Sermon for 4 Epiphany, Year B
Based on Jer. 1:4-10
Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson
"Called for a Purpose"
Throughout the history of biblical times, God has called people to a special purpose. In our first lesson today, God calls the prophet Jeremiah for a special purpose.
What about today? Does God still call people today? Does God call people like us for a special purpose? A closer look at Jeremiah's call sheds some light on this subject for us.
One observation that we notice right away in our passage is that God is described 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 him before he was even born was surely a tremendously humbling experience for Jeremiah.
If we place ourselves in his shoes for a moment, how would we respond? It's a great and terrible thing to be in the presence of almighty God! To make things even more scary and intimidating, God's call to Jeremiah was as: "as a prophet to the nations."
Jeremiah's call was not merely to a small group of people; not only to a congregation; not solely to the people of Israel; but to the nations. Is it any wonder then that Jeremiah came up with the excuse to God that he was too young? What would you have said to God, if you were in Jeremiah's shoes?
How could Jeremiah possibly be a prophet to the nations? Back in those day there were no advanced means of travel or communication as we have today. Wandering all over on foot, camel or donkey would be much slower than travel today. Besides that, who really wanted to go to the Gentiles? Many of them were a godless, immoral, barbaric lot. They treated the Israelites with scorn and hatred.
To top it off, it seems that Jeremiah may have been a rural boy ~ maybe his comfort level with the city folk was too disturbing. He may have had trouble showing any empathy towards them. However, after Jeremiah makes his excuse, God gives him the reassurance that it will be okay. God promises to protect him; and to be with him. Twice God promises to help Jeremiah speak the words that people need to hear. God is saying to Jeremiah: "what I am calling you to do needs to be done. I need you, in all of your uniqueness as a person to do it."
The same is true of us today. God also calls us to do what needs to be done. God chooses us ~ like God chose Jeremiah ~ because of our uniqueness as persons for a special purpose. Like Jeremiah, Moses, Jonah, and so many others ~ you and me have made our share of excuses to God. Like Jeremiah; we may feel too young; or too old; or too inadequate for the task; or we may think that it's not important enough for us to do. Sometimes we may tend to write off a lot of people as unimportant, because we measure their value by the world's standards. Yet, God will not call you or me to do anything that's not important in some way or other.
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 frequently tell others how God called him. As a young teenager, he was walking out on the Scottish moors. It was foggy out there and he was all alone.
Suddenly, he heard a voice call, "Peter." There was a great urgency in the voice. He apparently stopped, listened, and moved on another step. Then, he heard even more urgently, "Peter." He paused, stumbled, and fell to his knees, saying, "Speak, Lord." As he fell, he put out his hands to catch himself, but found nothing there. He was on the very edge of a cliff. One more step would have been his certain death.
Now Peter Marshall was sure that God had called him; that God had a purpose in his life to have intervened so specifically.
God calls you and me too. Are we listening to God calling us? Are we answering God's call by doing what needs to be done? Are we still making excuses, feeling inadequate, trying to convince ourselves, others and God that it's not important? If we haven't answered that call, then it's necessary for us to engage ourselves in prayerful listening to God and others; to diligently study God's word; to hear God's word, and then obey God's will.
When God calls us for a purpose, God knows we are capable of doing it. So, let's not keep making the same old excuses. Jeremiah felt the responsibility that God was placing upon him was too great, too overwhelming. How could he be God's prophet to all the nations? But God wasn't asking him to convert all the nations. God was saying: "Take the message, spread it, share it wherever you go, and I'll to the converting." Jeremiah struggled to believe, listen to, and accept what God was really saying to him. We too are no better than Jeremiah, we have our struggles with God speaking to us too.
Years ago, Roger Whitaker used to sing a song entitled, "Oh, no, not me." It's a ballad about a man trying to catch a train. At the terminal, he happens to hear a blind man playing the song "Oh, no, not me" on his mandolin. The other man stops to listen. Nobody else seemed to be listening to the blind man's music. This fellow continues to listen. He returns to the place on several other occasions to listen again to the blind man. He has a strange feeling that the song was especially for him.
Then, one day the old musician died. No one noticed that he was gone. Now the other man is troubled with the feeling that he's the only one left in the entire world who has really heard the song. He believes that he therefore has to respond to it. "Oh, no, not me," he sings. "There is none so blind as those who will not see. Oh, no, not me. The only one to hear the song was me."
When Jeremiah heard God calling, he responded, "Oh, no, not me, Lord." When God calls us do we respond in a similar manner? In a sense, God is like the haunting refrain of that song. When God calls us, God will not let go of us. We can fight it all of our lives, but God still keeps calling us. God calls us for a purpose, to do what we are capable of doing. Each one of us is called to an important and special purpose. Honor God by responding to that special purpose, whatever it may be.
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