Welcome guest preacher, Christiane Swartz! She is a member and Elder in the Geyserville Christian Church. Christiane is also a Seminarian with Disciples Seminary Foundation and studying for a Master of Divinity at the Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley, CA.
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Jeremiah 1:4-10 — New International Version
The word of the Lord came to me, saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ 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,” declares the Lord.
Jeremiah spent over four decades preaching, and beseeching those around him to hear God’s message. F.o.r.ty. y.e.ar.s. “Trust God.” “Put down your false idols.” “Stop with your greed.” “Come back to God before things get really bad.”
He preached relentlessly, tirelessly, and with gusto. Why?
Because God called him.
You would think that kind of reference would come with a high regard, but no. For his efforts, Jeremiah was ridiculed, beaten and jailed repeatedly over four decades, thrown into a muddy cistern and left to die and ultimately rescued only to be stoned to death by his fellow countrymen.
And Jeremiah might have still been a teenager when he was asked, but he clearly wasn’t stupid. That did not look like a job description he wanted! “Uh…no,” he responded to God, “No THANK YOU.”
So God said, “Yes, I really really really want you to,” and whatever God said to Jeremiah was compelling enough that eventually, Jeremiah said yes.
Why ever would someone say yes to a life like that? Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind serving God. Let me rescue cute kitties and duckies. Let me feed the poor and feel good about myself while my neighbors talk about how awesome I am! Let me hear another’s pain and offer words of caring and support to their grateful souls. I’m happy to help. There’s no reason for me to be miserable and abused for my efforts.
Not always, apparently. So I think this passage leaves me with more questions than answers. Was he predestined to that life? Did God PLAN that one person would live a quiet contented life knitting sweaters for goats in Nepal but Jeremiah would be stoned to death after a miserable existence of offering a message that no one seems to want to hear? How did he really know he was called? How did he understand what he was being asked to do with gifts he didn’t think he had? Could he have said no? Does God mastermind the process? Would God protect people God calls? Would God allow bad things to happen to them in the process? Or does God only agree to companion in ways that only God might understand? And why wouldn’t God just fix things God’s own self and not torture us with the bloody details? I’m not sure we get to know those answers. A mystery. These may seem like irrelevant questions. After all, who cares what happened 2600 years ago.
Except for the news headlines this week.
“…Threats to raise tariffs on Chinese goods to 30% amid escalating trade war.”
“Near the Amazon fires, residents are sick, worried, angry.”
“The planet’s lungs are burning.”
“Gay workers not covered by civil rights law…”
“Aid volunteer faces 20 years in prison for giving food and water to migrants near the border.”
“ICE detention centers preparing for longer average stays by migrant families.”
“Federal court rules that detained migrant children are entitled to toothbrushes and soap.”
“San Jose opens first affordable housing complex for the homeless.”
“…Christian fundamentalists are pouring dark money into Europe, boosting the far right.”
“Ship captain who faces prison time for migrant rescues refuses Paris bravery medal.”
“Mom who inspired millions in her fight to get a liver, dies at 39.”
“North Korea launches more short range missiles…”
“Colorado becomes the first state to cap insulin prices.”
“City council candidate: Keep town as white as possible.”
Kenya social media outrage saves Giraffe with bone tumor.”
Greed…false idols…distance from God…pain…grief…mistrust. It’s still around us everywhere. Not just this week. But last week. Today. Now.
And so are those who are called to somehow DO something about it and remind us who we are. I believe we are all called to do something. I don’t think it matters if we are a prophet or a poet or an activist or a dishwasher at the happy hen. There is a quote by William Tyndale that says, “There is no work better than another to please God: to pour water, to wash dishes, to be a [cobbler], or an apostle, all are one; to wash dishes and to preach are all one, as touching the deed, to please God.”
William Tyndale was an English scholar during the reformation who was burned at the stake for his efforts to translate the bible into English. Because he believed, as the Disciples of Christ do, that everybody should be able to read and understand the Bible for themselves.
So it would seem that none of us are really excused from asking the questions and living our own answer.
What are you being called to do?
Are you paying attention?
Will you pretend not to recognize God… like that acquaintance at the store we don’t really want to see, and duck into another aisle?
Will you trust that you are enough?
Will you say yes?
Hopefully we’re not being called to be stoned to death or burned at the stake whilst just trying to do the right thing.
But these are examples of people absolutely committed to the something- a hope, a dream, a promise, a belief- bigger than themselves.
What is that something?
How do we honor that possibility in our own lives?
(Christiane Swartz 8/25/19)