight for my friend and colleague, Pastor Roy, who remains faithful to proclaiming God's Word to God's people for God's purposes. And I am thankful that we never grow too old to stop learning. I learned something today that puts one more piece into place in this puzzle called life.