Reading for the day (Sunday, August 13, 2017):
Dear friends in Christ, grace to you and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ. Amen.
In today’s text, we hear of God’s call to Jeremiah to be a prophet. During this time the descendants of Abraham have been growing in numbers, but not necessarily growing and deepening their relationship with God. Instead they have turned away from God. They have neglected God’s Word. They are no longer walking by faith. Instead they believed that the temple in Jerusalem that King Solomon built was their safety net. As long as God was in the temple, nothing bad would ever happen to them. For my hometown of Chandler, it was believed that the valley that the town is in would never get hit by a tornado because if a storm would appear, it would simply jump over the valley. Well 25 years ago that was proven wrong. For the Israelites during Jeremiah’s time, they believed that the temple (like the valley in Chandler) was their safety net. As long as God continued to be in the temple, they figured they were safe from harm. They were walking by luck, not by faith. And so since they were only walking by luck they had forgotten what true faith and worship was. To them, God in the temple became their good luck charm, instead of a divine power who gives life and cares for them, like a parent cares for their children.
Sound anything like today? People ignoring faith and trust in God; abandoning the church to follow after their own interests. Figuring that God can’t help them anyway. Yeah, sounds a lot like today. So God calls on Jeremiah to bring these people back to the faith, especially in preparation for their time in exile and the destruction of the temple. If people thought that God in the temple was their safety net, what do you think they would do when the temple was destroyed? 41 years after Jeremiah was called to be a prophet that is exactly what happened. Just under 600 years before Jesus was born, a group of people known as the Babylonians came and took over Jerusalem, exiled many by hauling them off to their own country, and destroying the temple where God was. So much for their safety net.
Now before all of this takes place, God calls Jeremiah to minister to these people. God wants Jeremiah to get these people to repent and turn back to Him. This is quite the undertaking as there were many that had turned away. So Jeremiah feels that he is incapable of completing the job that God has called him to do. And do you blame him. Don’t you feel incapable of reaching out to the unchurched or the ones who have fallen away from the church? And besides, that’s the job of a missionary or pastor, right? Except God calls all of us to a life of service to Him for the sake of His kingdom. So it actually isn’t solely the responsibly of a few, it is the responsibility of all.
And we need not fear our lack of skills, because just as God reminds Jeremiah that no matter what troubles he faces, He would be with Jeremiah; this same promise is for us and all of God’s servants. No matter what troubles assail you, your faithful God stands with you, always. So no matter if you are lonely, or stressed, or scared, or nervous, or afraid; our God stands with you in whatever life throws your way.
Just as with Moses, Jeremiah didn’t want to go and serve the Lord. He told God, “I don’t know how to speak…I’m just a boy, just a child.” Jeremiah basically wants God to choose someone else. Oh if only it was that simple right. God, send someone else to do the work that we don’t want to do. It’s like a gopher on a construction site; the one who runs around doing all of the grunt work that no else wants to do. God, just call in the gopher. That’s what Jeremiah wanted, and he got exactly what he wanted. God did call in the gopher, He just made Jeremiah the gopher. Jeremiah said he didn’t know how to speak. So God reached out and touched Jeremiah’s mouth and said, “Now I have put my words in your mouth…today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms…” God calls us to be the gopher, to do the work that no one else wants to do: helping those in need, ministering to the sick and dying, befriending the “troubled kids,” reaching out to those who society pushes aside. Jeremiah wasn’t called to judge but to speak, and the words that he spoke were words from God because He promised to be with Jeremiah every step of the way. We don’t know what the future holds for us or our congregation or even this parish. Many of you are probably like me and feel incapable of fulfilling God’s mission that we are called to do. But I know, because I’ve felt it and experienced it, that by the grace of God we are giving the ability to carry out God’s mission in the world. We are giving those gifts. We can do this. We can be God’s gopher. And no matter what we are faced with, God faithfully stands with us.
Even though he didn’t believe it, because God was with him, Jeremiah does go and delivers God’s Word to His people. All because God was with him and gave him the ability to fulfill what God was calling him to do.
Much of the book of Jeremiah is a word of judgment; naming all of the things that the people had been doing wrong. But four chapters in the middle of the book are all about hope for the future. Jeremiah proclaims:
“The days are surely coming…when [the Lord] will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah…I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest…for [the Lord] will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.”
Jeremiah is telling the people that they need to turn back to God because something better is coming. Something so great that even all of their sins will be forgiven forever. For God Himself was planning on coming to save and redeem the world through the death and resurrection of Jesus on the cross. Because of Jesus we need not fear being God’s gophers, the storm may very well meet us in the valley, but no matter what trouble arises in our lives, or whatever mission God calls us to do; we are not alone. God has always been there, and promises to continue to always be with us, until we are all called home to our heavenly home where our gopher holes will be turned into mansions and we will finally be able to rest from our labors. And we will finally get to hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Amen.
© 2017 Anthony Christoffels. All rights reserved.
 Jeremiah 1:6, NRSV
 Jeremiah 1:9, NRSV
 Jeremiah 31:31-34, NRSV