Jeremiah 4:1-10; 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; Luke 4:21-30
Jeremiah was a reluctant prophet. The first reading may be helpful for us in our reluctance to be faithful in our vocation.
1. Jeremiah is called and consecrated. To be consecrated is to be set apart by God and made holy. It is what God did with the Sabbath at creation, what He did with Israel (first people, then priests). It is also what the Lord did with you at your baptism. We were called by Jesus and set apart from the world as disciples who follow and apostles who are sent out! Yet we feel ordinary, not up to the challenge. Do you trust God--believe He set you apart, sanctified you and made you holy?
2. Jeremiah's excuse was that he was too young. Perhaps we feel too unprepared? Moses said he couldn't talk well. We all have reasons why we are not up to the task. Some of us have lots of reasons! The problem with excuses, however, is it focuses in the wrong direction. It looks in the mirror at "Me." "I can't, " we say. God answers, "I am with you to deliver you, don't be afraid." We need to stop looking in the mirror and turn and look to the Lord. Your choice: will I trust God, or will I walk away and center on myself?
But trust is only part of the equation. Love is what matters most. Chapter 13 of 1 Corinthians is not about marriage, its about church. These are prophetic words. Love, he says, must be at the center of our religious practice. Miracles and revelations, spiritual gifts and even self-sacrifice are empty without love. Paul has taken the Corinthians to task throughout the letter; now he reiterates those things (puffed up, combative, self centered, uncaring) as unloving. Like Jeremiah, Paul says, "It is time to grow up and become spiritual adults." Like Jeremiah Paul tears down and builds up.
The Jesus we encounter is an adult. He is welcomed home to His childhood synagogue. He reads from Isaiah and announces that the day of fulfillment is at hand! But the enthusiasm of the people quickly turns to hostility when they learn that God's Kingdom is intended to include outcasts and foreigners. Jesus too will tear down mistaken expectations and destroy selfish concerns. Yet He promises to build up the poor and needy. The Kingdom of God brings judgment. It rescues those who love and trust God, but it is harsh for those who reject His ways.
Our purpose is to be spiritual adults. Children sit around generating excuses based on limitations. Adults trust that God is with us. Our faith is active and obedient. It is also, at its core, filled with love. Real love, godly love, is a love which extends to those outside the borders of our petty politics and personal ambition. Real love, prophetic love, speaks the truth, boldly and honestly. Prophetic love tears down and destroys what is not of God, and it builds up and plants the Kingdom. Too long we have been satisfied with excuses which allow others to take care of the mission of the church. Today, God calls you. He calls you to be holy. He calls you to trust He is with you. He calls you to the ministry of Jesus. As a parish, each day we can Jesus and do the work He has authorized and empowered us to do: proclaim the Kingdom with heal, cast out demons, teach and reconcile. That is what grown ups do. That is the life we are called to live.
prior to preaching this morning I sort of had an image bubble up in my mind. I saw a picture of the responders (cops, fireman, warriors)--the people who go "in the wrong direction". When there is trouble and we flee, they go toward the trouble. I just feel that the "adult" apostolic ministry Jesus calls us to is like that. When evil is at its worst we are called to take a stand, to march into battle not run away. Jesus calls us to bring Gospel deliverance. I think it is the Life in the Spirit!