Jeremiah’s Call and CommissionJeremiah 1:4-10 (NRSV)
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.”
Friends, happy September! This is usually the time of year when we get excited because the kids are heading back to school and because we are all getting back to regular schedules and routines. After all, there is something comforting about routine, isn’t there? But as you all know, this year is a little bit different. The usual back-to-school stresses of riding the bus for the first time, trying to find a seat in the lunchroom, learning all the new rules, and meeting lots of new friends and teachers now also include adjusting to remote learning for some and donning masks and social distancing for others.
Folks let’s be honest, we ALL feel a little bit nervous because everything is new, but we need to start getting back to business. We need to start trying new things and learning new ways, to do the things that we used to do. I know it is not easy and there is a lot that is unknown, but if we keep our hearts and our minds open and pay attention to all that is happening around us, we just might find awesome new ways of doing things, experiencing them in ways that we never knew were possible. Friends, we’ve got this!
It’s just like in the church. We know that God teaches us through the words of scripture and moves all around and within us through the Holy Spirit. We see and experience glimpses of Grace in our everyday lives, but only if we look for them and allow our hearts and our minds to be open to them. And the truth is if we never try new things and never open our hearts and minds to new ideas, we just might be missing holy moments that are happening right under our noses.
Trying something new can feel strange, and it can make us feel a little uncomfortable sometimes. In our scripture reading today, we hear about someone else that faced something new, someone else who was nervous and afraid because he was being asked to do something that he had never done before. We hear God talking to Jeremiah. Now Jeremiah was a teenager at the time, and he was not the least bit comfortable with what God asking him to do. Do you remember what God said to him?
“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.“
Can you imagine? Take a minute and think about how you would respond if God told you that you were going to be the voice of God for all people and all nations. Now I don’t know about you, but that would be WAY out of my comfort zone!! Scripture then goes on to say that Jeremiah replied:
“Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”
I wonder, do you ever feel that way, that you are not quite good enough? We hear it and say it all the time, don’t we? “Oh, I’m just a visitor.” “They‘re only kids.” “I’m just a parent.” “I’m only a layperson.” “We are just volunteers.” “We are only a small church.” But what was God’s response to Jeremiah?
God said “Do not say you are 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.
What I hear God saying to Jeremiah, and to us, in today’s scripture reading is, “Do not say that you are only a child, because you are a child of God, and you are amazing!! The possibilities for you are endless. You just need to remember who and whose you are.”
Friends, has anyone ever told you, how amazing you are? Have you ever taken some time to think about your strengths and all the things that you do well? The sad part is, many times as we grow up, something happens and we forget about how amazing we are, how unconditional and grace-filled the love of Christ is, and how endless the possibilities around us are.
So, I have a big favor to ask of all of you today. I would encourage everyone–whether you are three years old or a hundred and three–to think of one person that you know that you think is amazing. Are you thinking of that person? Okay. Well, today at some point, I want you to send them a note, or a letter, a text, or an email, or pick up the phone and give them a call to let them know just how amazing you think they are. After all, they are a child of God and the possibilities are endless for them!
Because that is so important for ALL of us to remember. And friends, I want YOU to remember that, too, especially when you are starting something new like distance learning or venturing back into the classroom or the office after having been away for a while. Maybe you are facing issues with your health or with your finances, or you are feeling all alone and overwhelmed. Friends, unfortunately, it is in times like these that we often become afraid and we begin to doubt our abilities. But we’ve got this!
Friends, you know there were plenty of times when the disciples were confused and afraid, too. Jesus always reminded them that no matter what happened, they would never be alone. That is why, through the Sacrament of Communion, Jesus gave them a simple, everyday way to remember him, and he shares that same reminder with us.
Friends, many people think of Communion as a formal ceremony where only the righteous and worthy are welcome. But really, that is the farthest from the truth. Because when Jesus gathered in the upper room with his friends the disciples, he knew that the disciples were afraid and unsure. He knew that the disciples didn’t understand what was going on, but Jesus continued to teach them and to lead them and to feed them, just as he does us today.
We also know that as Jesus looked around the table that night, his heart was heavy because he saw one of his own that had betrayed him. He knew another would deny him, and he knew the rest of them would eventually abandon him. But even with a heavy heart, Jesus fed them anyway, because the table is not about who is good enough or who is worthy. It’s not about perfection and excellence. It’s about healing the broken, reassuring the unsure, forgiving the unforgivable, and giving the gift of grace which we can never deserve, we can only receive.
Friends, at the table that night, Jesus taught us all about the importance of true communion, of sharing a simple meal and remembering Jesus as we do. And that night, not only did Jesus offer an abundant gift of grace, but Jesus also made the ordinary extraordinary. He did not set the table with fancy dishes or fine silver. There were no pressed tablecloths or elaborately folded napkins. There were no golden chalices or fancy catered foods.
Jesus simply took what was right in front of him, a piece of bread. Something simple, everyday, and ordinary. But friends, to tell you the truth, it could have been a cracker, or a cookie, or some other bit of food that was on the table in front of him. Because what it was was not as important as what it stood for. Scripture tells us that he blessed it, and broke it, and gave it to them saying, “This is my body, broken for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise, after supper, he took a cup, a cup that was on the table in front of him. Again, something simple, something everyday, and something ordinary. He gave thanks and then shared it with them saying, “This is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this as often as you drink of it, in remembrance of me.”
Now, scripture says it was wine. But friends, to tell you the truth, it could have been a cup of coffee, or a glass of water or juice, because again what is was, was not as important as what it stood for.
(Sharing of Communion)
Folks, I want you to remember that you are amazing! You’ve got this because you can do anything! But also remember that amazing does not mean perfect. That is why God always shares with us the gift of grace, giving us a chance to start over, again and again and again. And just because we are amazing does not mean that we are better than anyone else. It just means that we are ALL beloved children of God, the possibilities around each of us are endless, and the choices are ours.
Folks, I hope, and I pray that in your amazingness, you choose to share the love of God with others, always doing justice and loving kindness, building up instead of breaking down, and being a light that shines, guiding the way for those who are afraid and for those who walk in darkness.
So, brothers and sisters in Christ, as you go out into your week ahead, I’d like to leave you with a special charge. For anyone that is going to school this fall, I’m going to ask you to stand up, right where you are, because I want you to listen carefully to these words from God to you!
I knew you before I gave you life. I chose you before you were born. I send you now to school, remotely or in-person, to study and learn. Do your best. Be a friend to others. Stand up for what is right and know that you can do amazing things! Amen.
Okay, you can sit back down. And now for all of you who will not be students this fall, you can stay seated but I want you to listen closely to hear God’s word to you.
I also knew you before I gave you life. I chose you before you were born. Do not say to me, “I am just a parent or a grandparent,” or “I am just an assistant.” Do not say “I am only a volunteer,” or “I am just a retiree.” For I will be with you at work, and at the grocery store and as you stay safe at home talking to friends and loved ones on the phone. Be my people. Stand up for good, and speak my words to those you meet, always encouraging them to do their best.
And all of you, students, teachers, business people, parents, grandparents, and members and friends of the Oldtown church, remember God’s promise to Jeremiah and to you. Whether you are working and learning remotely or in-person ,or making decisions to keep yourself and your community as safe as you can, God says, to you, “Do not be afraid. I will be with you to protect you. I will put my words in your mouth.”
So, in all that you say and do, wherever you are, always know that you are loved, that you are amazing, that you are enough, and that you’ve got this! Because you are a beloved child of God.
My friends, may it be so. Thanks be to God! Amen