Chosen and Called
The words of Jeremiah son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. The word of the Lord came to him in the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon king of Judah, and through the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, down to the fifth month of the eleventh year of Zedekiah son of Josiah king of Judah, when the people of Jerusalem went into exile.
The word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. ”“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young. ”But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
Jeremiah, like nearly all prophets, did not want the job. The job sounded very challenging. The bit about ‘building and planting’ probably sounded OK, but what about ‘uprooting and tearing down’? Sounds hard!
And the fact that the Lord says, “Do not be afraid of them”, says there will be reason to be afraid of someone! “Them’ will not like the truth you speak.
And doing this in the most torn down and uprooting time in this nation’s history – the exile; when the whole nation will soon be severely disrupted as the Babylonians in the North destroy all semblance of normal life as the people know it – that sounds very hard.
We ourselves know in at least a small way, that when things are disrupted people get edgy, tired, negative, fearful, desperate, self-absorbed to cope, and they get angry about a lot of things. Who would want to be God’s spokesperson saying his truth in that kind of time and place? Not me!
So, Jeremiah does not really want the job and he offers two reasons why it should not be his calling. We hear that Jeremiah is young. Maybe late teens, early twenties. Maybe a little bit older than our seven young people publicly confirming the truth of the gospel among us today.
Jeremiah does what many before him have done when God’s call comes – think Moses, in particular – He tries to talk God into letting him off the hook. Jeremiah says, “I am too young”.
And, by the way, Lord, “I don’t know how to speak well”. Maybe he actually can’t speak that well. Or maybe on a list of his personal fears, Jeremiah might list public speaking right up at the top. A lot of young people might share that fear. A lot of adults too. Or maybe he actually is aware that as a young person speaking into the adult world, he has no credibility yet. They would not listen anyway!
The Lord’s response comes;
“Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,”
In other words, ‘Yes, you are young. You don’t have any proven credibility yet and you might not have the right words to say, but I still call you’.
God seems like the boss who just throws you on the checkout at the busiest time of the day in the supermarket and says, “Stand here. Do this”, and then goes off to do other work. It seems like it is just ‘sink or swim’ for Jeremiah.
Why is it like this? Why does Jeramiah HAVE to take up the call and speak?
Because God must speak. If he does not speak, his people will be lost forever. If God stops speaking, life stops living, hope stips being sure and we are lost.
God speaks and Jeremiah will be God’s man who speaks God’s truth to kings and peasants in the most traumatic times they will ever know when the promises of being a nation, having a fine land in which to live, having a place in God’s world and being the light in a dark world that is bent on destroying everything good God ever gave. God’s word is the light and it brings life and hope and God has to speak and he needs a person through whom he speaks.
As it was for Jeremiah it is for us now. God still seems bent on speaking his words in human voices and actions.
At our baptism God opened our deaf ears and our silent mouth to hear and speak his word with the sign of Jesus’ cross on our lips and ears. He was not kidding. He is still speaking. He calls you now to lend him your ear and let his words come out.
These young people today, and all of us are called despite our personal fears, any opposition, your age, your understanding, your anything!
- So we are all called to be Jeremiah – to be God’s mouthpiece in our time and place.
And like Jeremiah, we seem so hesitant to take up this calling? I think I know the reasons.
We know we are not up for it.
We know we do not want the to take all that responsibility.
We know it is not easy, and generally, we all prefer, ‘easy’.
So, we roll out similar things to Jeremiah:
- I am too young. I am too inexperienced. I am too old. I am not good at words. I don’t know enough.
- I don’t know what is happening in the world and I am not able to say anything much with confidence about what God is doing and what people should do.
- It is all too complex for me.
- I don’t want this responsibility of speaking God’s word into people’s questions or fears or differences of belief. Let someone else do it….. Someone else more skilled than I, better at words than I, wiser than I…..
- I am here to enjoy life, not make life more difficult. I have no right to offend people or offer a different view. These days they will just ‘cancel’ me anyway, if I do share a different view, so what is the point? No, better to keep the truth of God’s word about Jesus and calling and repenting and forgiveness and church to myself or to be shared only among people I already know share that truth….. it is easier that way….
I get the logic and I feel the apprehension. But the call remains, and God still speaks and speaks through human voices.
And the good news for timid, reserved, unsure people is this: God is not like the boss who throws you in at the deep end by putting you on the checkout at the supermarket at rush hour and says “Stand here. Do this” and goes away to leave you to it. Got puts you on but then does not leave you alone.
Our God calls and then stays. He calls you do it and then gives you what you need to live it.
Yes, you are young. Yes, you may be inexperience. Yes, you may be old. Yes, you may be lacking skills or words or confidence or clear thought and awareness of so many things, but,
“I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
Eusebius, the ancient historian telling the story adds:
“When he had offered up his amen and had finished his prayer, the firemen lighted the fire.”
Our God calls and stays. If he calls you to it, he will give you the strength and skill and heart to do it.
