Sunday, August 21, 2016

Sermon; 14 Pentecost, Proper 16C; Jeremiah 1:4-10

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.  I appointed you a prophet.  Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”

I find these words from Jeremiah to be some of the most challenging and comforting words in Scripture.  Among other things, this passage is one of the optional first readings at diaconal ordinations.  This makes it a challenging reading.

It's challenging because, really, who am I to proclaim the Word of God?  Who am I to be a prophet?  Who am I, or how can I, live up to the expectations of God?  These are just a few thoughts running through the head of a person about to be ordained into the Sacred Order of Deacons.

But I also find it comforting.  As a deacon-to-be, I remember reading through this passage and reminding myself that this whole ordination thing wasn't my idea.  I wasn't doing it to stroke my ego.  I wasn't doing it because I had visions of grandeur.  I certainly wasn't doing it as a career move.  I was doing it because I became convinced, as were those around me, that this was something to which “before I was born God consecrated me.”  It may be a challenge, but it's comforting to know it was God's idea in the beginning.

It is also comforting to hear the words, “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”  This is different than the angels who say, “Do not be afraid” in an attempt to calm people down.  This is letting us know that we are not alone.  It's letting us know that God has our back.  It's like when you had a bad dream and your parent says, “Don't be afraid, I'm with you.”

Besides the sentimentality of the above comforting words, it's important for us to remember that this is a call story.  God is calling Jeremiah into a prophetic ministry.  And if you remember from last week, being called by God and identifying as a follower of God doesn't guarantee we will live the life of a televangelist.  As Hebrews pointed out, it's more likely we will live in poverty, be flogged, sawn in two, or executed.  God is calling Jeremiah into a difficult and challenging task, a task fraught with opposition, persecution, and rejection.  God is preparing him for that experience by telling him, “I called you, I will give you words to speak, and I will be with you.”

I’ve said this before and I'm sure I’ll say it again, but the longer I use and pay attention to the lectionary, the more I am open to seeing God's handiwork in it.

As I said, this lesson from Jeremiah is a call story.  It is a story of God calling a person out to speak God's word to the people around him.  It is a story of that person wondering, “Who am I that God should call me?  Who am I to speak the Word of the Lord?”

And, like last week, we are asked the question: What does this passage have to say to us today?

I think a lot.

First, know that you are not in this place by accident.  Before you were formed, God knew you.  Before you were born, God consecrated you.  Just like Jeremiah was called to be a prophet, you have been called to this place.  You have a particular message to speak on behalf of God to the people of Grants Pass.

Second, just as Jeremiah was called into difficult places and difficult times, so are you called.  This is a difficult place to preach the gospel and these are difficult times.  You need to discover what it is that you love about St. Luke's and you need to find a way to relay that love to others in the community.  Maybe you can start by telling each other what that is.  Practice it at coffee hour.  Spend time learning about yourself and others.  Get comfortable with talking to people about your faith, and then go preach it.

Finally, do not be afraid, for God is with you to deliver you.  That's not to say things won't be difficult and probably stressful, but know that you have been called to this place.  You have been called to preach the good news of God in Christ.  Not only have you been called, but you are being sent out.  It may not be far, but you are being sent.

And in that calling and sending, God will be with you.  Do not be afraid.

Just as Jeremiah was called to pull down, destroy, and overthrow, you are called to pull down the walls of division, destroy the insidious nature of inaction, and overthrow the bonds of fear.  Just as Jeremiah was called to pluck up, build, and plant, you are called to pluck up your courage, build upon the bonds of affection this place offers, and plant the seeds of  love.

You and Jeremiah have a lot in common.  As Jeremiah was to speak the Word of the Lord to the people of Judah, so you are to speak the Word of the Lord to the people of Grants Pass.

Do not be afraid of that call or of that challenge, for God is with you.



spookyrach | 12:56 PM, August 22, 2016  

I dunno...Joel Osteen says it's all good and we're gonna all get cool stuff and be thinner.
~ducks and runs for cover~

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