Sharing the invitation
Jeremiah 1:4-10 | Acts 2:14-18
I love the call of Jeremiah. Not for those famous opening words – “before I formed you in the womb I knew you” – with which God declares that Jeremiah was set aside for great things; nor for the way that God puts the words into Jeremiah’s mouth, appointing him to pluck up and to tear down, to build and to plant, to destroy and overthrow – just with words.
No, I love the call of Jeremiah because of his response.
“I can’t speak, I’m too young.”
It reminds me of Moses, when God directs him to go as God’s spokesman to the Pharaoh. Moses comes up with excuse after excuse for why it shouldn’t be him, including “I can’t go, I don’t speak very well”, until in exasperation God says “For goodness sake, just take Aaron with you to help”.
It can’t be me that you are calling.
I’m too young.
Of course, as time has gone by I’ve had to acknowledge
that that particular excuse has resonated less and less with me. Although deep
down I’m sure I’m still in my early twenties at the most, the truth is “I
can’t, I’m too young” is unlikely to be a get-out that I would offer any more.
No, nowadays I’m more likely to offer one of a range of other reasons why I can’t possibly be the one that God is asking.
I’m too busy.
I’ve got family responsibilities.
I don’t really know how.
I’m not on that team.
It’s not my core competency.
I’m just too tired.
I’m not trained for this.
Doesn’t the Church employ people to do that?
Can I just get a coffee, first?
It might have been that there were people in the scriptures who were just delighted when God told them that they were to be God’s messengers, but I don’t think it’s the normal pattern. Maybe not many took it to the extent of Jonah, getting passage on a ship heading in totally the opposite direction, but most people seem to respond to God’s call with, at very least, a sense of hesitancy.
Perhaps, sometimes, it’s fear – not unreasonably, given what God sometimes asks of them.
Sometimes it’s doubt, uncertainty as to whether this is really God.
Often, I suspect, it’s a genuine sense of humility, of
inadequacy to the task – I couldn’t possibly do that.
But whatever the reason, the normal human reaction to being appointed as God’s messenger, God’s ambassador; to being asked to share the good news, to extend the invitation, is one of hesitancy.
Of finding a reason why someone else would be better placed to do it.
It can’t be me you are calling.
I’m too… you fill in the blank.
And then God replies.
“Don’t say I’m too young: because you will go, and you will speak, and you don’t need to fear, because I will go with you. And I have put the words you need to say into your mouth”
And so it is that Jeremiah becomes one of the great prophets of the Hebrew nation; reviled (unfairly) as a naysayer before disaster befalls the nation, but then speaking (and writing) words of comfort, of reassurance, of faith, of forgiveness, of hope, when everything goes wrong.
The boy too young to believe he could possibly speak
for God becomes the prophet.
But this is still ok; it’s still comfortable, it’s still not too confronting, because this was about Jeremiah, not about us. Jeremiah was called to be a prophet of God, to speak God’s message, to dream God’s dreams and see God’s visions and share them with the world.
Jeremiah was special – chosen before he was even conceived to be God’s spokesman, gifted with the words of God, anointed by the Spirit of God. One of the special ones. In fact, he probably became another excuse for the people of his day – God can’t be asking me to speak, look he’s got Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s the one God speaks through.
Except that we also have our reading from Acts.
Because we don’t like in the time of the Old Testament scriptures, the time in which the gifting of the Holy Spirit was just for some, just for the special ones, just for the select few who would speak the message of God, to be received by the many.
We live in the time after Pentecost.
We live in the time of the Church.
We live in the time when the gift of the Spirit is for all flesh.
When men and women, old and young, slave and free, shall
Which means that the call of the prophets – whether it be the call of Jeremiah, to speak words of challenge and of comfort to the people of God, or the call of Moses to demand freedom for the people, or the call of Jonah to bring those outside the people of God to faith and repentance – the call of the prophets is our call.
The call of the prophets is our call.
Ours together, but also the call on each of us.
If you are a man, or a woman, slave or free, old or young, the call of the prophets is your call.
And for sure, just as the prophets all had their own particular role to play, their own style, their own audience, their own message, so it is with us. Each of us may be – indeed, is – entrusted with the good news of Jesus Christ, the message of reconciliation, the gospel of grace; but that does not mean that each of us is led by the Spirit to share that news, that invitation, in the same way.
But it does mean that each of us is led to share it.
That the invitation is not a matter for professional Christians, not a matter for Church leaders, not a matter for a gifted few; the great commission – “Go and make disciples of all nations” was not given to a select few but to all, to the community of faith as a whole, and to the people of faith each and every one.
Because each one of us is uniquely placed, connected
to a network of other people, each of whom is created by and loved by God, and
for whom we might be, as the old saying goes, the only Bible they will ever
Our next hymn is famously based on the call of the prophet Isaiah (“here I am, send me”), though it also has elements in it of the call of Samuel (“I have heard you calling in the night”). I’ve heard it sometimes said that this hymn misrepresents those calls, because it places the words of the prophets “here I am, Lord” into our mouths.
But this seems to me to be exactly what it ought to be doing. That each and every one of us should be actively expecting to be involved in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ, to be bearing the invitation to be part of the community, part of the conversation of faith, partners in the work of the Kingdom of God.
Not bashing those around us around the head with scriptures and doctrines, but engaging in the conversations of faith and spirituality which actually exist in the world around us, willing to share the good news that we have experienced in Jesus Christ and in the community of faith
Here we are, Lord.