Sermon for 4 Epiphany Yr C, 1/02/2004
Based on Jer 1:4-10
By Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson, pastor of Grace Lutheran Church,
& chaplain of the Good Samaritan Society’s
South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, Alberta
“Called by God”
A man was telling his neighbour, “I just bought a new hearing aid. It cost me four thousand dollars, but it’s state-of-the-art. It’s perfect.” “Really,” answered the neighbour. “What kind is it?” And the man answered, “Twelve thirty.” J
Theologian Paul Tillich once said: “The first duty of love is to listen.” When God speaks and calls us, how well do people listen? Are we like the man with the new hearing aid who hears something different than what God has really spoken to us? The fact is that God calls each and every one of us. Writer Frederick Buechner once said: “The place God call you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” That can be almost anywhere in the world and it likely involves every vocation and walk of life. God calls each one of us to a special purpose—whether that be the ordained ministry or as a Christian serving God in any other way.
In our first lesson today, we learn of God’s call to Jeremiah. We notice, first of all, that God is described in this passage as all-knowing. God had predestined Jeremiah before he was even born for a special purpose. To be told by God that God had known, consecrated and appointed you before you were born must have been a tremendously humbling experience for Jeremiah. This was likely the case because we learn that Jeremiah was only a youth, still wet behind the ears when God called him. In the society of ancient Israel, youth were more seen than heard. People listened to and respected the elderly.
The Bible indicates that the call of God comes to those of all ages. Jeremiah protested he was only a “youth.” By present day standards, Moses was an old man when God spoke to him through the burning bush. Joan of Arc was 17 when she left home to follow the guidance of her heavenly vision. And when Samuel was merely a youngster he heard the voice of the Lord calling to him in the middle of the night.
Apparently age is not a determining factor in the mind of God. To Jeremiah, He said, “To all whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you you shall speak. Be not afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you.”
Saul himself, was just a young man when he agreed to the stoning of Stephen and began his persecution of the early church, and not much older when he had his blinding experience with the Lord on the road to Damascus. Yet, the blindness of Saul became the light of salvation to Paul when he yielded himself to the will of Almighty God. 1
Youth, old-age, or any age aside; class, gender or race aside; God is no respecter of persons when it comes to the call to serve him and his purposes. In answer to Jeremiah’s protest and everyone else’s protest; in resisting God’s call; God answers each one of us something like this: “I am calling you to do this because it needs to be done and, with my help you can do it. I’ll provide you with everything you need in order to do it. Listen to me and trust me, I will be with you every step of the way.”
Many of you may remember Peter Marshall. Some of you may have read the book his wife wrote about him, A Man Called Peter. Peter used to tell again and again how God called him. As a young teenager, he was walking out on the Scottish moors. It was foggy and he was alone. Suddenly he heard a voice call, “Peter.” There was a great urgency in the voice. But he said he stopped and listened and moved on another step, then heard more urgently, “Peter.” He paused, stumbled, and fell to his knees and said, “Speak, Lord.” As he fell he put out his hands to catch himself and found nothing there. He was on the very edge of a cliff. One more step would have ben his certain death. Now Peter Marshall was sure that God called him, that God had a purpose in his life to have intervened so specifically. 2
God calls us too—just as he called Jeremiah and Peter Marshall. How carefully are we listening?
A devout English judge in India befriended an Indian lad who came from a prominent family, but who had been cast out by his relatives because he had converted to Christianity. The judge took the boy into his household where he worked as a house boy or servant. It was the custom in the household to have devotions every evening, and one night the judge read the words, “Every one who has forsaken houses, brother, sister, wife, children or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold.”
Turning to the lad, the judge said, “Nobody here has done this except Norbudur. Will you tell us, is it true?”
The Indian lad, read the verse again, then said, “It say he gives hundredfold. I know he gives thousandfold.” 3
As Norbudur and Jeremiah discovered, God’s call can be very risky and costly—yet, in the end, both come to realise that in serving the LORD there is blessing upon blessing for those who listen and respond by following where God leads. God also calls you and me; God believes in you and me to accomplish his purposes. You are special and of infinite worth to God. Do you believe in God enough to listen, respond to, and follow him wherever he leads you? For if you do, there is blessing upon blessing waiting for you too! Amen.
1 Cited from: Emphasis, Vol. 24, No 5, Jan.-Feb. 1995 (Lima, OH: CSS Publishing Co.), p. 37.
2 Cited from: James H. Bailey, The Happy Hour (Lima, OH: C.S.S. Publishing Co., Inc., 1985), pp. 91-92.
3 Cited from: Albert Stauderman, Let Me Illustrate (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1983), p. 86.