All Of Us
Please pray with me: Beloved God, I pray that you would take these words and, where they align with your truth, let them inspire those gathered to hear them. Where these words are merely mine, I pray that no harm would be done.
Imagine that God has chosen you, called you, hand-picked you for particular work before you were even born. Imagine what it would feel like to hear God's voice telling you directly that you have been appointed to be a prophet to the nations. Imagine that when you discover this you are still quite young, maybe just barely a teenager, perhaps still growing into awkward limbs and not quite finished with acne.
How would you feel? Scared? Excited? Honored? Resistant? Disbelieving? Do you run away and go into hiding like Jonah or do you step forward and say “Here I am, Lord” like Isaiah?
Jeremiah was a young man when he first heard his call. It was a daunting task and he knew that the life expectancy of a prophet was shorter than most. There was no glamor in the life of a prophet. This wasn’t about predicting the future, it was about speaking truth to power. Even IF you were respected, you were still rather disliked. It was like having the doom and gloom guy at the company party. People tried to ignore them. A sign of a true prophet was that they didn’t really want the job, but they said “yes” to God’s call because they were compelled. Not forced, not coerced, but compelled. Compelled by a love for God and for neighbor.
Jeremiah’s life as a prophet was under the reign of three and a half kings (it was a short reign) and two occupying nations. Again and again Jeremiah speaks out against the economic abuses, the oppression of the stranger in the land, the neglect of widows and orphans.
"For scoundrels are found among my people;" [says God through Jeremiah in chapter 5,] "they take over the goods of others. Like fowlers they set a trap; they catch human beings. Like a cage full of birds, heir houses are full of treachery; therefore they have become great and rich, they have grown fat and sleek. They know no limits in deeds of wickedness; they do not judge with justice the cause of the orphan, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy."
Can you imagine being asked, or more so, sent by God to say this to your people, your nation?
God tells Jeremiah "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."
That's an awfully big commission. You might be inclined, as Jeremiah was, to say, "but I'm only a kid" or "only a senior citizen" or "only a poor person" or "only… I don't know, insert your excuse here…." But Jeremiah heard the call and was ultimately compelled to respond rather than run away.
We see the true love that Jeremiah has for his neighbors, his people, in chapter nine which begins:
O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people! (Jer 9:1)
Our grief is as big as our love, right? Jeremiah loved these people and he was the conduit for God’s love - the lament, the tough love, the warnings, the hope for reconciliation. All of this expresses the love that compelled the prophet’s work.
So what about us? I have both good and bad news. The good news is that God has chosen you. The bad news is that God has chosen you.
God has chosen you, called you, and hand picked you for particular work. God is telling you that you have a special mission all your own that will build up good and healthy communities while at the same time tearing down oppressive systems. No matter how old or how young you are you are called, you are being sent.
We are called and sent. Every one of us. Are we in a nation that needs prophetic voices? Are we in a community that needs love and care? Do we have the courage to stand up and speak truth to power as well as the courage to love even the neighbors who most get on our nerves?
Do not be afraid ,for I am with you… [says our God] See, today I appoint you [you (and me)] to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
We are the ones who are called and sent to speak truth to power, to build communities of love, to be the ones that God is working through for the transformation of the world. Amen.
Friends, each of us is called and sent in different ways. Today we have the opportunity to hear from someone who has been called and sent to Latin America, most recently serving in Costa Rica as professor of history, mission and religions at the Latin American Biblical University. Dr. Karla Ann Koll is a Presbyterian Church (USA) mission co-worker and is here today to share her story and wisdom from her experiences of building up communities and tearing down oppressive systems.