Empowered to Act
Sunday, July 12, 2020
Pastor Mark Aune
Dear friends in Christ, grace and peace. Amen
One of the questions we might ask of ourselves this morning is this; do I have a call story?
What I mean by that is have you been summoned or called by God to do or say something that you thought you couldn’t do or say?
This is a big question and a difficult one as well.
It is difficult because, unfortunately, we have this false narrative in the church that only pastors or other church workers are called by God and the rest of you just sort of stumble into whatever it is you are doing with your life and you have to try and figure out what God wants you to do.
This is not only false teaching, but it is bad theology.
What we hear today is Jeremiah’s call story and hearing his call story is part of what makes trying to understand our own call story difficult.
Part of the challenge for me in our reading from Jeremiah is that I’m not Jeremiah and I am pretty sure I don’t want to be Jeremiah.
Of the many biblical characters we might identify with, Jeremiah would be low on the list.
“He lived during a time of great political and religious upheaval and God called him to speak an uncomfortable word, a dangerous word, a word that would call people to account. Jeremiah is given the vocation “to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
26 centuries later our own context does not seem very different than Jeremiah’s. I’m not Jeremiah nor do I aspire to be Jeremiah, but his call story is a way for me as well as you to think about and reflect on our own call stories and to consider that God is calling us to speak “an uncomfortable word, a dangerous word, a word that would call people to account.”
Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
God is reminding Jeremiah of the claim placed on his life before he was even born, and the claim is, your life will be lived for the sake of my mission in the world. As Jesus followers, we are no different.
If you understand that you are known by God and consecrated by God before you are born, how would your vision change and your understanding of God’s call in your life change,
- if you began to see how God has called you and placed you into this moment in time
- and in this place in time
- in order for you to participate and share in God’s mission in this world?
God has called you and empowered you to act.
Eugene Peterson, the Presbyterian pastor who created the paraphrase of the bible called the Message comments on this passage from Jeremiah;
“We are known before we know … We enter a world we didn’t create. We grow into a life already provided for us. We arrive in a complex of relationships with other wills and destinies that are already in full operation before we are introduced. If we are going to live appropriately, we must be aware that we are living in the middle of a story that was begun and will be concluded by another. And this other is God.”
We are called into God’s story and just like Jeremiah, we protest, we use our inadequacies and our self-doubt as reasons to avoid the call of God.
Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”
7 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”
God doesn’t like it when we say no. God won’t take no for an answer.
When God calls us, we are given the direction and we are given the words we need to speak.
Do not be afraid the Lord says, for I am with you to deliver you.
Now more than ever, as disciples of Jesus and as the church, we are being called to trust how God will use us and to heed these words.
Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me,
“Now I have put my words in your mouth.
10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to pull down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.”
When the Lord touches your mouth and puts His words in your mouth, what are you being called to do in the long arc of God’s mission in this world?
What if we truly believed the magnitude of this call?
What if we believed, with God’s Words in our mouths, that we could effect change?
I hear these words today and I see, all to clearly, my own inadequacies and I feel, all too deeply, my own fears, yet I have to ask the question.
What in my own life needs to be plucked up and pulled down?
What in my own life needs to be destroyed and overthrown?
How is God calling me to speak these words into the places of our own culture and country that need to change and be taken apart so that all people can live without fear or prejudice?
And where is God calling me and you to build and to plant?
To help create something new and something beautiful that reflects the wholeness and the goodness of God in our world.
Isn’t this what we aspire to do and isn’t this what God is calling us to do as we seek to follow and obey.
These things go together. In our own lives, in order for something new to be built and for something beautiful to grow, there is something that needs to be plucked up and pulled down. There are things that need to be destroyed and overthrown.
This call to discipleship means that we are ever changing, ever growing. Getting rid of the old and putting on the new. Speaking truth into our own lives in order for that truth to be spoken out into the world.
We are truly living in unprecedented times and I know that many of you are feeling overwhelmed with what is going on in our world and the great unknown we continue to move in to.
But you are called, and God has touched your mouth and you have taken in God’s word.
No matter how inadequate you may feel or how uncertain you are, the truth of your call is that you are not alone and God will always and ever be there to deliver you and to use you to do this hard and beautiful work in our world.
God knows you.
God has consecrated you
God has appointed you.
You are called and you are empowered to act.
Thanks be to God. Amen
 Commentary on Alternate First Reading, Working Preacher, Kathryn Schifferdecker
 Eugene Peterson, Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at Its Best (Second edition, InterVarsity Press, 2009), 39.