Here, God never says it will be a walk in the park. But he says he will walk with us through all the parks.
And to confirm this calling for Jeremiah, God does something Jeremiah can touch, feel, taste, hear – something concrete.
Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you…”
He knows what he is taking about. John witnesses two resurrections – John and then Jesus! I can imagine Polycarp sitting at the feet of his teacher, soaking up John’s eyewitness words of Jesus more than once.
Without any magic words or hokus pokus of a Halloween spell, the simple but deafeningly powerful word is spoken by the King of kings – “Come out! Come out of your death you dead person. Arise, O sleeper, from the dead!”
A man in a mummy cloth shuffles out unable to see through the cloths wrapped around his head! No more smell of death here – just the sweet taste of life!
And then they all immediately know that they are in the presence of greatness. They are in the presence of the awesome power of God in this human teacher.
He seemed so silly and weak. But now he has done what no other human being can do, just by a word he makes death live. Just by a command, he raises a dead person to new life!
Many are convinced and begin to trust the man. Others are scared to death of this sign of life and what it will mean for the life and choose to kill this life. We notice that immediately after this sign of life, Jesus’ death is sealed.
We know that so soon after this day, Jesus’ own dead body would fill a tomb. But then just a few days later it wouldn’t! His corpse would be called out of the dark tomb and his rising would provide the final antidote to our human death.
His resurrection power would be set loose on the world as he ascended to his rightful place among the angels and archangels and all the saints of God as his resurrection glory fills the universe.
So many sinners would be touched by his great power and the gospel would fan out like a flame through the world by means his word planted in his “sent ones” – his “apostles”.
The community of sinners made holy – sinners now saints – would be born in the power of the Spirit as the once disgraced Peter would get on stand up and preach this Jesus on the Day of Pentecost. The church of the Resurrection is born and the saints of God bear the witness to Jesus’ resurrection power over sin and death to a dying world.
It is not so difficult to see how an old Christian man at the age of at least 86, just one generation after all this could resist the call from the world to give up his faith in the resurrection of Jesus and willingly give up his life for this Jesus who raises dead people.
In faith in Jesus’ power to save him, with faith in Jesus’ Word, passed on by the Apostle’s, Polycarp received this resurrection power, even at the moment when the “firemen lighted the fire”.
Friend, you are the bearer of this sign of life right now. Especially in your weakness and hardship, you carry Jesus’ death and resurrection in your body. None of us have carried the witness to death. That may be our calling one day, but for today all we can do is thank the Lord for the resurrection we have received in our Baptism and live it – live it now.
Living the Resurrection means living life in the promises that you will be Lazarus because you belong to Jesus. You carry his life for the life of others.
We don’t hold back anything that would be of benefit to people. We give others our all. We are the witnesses to this resurrection life we have been given with all its hope and peace whatever threatens us.
Is this your witness? I pray it is.
When challenged or when genuinely questioned on what you are saying and doing can you say, “These years have I served Him, and He has done me no wrong. How can I speak evil of my King who saved me?”
Friend, the Lord has done you no wrong and he is martyr for you. He has given himself to you and always does. Speak well of him, especially in the fire. You are captive to his Spirit and connected with him always.
I sing a song of the saints of God,
They lived not only in ages past;
there are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints
who love to do Jesus’ will.
You can meet them in school, or in lanes or at sea,
In church, or in trains or in shops or at tea,
for the saints of God are just folk like me,
and I mean to be one too.
Lyrics: Lesbia Scott, Melody: J.H. Hopkins, The 1940’s Hymnal #243
God puts his own words in Jeremiah’s mouth. He is putting his own words into your mouth again today. He is placing his words in your mouth, young people.
What Jeremiah will say and do will not be him trying to figure everything out on his own, find the right words, do a course of public speaking to get it right, plumb the depths of philosophies and ideas or even the bible to get it perfect and never make a mistake……
God’s words will just be within and will come out as needed when needed. That is God’s promise to all today.
So, young people, old people, Christian people, people touched by the living Word, Jesus, fear flies away. Responsibility now is quite light. Opposition is expected but not hurtful or hindering.
Comfort may be at times diminished, but joy rises when that words are heard and a person is helped, a person is transformed, a relationship is healed, a whole new future is opened up for someone, your soul sings because you know you had a hand in a good moment and the Lord was there in you doing his work for someone else.
Young people, you have been chosen. This God we trust in this community says he formed you in your mother’s womb. He has known you since before birth. He has got you here and is calling you to speak and do his words wherever he sends you, calls you, directs you. You will never be left alone to fight for yourself or overcome anything. He will take care of that and you.
We need a generation of young people who will take the call and do God’s speaking.
We need a church who will take the call and do the work where the Lord has called it to be.
We can, because the words are already in us and they will come out of our mouths.
This will uproot things for some and plant new hope in some and we don’t get to choose who and which.
We just get to speak God’s words of loving truth into the lives of people he loves and take him at his promises to stay with us, protecting, speaking, teaching, leading us.
See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”