130203 Jeremiah 1:4-10

Last Updated on Monday, 04 February 2013 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Jeremiah 1:4-10
Theme: I Want You!

The mini heat wave we experienced last week is long gone, but if you are like me those precious hours in the upper-fifties reminded you that the warmer days of summer are on the their way. When I think about summer I think of baseball and barbecue and the Fourth of July.

I like the Fourth of July because it is a uniquely American holiday. More than any other holiday the Fourth of July gives us the opportunity to reflect. We remember the people who fought and died to preserve the freedoms we enjoy. We remember the soldiers who are serving thousands of miles away from their families and friends. With fireworks and parades, we salute the men and women (including some of our own members) who have answered our nation's call to serve.

That call is captured best by one iconic symbol, a poster. The picture depicts a gray-bearded man decked out in patriotic red, white, and blue. There is a sense of urgency in his eyes as he points his finger at anyone who passes by and says, "I Want You." Uncle Sam and the United States government want you to serve your country.

In our sermon text for today you could say that the Lord is pointing his finger at someone, and his call has even greater urgency.

The Lord called Jeremiah to be his prophet during the darkest days in Judah's history. The Babylonian armies were advancing from the north. Soon the walls of Jerusalem would fall and God's temple would lie in ruins. But before those things happened God called Jeremiah to be his personal mouthpiece, to warn God's people of the coming wrath, to call them to repent before it was too late.

The Lord doesn't operate the exact same way today. He doesn't come to people directly. He doesn't make his presence known via spectacular visions. But God still speaks to his people through his Word, and he continues to call workers into his harvest field. Whether that call is general or specific, God looks each one of us in the eye and says...

"I WANT YOU"

I. The Lord calls us
II. The Lord goes with us
III. The Lord equips us

Listen carefully to the way Jeremiah described his divine call: "The word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart'" (4,5a). Right from the start Jeremiah recognized that he was not the important part of this equation. God came to him. God called him. And God had every right to do that because he was the one who had given Jeremiah life.

The Lord knew Jeremiah before he was born. He knew Jeremiah before he was conceived. He had an intimate knowledge of Jeremiah before the creation of the world. The Lord knew Jeremiah better than anyone else, even better than Jeremiah knew himself.


Every day of Jeremiah's life was a gift from God, but his spiritual life was an even greater blessing. Before there ever was a person named Jeremiah, God had chosen him to be his child. Not because Jeremiah was perfect. Not because Jeremiah was a little better than the people around him. Not because of anything in Jeremiah at all. Jeremiah's faith is one more proof of God's amazing grace. And it is equally amazing that God calls sinners like Jeremiah, sinful people like you and me, to do his work.

In the opening verses of this chapter, Jeremiah tells us a little bit about his family background. He grew up in the territory of Benjamin, not too far from the temple in Jerusalem. His father, Hilkiah, was a priest. So maybe Jeremiah took it for granted that he would follow in his father's footsteps. Maybe he just assumed that he would enter the Lord's service. Maybe he had it in his head that he would be the next great prophet who would turn God's people from their wicked ways. It's possible, but it's more likely that Jeremiah was unaware of God's plan for his life.

And that's a great comfort for Christians to know that the fate of God's kingdom doesn't rest on our sinful shoulders. The future of the church doesn't depend on human decisions and ambitions. God doesn't wait for us to decide what we will do and how and when we will do it.

The Lord reinforced that point when he reminded Jeremiah: "I appointed you as a prophet to the nations" (5b). Those words don't leave any room for confusion. God called Jeremiah. He told him what to do. He told him where to go. And the same Lord supplies workers for his church today, doesn't he?

Maybe you have seen some of the statistics. These days the ministry isn't the most popular profession. Across the board there is a shortage of Christian clergy in our country, and our church body is not immune. Thirty seven seniors are set to graduate from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary in May. That's a pretty decent number, but the following year's graduating class is projected to be in the low 20s.

What does that mean looking into future? It means that there could be missions without missionaries. It means that there might be churches with empty pulpits. The numbers seem to suggest that there will be ripe fields left untouched simply because there won't be anyone to harvest them.

The picture isn't all gloom and doom though. About a year ago I had the opportunity to go to Martin Luther College in New Ulm, MN for their annual Evangelism Day. Do you know what I saw when I was there? I saw hundreds of young men and women preparing to serve. I saw hundreds of Christians who are eager to serve. They are God's gifts to his church, and God has blessed each of them with gifts to serve.

