Jesus said, "By their fruits ye shall know them." Our actions reflect who we are! But it more than that. Jesus could very well have said, "By their fruits, God is known." Our life is truly a reflection of God within us. And of course, it can be said that if live is such a way that ignores God, than that too is a reflection upon God. We are called to live in such a way that honors and recognizes the power and glory of God within us.
Our very existence has the power to prove that God exists. By our fruits, by our very own being, God is known. What of our own lives? How are we proclaiming God, by the very own fruits of our lives?
To answer this question and learn how we can realize how God is known through our lives, Kathleen and I will share some reflections on the "call of Jeremiah" found in this morning's Old Testament lesson. The sermon theme "God Where I Send Thee," is God's word to us. God wants to be known through each and every one of us.
As we look at Jeremiah, there are three basic elements in this text. First, Jeremiah becomes aware of God's calling. Secondly, Jeremiah admits to his own weakness, and thirdly God reveals the power of God's divine presence within Jeremiah. Kathleen and I will explore each of these elements with the following points:
¥ As God sends us, God is known through us.
¥ As God sends us, God helps us overcome our
¥ As God sends, God goes with us.
Kathleen will reflect upon the first point, I the second, and we will both comment on the third.
¥ As God sends us, God is known through us.
The very first words in the book of Jeremiah tell an important message: "the word of the Lord." If there is a word of the Lord, then there must be a Lord, right? That is what Jeremiah's call is about and it is what every call is about. If there is no God, there can be no call. Apart from one who calls, each of us determines our own course. But according to Jeremiah, our courses are set by the "word of the Lord" and the call upon our lives through that word directs our course.
In verse 5 God tells Jeremiah, "before you were in the womb I was forming you. The word translated as "form" could also be translated "created." It is the same word used in Genesis 2:7-8 when God created or formed Adam. It is NOT the same word used in Genesis for God's other acts of creation, but only for the act of the creation of Adam. It appears again in Isaiah 45:18, and in this case is referring to the formation of the Earth. But its meaning is more than mere creation of things and includes the notion of order as opposed to chaos. So this word is very closely related to God's creative power, a power that has purpose and order. This is no random or unplanned act of formation. It is very deliberate and it reveals God's being as a God who creates humans in a unique way and in a special relationship with Godself.
God is involved in our lives in a very deliberate way. We are not formed or created without intention. God forms us with a very clear purpose and God calls us to fulfill our individual purposes. As we find the purpose for which we are formed we find the holiness, the consecration that God has ordained for us, leading me to look at another of the Hebrew words in this passage . . .
It is the word that is translated, "consecrated." Hebrew is an interesting language in that all verbs are formed by combining three consonants. From those three basic consonants a variety of words are derived. The word that is translated "consecrated" is the word that generally means holiness or sacredness. Whenever you see a word that has these same three consonants, you know it is referring to something somehow related to God and God's holiness. So Jeremiah's call is a holy call, as is anyone's call. It is in our relationship to God, in our awareness of God that we find our call. And it is in this relationship and in the performing of our calling that we are consecrated and made holy.
Jeremiah's call was to be a spokesperson for God. Though Jeremiah knew himself only as a young man, God knew him as a man called to speak for God. The word translated "prophet" means spokesperson. It is simply one who speaks for God, who has recognized that God is calling him and has responded to that call by living his life according to the purpose for which God called him: in Jeremiah's case to speak God's message.
Jeremiah's call clearly told Jeremiah that he was known by God even before he was formed in his mother's womb. The text reads, "before I was forming you in the womb, I knew you." The word yadah' is the word that translates, "knew." It is the same word that we refer to when we ask if we mean knowing "in the Biblical sense." It is an intimate knowing. God knew Jeremiah intimately, even before God was forming Jeremiah in his mother's womb. God was preparing to send Jeremiah long before Jeremiah existed in any form. And it is only as Jeremiah began to realize this fact that he was able to begin to fulfill the mission for which God formed him.
