Reverend Jane Willis
Wheatland UCC, Feb 3, 2013
4 The word of the Lord came to me, saying,
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew[a] you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
6 “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
7 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. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
9 Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
Last week, we heard the inspiring words of Jesus when he laid out what his call to ministry was all about:
- Proclaiming good news to the poor
- Providing freedom for prisoners
- Recovering of sight for the blind
- Setting oppressed free
- Proclaiming the year of Lord’s favor
This week, we hear about another persons’call to ministry, Jeremiah the Old Testament Prophet. Jeremiah, who lived in 600 BC, found that responding to God’s call is complicated. He was not yet twenty years old when he sensed his call. Ministry was not a foreign concept to him. His father was a village priest, and Jeremiah grew up in a parsonage, like ours. Jeremiah came from a long line of priests, yet he was reluctant. Jeremiah’s excuse: “I don’t know how to speak, I am too young.”
Jeremiah was in good company:
- Moses told God, I can’t stand up to Pharaoh. I’m only a shepherd. I can’t even talk good (Exodus 3:12, 4:1).
- Gideon told God, “I am the least in my family,” when God calls him to deliver Israel from Midian (Judges 6:15).
- Saul told David, you can’t go out there and take on Goliath. “You are just a boy” (1 Samuel 17:33).
- David, when the opportunity to become the king’s son-in-law presented itself, demurred: “I am a poor man and of no repute” (1 Samuel 18:23).
- Solomon, when facing the challenges of being king like his father before him, got cold feet: “I am only a little child” (1 Kings 3:7).
- When asked for bread and water by Elijah, the widow of Zarephath replied: “I have nothing baked, only a handful of meal in a jar, and a little oil in a jug” (1Kings 17:12).
- The disciples, when told by Jesus to go feed the multitude, protested: “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish” (Matthew 14:17).
I can appreciate all the reluctance. I first felt a call to ministry when I was in college, and I was more than reluctant considering that I had rarely been to a Christian church and more or less rejected classic traditions of faith. I did not really understand what was going on and I pushed the thoughts away.
God kindly let me try to find my own way in life. But when things started turning sour, he reached out again.This time I had been going to church for about 6 months. I understood the call better and responded. I am glad I responded and I liked the sudden change of direction in my life.
But ministers are not the only ones called to God’s work. I believe that God instills inside of most people an instinct for ministry. Maybe it’s part of our DNA. Yet everyone is so reluctant.
Still, if you choose, you can get to a place of responding positively. God promises to stay by your side. As he told Jeremiah:
8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
The other reason is because God will tell you what to say. He said it this way to Jeremiah:
9 Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. 10
And He does! He makes good on both of those promises.When you commit to any kind of ministry, be it one hour a week or full time, God stays by your side. Another minister said it this way:
“… God gave Jeremiah something far more precious than an exhortation to perseverance. He promised His divine presence. …Believing this divine promise required the audacity and courage to believe that the Sender knew just who he was sending, that His message lives independent of the messenger, that His presence gave perspective to any problems, and that conflict ( was not absent despite a call.) Like Moses and Isaiah, Jeremiah learned to acknowledge rather than to deny or even to overcome his many inadequacies.”
And it is a good thing that God dwells with us as we serve because doing God’s work is not easy. Being mere mortals it is easy to be filled with doubts about your effectiveness. You never know if you are making a difference and your own struggles continue unabated. No one who responds to God’s call gets a “Get Out of Jail” card so to speak! No one gets to pass on the struggles and pain of life. In fact, you will have not only your own junk, but you will share in the struggles of others. Still, it is worth it. Job satisfaction is high, even though it’s difficult. It all works out.
So, if you have been feeling a call to do more of God’s work in the world know this: He does not force people. At first he just nudge’s something in your heart. That’s why it is good to respond sooner rather than later. Because eventually, the longer you resist the more likely he is to do something like he did with Jeremiah, when “Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth”
. And if you think you are too old, too young, or have nothing to give. You are wrong. There are many ways people are called and many jobs. I think about Dorothy Olson, who gave all her worldly possessions to our church. She did not have any kids to fight over her stuff so she had that luxury. Yet, it happened at exactly the right moment for us, as we struggled with finances.
I think about the Food Bank volunteers. Many have been there from the start over 4 years ago. They have made a big difference in the lives of Wheatland families.
I think about people who have a calling of administration and serve on committees. And again, that works for them. It may not be your calling. Yours may be at work, when people living in chaos and uncertainly need you.
Everyone’s call is different. Mine was to parish ministry. Jeremiah was called to be a prophet. The only thing that is certain is that you are called. If you don’t know what yours is, God will let you know, for sure.
What is important is that you respond. Life is richer, fuller, more complete. And don’t get too comfortable because when you do, God calls you to something more. His work is never done, and for us mere mortals it is what gives life unshakable meaning, purpose and joy.
Merciful and Loving God, we know you have called us by name, and that we are yours. But it’s so hard, God. You expect so much from us. . . It seems that excuses are what we do best. Stay with us, God. Put your words in our mouth. Help us to truly “talk the talk,” and “walk the walk.” Give us courage to go out into this scary world and do your will. Only then will we find true peace with you.
And hear us now….