As long as we live in a sinful world there always will be challenges, but we also have many reasons to rejoice. We can rejoice with Jeremiah because God has called us to faith. We can rejoice because God continues to raise up men and women to serve in the public ministry. And what is so reassuring (for them and us) is that we have God's promise that he will go with us.

When Jeremiah received his call from God, he didn't seem all that excited. Actually he appeared to be overwhelmed. "Ah, Sovereign Lord, I do not know how to speak; I am only a child" (6). Jeremiah could see his inner flaws, all the things that were hidden from others. He objected: "God, I'm too young. God, I'm not a good speaker. God, there has to be someone else more qualified than me."

Was Jeremiah being too hard on himself? Did Jeremiah doubt his abilities, or did he doubt God's judgment? When Jeremiah questioned his own adequacy, wasn't he really questioning God? Wasn't he doing what we do all the time?

For example, I can think of plenty of reasons NOT to talk to someone about Jesus. "It's too soon. It's too late. I don't know what to say. I don't know what the other person will say. I don't want to lose my friends. I don't want my friends to become enemies." What really lies at the heart of all these excuses? Is it a lack of self-confidence, or is it a lack of trust?

When you feel like you are totally inadequate, when you are tempted to open your mouth just to make excuses, take to heart what God said to someone else who had some doubts of his own. The Lord said to Jeremiah: "Do not say, 'I am only a child.' You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you, declares the Lord" (7,8).

Notice how God handled Jeremiah's excuses. He didn't change his call. He didn't lighten his load. He didn't pretend that his work would be easy either. Instead the Lord gave Jeremiah a promise. God promised Jeremiah his presence and protection. No matter who opposed him, no matter how many threats were made against him, Jeremiah had nothing to fear because God was always at his side. And we have the same promise that we will never be alone.

Even though Jesus ascended into heaven two thousand years ago, he is still with us today. Even though we can't see him with our eyes, the Lord is with us just as much as he was with Jeremiah. How do we know? We know because he says so.

We have Jesus' word that he will not leave us as orphans (John 14:18). We have our Lord's promise: "Surely I am with you always to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). When the seminarian steps into the pulpit for the first time, the Lord is with him. When the student teacher steps into the classroom for the first time (and we have two of them with us right now), the Lord is with her. When you stand up to defend God's name, when you stand up for the truth, the Lord will be there too. No matter who we are, we can serve the Lord with confidence because we know our God goes with us, the God who called us, the God who equips us.

The Lord equipped Jeremiah with powerful tools to carry out his ministry. He said: "Now, I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant" (9,10).

The Lord gave Jeremiah his powerful Word. God also gave Jeremiah the difficult task of preaching a message of "repent or else." He sent Jeremiah to warn his people that judgment was on its way. That's why he used words like "uproot" and "tear down" and "destroy" and "overthrow." But God also sent Jeremiah "to build and to plant," to remind the faithful that God cannot go back on his promises, to assure penitent sinners of God's free and full forgiveness.

On this Lutheran Education Sunday we are reminded that some of that building and planting is being done right here on our campus. On the cover of your bulletin there is a picture of a building you probably recognize. The sign says "St. Matthew's School," but in the spirit of Jeremiah 1 we could rename it "God's greenhouse."

In this unique environment the seed of saving faith is able to flourish and grow. In every classroom the foundation of every subject is God's Word. Students are more than numbers. They are precious souls. Teachers aren't just professionals. They are ministers of the gospel, building up young Christians and, in some cases, planting the seed that someday they might want to become a pastor or teacher.

Did you know that there are eleven members of St. Matthew's (two at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and nine at Martin Lutheran College) who are preparing to serve in the public ministry? Today I want you to pray for them and for all the students in our worker training schools.

I want you to pray for the teachers and students in our own congregation. I want you to give thanks for the many blessings God gives us through Christian education. I want you to thank God for all the opportunities our school gives us to teach and reach people with the gospel.

And finally, I want you to remember the prophetic call the Lord gave to Jeremiah. Remember the personal call the Lord has given you. Remember that the God who has called you to faith, the God who has called you to serve, he will equip you with everything you need and he will be with you wherever you go. Amen.

 

Our Mission Statement:

Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.

 

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9:15 A.M. Bible Study for All Ages

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818 West Wisconsin Avenue
Oconomowoc, WI 53066
262-912-6060

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