In the same way, when we realize our calling, the mission for which God formed us, and sends us is to that God will be known through us.
¥ As God sends us, God helps us overcome our inadequacies.
Jeremiah didn't believe he could go where God was sending him. His viewpoint was that of a child. "I am just a child, I am awkward and do not know how to speak of God." Remember when Jesus said, "If anyone wants to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me," (Mark8:34)? We have to surrender our ego, our self indulgent need to have it our way, and surrender to the redemptive initiatives of God.
We will always find excuses, or apologies, for our adequacies if we don't recognize the power of God. Those who know God, can with faith say, by Thy will, not my own. We can always find some reason why we're not good enough to serve God. One way of looking at this, is to identify our inadequacies with sin. "Only those who have died to the power of sin, can make themselves expendable." [Walter Wink, Engaging the Powers: discernment and resistance in a world of domination, Augsburg Press, 1992, p.163]. As God sends us, it is God's redemptive power that renounces sin.
Being sent by God means we are free of making excuses. When we recruit people to be on session, to teach Sunday School or clean the church, we often go about it in a way that invites people to make excuses. Disciples are not recruited, they are "called". The God who knows us, consecrates our very being.
One of the most common excuses we have when were being recruited is, "I'm too busy!" When God calls us, God knows we're not too busy. God knows that we will have adequate time, and will have adequate skills and ability to do whatever is required. What's more, God calls us into partnership with others so we never have to do something on our own. When we find ourselves looking for excuses like not having enough time, then we may need to check out whether we are using our time doing things God hasn't called and equipped us to do.
When God calls us, God helps us overcome our inadequacies. We can move mountains and part the seas. We can do whatever God want us to do! When we believe in God knowing us, we can point others to God by leading others in the way God is sending us!
¥ As God sends, God goes with us.
[Kathleen] As I began, I shall end. It is through the word of the Lord that we recognize our call, our purpose in life and our consecration. By God's word we are made holy. By our hearing of that word and our responding to it, God is made known to our world. As we keep our hearts and minds tuned to God's call, not allowing distractions from the world to call us off course, we fulfill our mission.
For that is, after all, what mission means. To have a mission is to be sent. The word mission itself comes from the Latin word "missio" which means to send. Jeremiah heard through God's word and God's very real presence in his life what his mission was. We, too, can hear what our mission is and then go into the world equipped to fulfill that mission.
A little over four years ago I was preparing to pull up my roots and move to Louisville to begin seminary. I believed I was sent there. I believed it was my calling, and that belief has been reinforced throughout these past 4 years. While I was preparing to leave, I received a gift from one of the ministers with whom I worked at Camp Calvin Crest in Nebraska. It was a pen and pencil set inscribed with these words: The will of God will never lead you where the Grace of God cannot keep you. I have found this to be true. And I believe it is always true. God never sends us where God cannot grace us with the needed skills to carry out our mission. If and as we remember whose mission it is that we are upon, we will always have the energy and ability to carry it out, for God never sends us where God cannot keep us.
[Jim] I have identified with Jeremiah many times. When I was a high school student back in Annandale, Virginia I believed God was calling me into ministry so I went and told my pastor. My pastor, John Schramn opened the Bible to this text in Jeremiah and told me to read it. "Never doubt your call!", he said. The devil will tempt you many times to make you deny this calling. God has the power to do great things through your life." I've never forgot that coaching from Pastor Schramn. Indeed there have been many times when I have thought about giving up, but something always happened to help me reclaim God's calling.
God is always with us on the journey. God doesn't just say, "Go where I send thee." God is with me on that journey, just as God was with Jeremiah. God is with each one of us. God is on the journey to work with you. God will go to school with our young people tomorrow. God is beside Julie and Michael as they care for their mom. God is sending us to serve people in need through Mary Miller, Habitat, and Milford Miami Ministries. God is with our Stephen ministers. God is shaping the future of this church in the lives of everyone here.
As we are created in God's image, we will shine with that image and by our fruits, others will see God. Amen!