Jeremiah 1:4-10 – Call of Jeremiah. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy… You will go where I send you. Do not be afraid, I am with you.”
Psalm 71:1-6 – In you, Lord I take refuge, let me never be put to shame. Be my rock.
1 Corinthians 13:1-13 – The love chapter. After 1 Corinthians 12, Paul says he will show a more excellent way. Paul says without love, even faith isn’t enough.
Luke 4:21-30 – Jesus in his hometown synagogue, part 2. He almost gets thrown off a cliff. No prophet is without honor, except in his own hometown.
Houston Denominational Leaders from across the city invite all Christians to join them for an evening of music, worship and prayer as ecumenical groups gather to pray for Christian Unity in Houston and around the world. All are welcome. Join us at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church on Friday, January 22, 2016 at 7:00 p.m.
The Call of Jeremiah
This post will focus on the Call of Jeremiah. The gospel readings for this and last Sunday are Jesus in his hometown. Here you can read about Jesus in his hometown part 1 (the gospel reading for last Sunday) or you can read about Jesus in his hometown part 2 (the gospel for this Sunday).
In this week’s first lesson, we have the call of Jeremiah. This is a fantastic text to read when the gospel reading is Jesus in his own hometown. They don’t respect Jesus: “Is this not Joseph’s son?” In fact, when all is said and done, they take him to a cliff, intending to throw him off.
Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.” Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you, Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.” Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, “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.”
Jeremiah, יִרְמְיָהוּ, the second of the major Hebrew prophets, is credited with writing not only Jeremiah, but 1 Kings, 2 Kings, and Lamentations. He is also considered a major prophet in Islam. His ministry runs from the thirteenth year of Josiah’s reign (626 B.C.) to the Babylonian Captivity (587 B.C.). He spans the reigns of five kings.
Jeremiah tells his call story. Every rostered leader should consider telling his or her call story once a year or so. It’s real. It’s personal. This may be the time to tell your own call story. How did you sense God’s call to ministry? How did you resist? How might you invite people to discern their own call to ministry? In baptism, we are all called to ministry. Help me see that. Help me know how I might sense my own call to ministry. How can I know when the Spirit is nudging?
Jeremiah hears the call of God and resists it. “I don’t know how to speak.” “I’m just a boy – too young.” Most people I’ve known have, at one time or another, resisted their call. God regularly calls people to do big things. Once we get a glimpse of it, if we have a realistic idea of our capabilities, we cannot help but feel overwhelmed. The congregation will not have much difficulty identifying with this. Tell stories of those who have felt overwhelmed by their calling.
Jeremiah calls out Israel’s decadence and idolatry. Like Jesus, he warns what will happen to the nation if they don’t turn from their current course. Like Jesus, they try to kill him many times. He is attacked by his own brothers. He is beaten, put in stocks, thrown in prison, and more. Like Jesus, he is unable to stop the destruction of Jerusalem.
Jeremiah is worried about how his message will be received and how people will receive him. In a verse a bit further than our current passage, God comforts Jeremiah:
They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you,
for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you.
Jeremiah 1:19, NRSV
I actually prefer the Yoda-like translation from the Anchor Bible:
Attack you they will, overcome you they can’t.
Jeremiah 1:19a, The Anchor Bible
Jeremiah was very committed to his calling. He did not marry or have children. He did not attend weddings or funerals. He likely didn’t drink or go to parties. How committed are we to our calling? I have a friend who gave up his job to become a missionary in Africa. What sacrifices are we willing to make to fulfill our calling?
Jeremiah has a love-hate relationship with his calling.
O Lord, you have enticed me,
and I was enticed;
you have overpowered me,
and you have prevailed.
I have become a laughingstock all day long;
everyone mocks me.
And yet, this calling is compelling:
If I say, “I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name,”
then within me there is something like a burning fire
shut up in my bones;
I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot.
Jeremiah finds trouble throughout his ministry. Jesus’ calling leads him to the cross. God often calls us to do hard things. One pastor said, “Show me one place in the Bible where God asks someone to do something easy…” God’s calling may bring joy and purpose, but nowhere are we promised that it will be easy. Only that God will be with us. “Attack you they will. Overcome you they cannot.”
How about you? Could it be that God is calling you? What is your divine destiny? Could it be that God knew you, and called you, even when you were in your mother’s womb?