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Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Callling of a Prophet

from today's preaching on Jeremiah 1:4-10
Jeremiah's family were priests. There line traced back to King David, whom his ancestors served. In his own time his family was not in power, political miscalculations long prior to this  had relegated them to a more peripheral existence. 
Manasseh's reign as king was a bad time for folks like Jeremiah's family. Pagan religion permeated the Temple and the people. The emergence of Josiah, a young king who was reform minded no doubt gave folks like them hope. I think in our own time, many of us see things going on which deeply trouble us. We have much in common with that priestly family and their young son, Jeremiah. By Jeremiah’s own account of his calling from God took place in 627BC. He was a teenager.

It is noteworthy that although Jeremiah heard God call, he was a reluctant prophet. In fact, Jeremiah never seemed comfortable in the role. At times God got frustrated with him. Jeremiah was beset with doubts and fears his entire ministry, going so far (chapter 20) as to level the accusation that God seduced and overpowered him.

Jeremiah is no poster child for recruiting prophets! But he is a sign of hope to those of us who sometimes struggle in our own efforts to be faithful. While few of us may have heard an individual call to a prophetic mission, together as a parish it remains one of our duties.

1.   The call
God knows us all from before time and forever. He has plans for us. Some receive a special station, such as Jeremiah. Qadash means to be set apart, to be made holy or sanctified for God’s purpose. We are not all specially called as prophets, but we are all set apart to be God’s children. The history of the world is the sad fact that we may be predestined, but we can choose another path. God made no one for the purpose of being a vicious, heartless or evil. The choice is ours. Like Jeremiah we may fail to reach our potential at times. Like Jeremiah, God has better plans for us than we do for ourselves.
2.   The Response
Jeremiah tells God, “I am too young.” The Hebrew can be translated “I am of a tender age.” All of us have any number of good reasons (or excuses) for putting off God’s call. I am too young, too old, too tired, too busy. I am not skilled. I am not prepared. Surely there is someone else better suited for the task. In the end, it all comes down to “No, I will do what I want.” However, sometimes we do say yes.
3.   The command
Much like His command to Abraham, God tells Jeremiah, “you will go.” Going is tough stuff. It takes trust to leave behind what we have. It takes love and faith to let go of our security. Much like God commanded Moses, He also tells Jeremiah “you will say.” The Word of God is on his lips. He carries a message. But the speaker is at risk of rejection and worse.
4.   The Promise.
"I will deliver you," says the Lord, "so do not be afraid." This Hebrew word, 'to deliver', also means to save. It is used in many of the great stories of the ancient covenant. Jacob is delivered from Essau, Joseph is delivered from his brothers, Moses delivers young women from cruel men, and God delivers His people from Pharaoh.
The promise from God: I am with you to deliver you is GOOD NEWS. It is the source of every hope and joy.
5.   The authorization
“I have put my words in your mouth” “I appoint you.” The word of God is a word of judgment. It is judgment against the wicked and judgment on behalf of the poor and needy. It is the message which we, you and I, consecrated from before our birth, have been authorized and commission to deliver to a sin soaked world.

While Isaiah’s words are often quoted in the Gospels as precursors to the Christ, it is Jeremiah’s life which gives insight into Jesus. It is clear to me that Jeremiah is himself a “prophecy” of Messiah. In his tortured life Jeremiah is a ‘type’ of the crucified. He is a priest who is also a sacrifice: a man who learned the horrible price of being faithful in his own suffering flesh.

In Jeremiah we see our own attempts to discern vocation and be faithful to God. In him we see also our weakness and infidelity. We hear echoed our desire to shun our vocation and escape our calling.

Each of us must decide, for himself or herself, will I walk away from God, or trust His promise and walk into a hostile world with His message.

Whatever the case, God remains faithful.
God is the one who cries out to us: FEAR NOT!
God is the one who promises: I WILL DELIVER YOU!
That is good news worthy of pondering as we consider this day what response to make.

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