The sermon is based on Jeremiah 1:4-10
I remember that conversation.
Or one very much like the conversation Jeremiah had with God.
I had decided to go back to college and get whatever degree it was that would help me be a better Christian education director. I been working at my home congregation for a couple years, really liked the work, really felt that was what God was calling me to do.
God had other ideas.
So I was exploring what I needed to do and found out I had to go to seminary. Not so bad- a couple years I’d have my degree. I was feeling pretty confident that I was doing exactly what God wanted me to.
The first inkling I had that maybe God had other ideas was one Saturday night of worship. Pastor Grueter had just started his sermon. I looked at him and thought, “I could never do that. I could never preach.”
As quick as that thought left my brain, a new thought entered – “why not?”
I shoved it away.
But it wouldn’t go away.
Over the next several months, the thought came back to me again and again – become a pastor. And each time I pushed it away. Finally the thought became so persistent that it occurred to me that maybe God was trying to tell me something.
So I started asking questions. And talking to people. And exploring the possibility that I was being called to ordained ministry.
And the more “yeses” I heard, the more I argued with God.
God certainly couldn’t want me...I wasn’t smart to go to seminary...I wasn’t deep enough to write sermons...I wasn’t spiritual enough to be a pastor...I wasn’t holy enough, wasn’t good enough.
Besides, I was too old to spend the four years it would take to get an M.Div.
Sound a little familiar?
“Ah Lord, I don’t know how to speak.”
“I’m only a boy.”
The word of the Lord comes to Jeremiah – and he argues with God.
Turns out when you argue with God, God wins.
So Jeremiah does become a prophet, called to preach repentance to Judah. It’s not an easy task. Jeremiah’s message is unpopular. The king of Judah is certain that God would never allow Jerusalem invaded. The leaders are confident in their own righteousness. And Jeremiah’s words fall on deaf ears. In fact, at one point Jeremiah’s scribe writes down the message Jeremiah receives from the Lord, delivers it to the king, the king has the scroll read, and as each portion is read its cut off the scroll and tossed in the fire.
The book of Jeremiah is full of Jeremiah’s prophecies, and how they fell on deaf ears. In the book is full of Jeremiah’s complaints to the Lord about the hardness of the people’s hearts, about how they ignore him, about how they threaten to kill him.
If you read the book of Jeremiah, Jeremiah comes off as a whiner. He’s afraid of preaching God’s word. He’s afraid of what people will think. He’s afraid of what is the King might do to him. He complains about stomach problems as his compassion for his people tears him apart - he sees what is going to happen to them.
And I think that’s why I like Jeremiah so much. He’s a real person, full of anxiety, fear, reluctant to answer God’s call; sure he is so inadequate that God could never use him.
And yet - God does.
Because it wasn’t about Jeremiah.
It’s about God.
God prepared Jeremiah from the very beginning: “before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you…”
God was with Jeremiah every step of the way: “Don’t be afraid for I am with you to deliver you.”
And God gave Jeremiah exactly what he needed to do the work God called him to do: “Now I have put my words in your mouth. See today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
Each one of us is called. Now it’s easy to look up at me and say, “Yeah, but, you’re the pastor. I could never do what you do.” That’s the thing – God doesn’t call us all to be pastors. The last two Sundays our New Testament readings from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians remind us that God gives each one of us different gifts, to be used for different purposes, as members of the body of Christ. God doesn’t need a congregation full of pastors. But God does need a congregation full of each one of you with the gifts each one of you is given to be used in this time and place.
I’m only …
A "whatever it is that you do in life"...
A wherever it is that you find yourself placed.
Sure, some of us are called to be missionaries, or to sacrifice everything for the good of others like Mother Teresa, or to be some sort of big Christian hero. Some of us are called to be prophets.
But most of us are called to simply live as witnesses to the resurrection, as proclaimers of God’s love right where we are. We are called to be everyday prophets in our lives as parents and children, friends and neighbors, students and bosses and employees.
God looks at you and says, “Don’t say ‘I am only’…. I choose you, I send you, and I will give you everything you need to proclaim my love to the world.”
What if we looked in the mirror each morning and said, “God knew me before I was formed, God chose me before I was born. God sends me to bear the good news into the world.”
What if we looked in the mirror each morning and said, “God is with me every step of the way, I don’t have to be afraid. God’s got my back whatever happens.”
What if we looked in the mirror each morning and said, “God has put God’s words in my mouth, and God’s love in my heart. God has set me here, now for God’s good purpose, and God sends me today to bring God’s light and love me to those around me.”
What difference would that make in our lives each day?
More importantly, what difference would it make in the lives of those around us?