Called To Serve
There are a variety of jobs that are defined by the power that comes with them. CEO’s of companies, police officers and perhaps most notably politicians. There is a saying that some political pundits south of the border have: Whoever desires to be President should be disqualified out of hand. The reasoning goes that anyone who imagines that they are capable of such responsibility must be deluded, a danger to themselves as well as to the public. By the same reasoning an individual’s refusal or reluctance to take such a job, one who would refuse nomination, is therefore considered the most appropriate or qualified for it.
Evidence of this is also seen in the Bible. The prophets of the Old Testament constantly display this penchant for not being worthy of the task. They cite all sorts of reasons, not being old enough, not being gifted in fine speech, not being wise enough, and only being a simple shepherd.
Jeremiah shares two of these reasons why he should be disqualified for being a prophet of God. He says I do not know how to speak; I am too young. Jeremiah it seems is doing whatever possible to escape from being a prophet of God and he’s not the only one.
Called To Serve – Audio Sermon
In Exodus Moses says “O my Lord, I am not eloquent… but I am slow of speech and of tongue.” Moses also complains that he is too young. Isaiah thinks of himself as unworthy, “I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips.” If you have read through the prophets this is a familiar refrain. However, it isn’t localized to the Old Testament.
Jesus also seeks to flee from his appointed task. In Matthew 26 we read, “Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” 37 He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” 39 Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
There is a common refrain of not being worthy to serve God. The prophets feel that they do not have the gifts or the experience required to fulfill the task that God sets before them, that the task itself is simply too big for them to accomplish and so they seek to run away.
Many of my colleagues at Knox College have expressed similar stories. That God has called them into ministry, but they weren’t quite ready when they first heard God’s call and it is only after a number of years that they finally gave in and listened to God. When they realized that God had a use for them and that maybe they should listen.
That is the other common refrain with the prophets, God wins in the end.
Our passage from Jeremiah is a beautiful passage. It speaks to the providence of God and it illustrates that God has use for each and every one of us. Our passage reads, before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart. Those words to Jeremiah are also true for us. Our relationship with God predates our own birth and whether we know it or not God has a special plan for our lives. We may never, as Jeremiah and the prophets did, be aware of what that plan is. We may never appreciate how God’s plan for our life unfolds, but rest assured God does have a plan for us. We are special and beloved in God’s eyes.
Our passage reminds us that God does love us and that we are set apart. What our passage goes on to do is remind us that though we are loved by God and though we have been set apart, it isn’t about us. The actions we take, the words we speak aren’t to glorify ourselves or to elevate ourselves above others. What our passage in Jeremiah does is remind us that it is all about God.
God says, “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.”
You must go to everyone I send you – not go where ever you please.
You must say whatever I command you – not say whatever you please.
Do not be afraid, because you are strong and righteous – do not be afraid for I, God, am with you and will rescue you.
It’s not about us, it’s about God.
I think that’s an important lesson for us to remember. Too often we put ourselves first. Too often we compare our accomplishments to what others have done. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being successful. There is nothing wrong with being good at something. It is how we choose to deal with that success and that talent.
Do we choose to use what God has given us? Do we use our success and our talent to do the work of the kingdom? Or do we give in like the prophets and try to run and hide? Do we hide our talents under a bushel?
Jeremiah reminds us that it God who formed all of this in us long ago.
Jeremiah reminds us that it is not, nor has it ever been about us.
It doesn’t matter if we are too young or too old.
It doesn’t matter if we don’t see ourselves wise in the ways of the world or if we don’t have the gift of eloquent speech.
It isn’t about us. It is about God.
As God said to Jeremiah, “I have put my words in your mouth.”
We may seek to flee from doing God’s work. It may seem too hard, we may be subjected to persecution or ridicule. Following God may make us feel uncomfortable and so we’d just rather not follow God. Remember that like the prophets, this feeling or thought that maybe someone else more qualified for the job should do it. Well that just might be the qualification that God is looking for.
Remember God’s words to Jeremiah, “I am with you and will rescue you.”
Rest in that and know that as a disciple of Christ you are qualified for whatever ministry God calls you to. Amen.
Test: Jeremiah 1: 4-10