Today in Sunday School our children are starting a series on the Prophet Jeremiah. We too will hear from the prophet and the story of his call and work for God over the next several weeks. Together, we will grow in our understanding of what it means to serve God, to love our neighbor, to trust that we have been given the gifts we need to answer the call that is before us.
“Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”
“I am only a…”
Who among us hasn’t made an excuse before when it came to something with church?
I can’t fill that ministry role because I am only a new member.
I can’t fill that ministry role because I am only available Mondays and Thursdays, not Tuesdays and Wednesday.
I can’t do that because I don’t know how.
I can’t do that because who would want me to.
The word of the Lord came to me saying, “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.”…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, Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”
We are appointed by God to live into the gifts we have been imbued with.
The gifts we have been given in our very creation. The gifts that we know and deeply connect with and the gifts that surprise and challenge us. The gifts that ask us to do the challenging thing, that scare us, that push us beyond the boundaries of what we’ve declared our comfort.
Each and every one of us possess a host of spiritual gifts.
These gifts allow us to step into the needs of our community, both within this specific congregation and outside of these walls in our wider community.
These gifts allow us to challenge, to push boundaries, to shape the world into a more loving, affirming, inclusive, justice-oriented, dignity respecting creation.
Prophets are those who come along and stand outside of the accepted order of society to be the mouthpiece of God and call creation back to God, to clue creation into what God is trying to do in creation, to upset the accepted order and way of things as an outsider who is still one of us.
Jeremiah is a fascinating prophet because he is not an otherwise already respected leader, elder, or mystical thinker.
Jeremiah is “but a boy.”
And yet, even in a boy, perhaps as young as 15, God has already identified a special blend of gifts and ability within him that he can harness and utilize in prophesying on behalf of God to creation.
The example of Jeremiah calls us to consider what we are hearing from the youth of our own time.
What do the youth of right now desire for creation?
An end to unchecked gun violence, particularly when they go to school.
An actionable and correctly-sized response to the climate crisis.
The acceptance of people for who God created them to be, regardless of whatever patriarchal, heiarchical, heteronormative, binary thinking, has been allowed to persist in the cultural milieu in the past.
That sounds an awful lot like the kingdom of God to me.
That sounds an awful lot like what many of us have desired and even fought for in the past before passing the baton to the next generation of fighters as we’ve given up and given in to the “way things always are.”
We have a responsibility as the followers of Christ to listen to the prophets of our time. To listen to our youth. To shape this creation into a more just and loving place where all are free to be who God created them to be without worry or concern.
This is hard work.
This is hard work because it directly challenges what is already accepted as the way.
This is hard work because many of us have accepted the way of society as it is, believing that it won’t change, that it cannot change.
Jesus didn’t really have a lot of concern for what was accepted as the appropriate way when it conflicted with sharing God’s love, when it conflicted with loving a neighbor, when it conflicted with helping someone when the opportunity presented it rather than waiting for the next day, prolonging suffering another day because they happened to have bad timing.
“…ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?” When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.
The entire crowd was rejoicing.
All of creation was rejoicing.
For creation yearns, truly yearns to be happy, to be loved, to be wanted, to know they are a beloved child of God, and that their neighbor loves them because of this simple fact that connects us all.
But, creation has not experienced this love.
Our society is built upon removing this basic love from the equation of how we relate to one another, forcing us to compete with one another for precious resources that would not be so precious if we simply made access equitable out of love.
This is why the leader of the synagogue becomes indignant.
Why should this woman get to access the love of God on the day when we are supposed to be worshiping God?
Why should Jesus be praised for working on the Sabbath day when he should only be praying?
As if offering the love of God through healing is anything but an offering of prayer, a prayer of love, a prayer of recognizing and empathizing, a prayer of acknowledging the pain of the system that has kept this woman in pain for eighteen years.
As if offering the love of God through healing somehow limits the amount of love and healing that is available to the rest of creation.
Let us listen to the prophets that have come before and the prophets among us now who are calling us to see that we can change this creation if we simply accept the gifts God has given us to act in this creation, to change the way that things have always been.
Let us follow the lead of Christ in doing the work that God calls us into in our following of Christ, of being followers of the way of love, every day, without limit.
We are followers of the way of love, a way that challenges our specific community here in Cowlitz and Columbia counties to see each and every neighbor as deserving of love regardless of whatever label we want to put onto another, none of these labels preclude us from accessing God’s love, none of these identifying features disqualify us from accessing God’s love, none of these give us the permission to limit and deny access to God’s love.
For there are no limits to God’s love.
And, it is that reality that we rejoice and praise in, each and every Sunday. Amen.