Jeremiah, Come follow me
|The word of the LORD came to me, saying, |
5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
before you were born I set you apart;
I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."
6 "Ah, Sovereign LORD," I said, "I do not know how to speak; I am only a child."
7 But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, 'I am only a child.' 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, "Now, 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." (Jeremiah1:4-10)
Of all the characters of scripture, the one I would least like to be caught on a desert island with is Jeremiah. Jeremiah was a downer. There wasn't a person or a thing he didn't denounce. Today's reading takes us right back to the beginning, to his Call. The story is classic: "God interrupts someone, issuing marching orders; the recipient resists (usually for very good reasons); God insists, reassures, and empowers. The Call is enveloped in love but the primal response of the hearer is fear. Jeremiah is ushered into something bigger and better, into God's truth and a life of service to the Almighty".
We do not choose God. It is God who chooses us (John 15:16) and God is relentless. Jeremiah is called and appointed "a prophet to the nations". It's not going to be a success story. This is not a career path. Jeremiah is not required to go to Seminary. He is a prophet by the touch of God's hand to his mouth. It's not going to be easy and when you read the story till its end, you wonder whether it was not just torture. God warns of this in the six words God uses to describe Jeremiah's vocation: "To pluck up, to pull down, to destroy, to overthrow, to build and to plant". Only two of the six are positive, the other four are going to be painful. This is going to be brave work.
In our time and in our Church, there is a shortage of prophets. We've side-lined the "naysayers" and forced the trouble makers out. Will we hear the "word of the Lord"? Who will speak it to us? Who will speak truth to power? How will those who have been taken captive by the powers that destroy life be set free? It's time for the prophets to speak up again – to call us back to the "life affirming" Good News of God active in the world today.
George Marchinkowski is colleague minister to St Mungo's United in Bryanston. He is husband to Sascha, father to Leah and Zoe and a student of the Missional Church.