August 25, 2013 There From Here? Jeremiah 1:4-10
There was this one time when I was a kid, we were riding our bikes after school one day…this was back when my friends and I could entertain ourselves for hours with our bikes…we were just cruising around town on our bikes, and a guy pulled up in an old car, and he asked us how to get somewhere.
I don’t remember where he was trying to go anymore, but I do remember the frustration I felt as a kid, trying to explain it to him as clearly as possible, and getting nowhere.
I remember my friends and I looking at each other and almost laughing out loud because he just wasn’t getting it.
Language wasn’t working…so we decided to show him on our bikes.
It was going to be easier that way, and we had nothing but time in those days anyway.
so we had him follow us.
Looking back, it’s no wonder he didn’t understand our directions.
As kids who basically lived on our bikes, we didn’t know road names…we knew landmarks.
We would talk about going down “this” road to the big house on the corner, or the church with the bell out front (we didn’t know it was a Methodist church).
These landmarks were perfectly clear to us, but for a guy in a car who wasn’t familiar with our town, they were all but meaningless. We spoke the same language, but directions for kids riding bike are much different than directions for a guy in a car.
So we took off on our bikes and he followed us.
We got him where he needed to go…not because we were so good at explaining how to get there…but rather because we knew the way and we were willing to show him.
Now, I don’t know how old I was when this happened, but it’s safe to say it was probably around 25 years ago.
In Corinthians, Paul writes about children, saying “When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, and reason as a child…but when I became an adult, I put childish ways behind me”.
A lot has changed since my childhood encounter on the Streets of Wellman.
For one, my world has expanded, and I don’t think like a kid on a bike anymore.
I think like a guy who drives a car.
And I’ve gotten lost enough times, and driven through enough strange cities, that I know by now exactly what I’m looking for when I ask directions.
I want road names. I want distances if at all possible. I want landmarks only if they’re going to help me know I’m going in the right direction.
I want the person giving me directions to tell me as clearly and as concisely as possible exactly what to do.
Now, I’d like to suggest this morning, that most of us approach life -and faith- with a similar mindset.
We approach our relationships, and our schooling, and our careers…with the idea that there is an end-goal that we’re working towards.
We decide ahead of time what we want to do, or where we want to go…and then we start planning on how to get there with our lives.
We know to expect obstacles and detours along the way…we know we might have to change tactics…but in the end, most of us know generally where we want to end up.
It could be a house, a spouse and 2 or 3 children…it could be a certain job you’ve always wanted, within a certain payscale, or a certain social status that comes with a career that you’ve had your eye on…it could be as simple as being well thought of in church, and the respect that comes with being thought of as a devoted Christian.
Just one aside, I think for some people, the end goal could be simply not having any of those things…’being different’, or refusing to be put in any of society’s boxes…that’s just as much a goal, or an end result that some people pursue, as money and a house and a career and all that.
So we all have goals, we all have destinations, places where we want to end up…even those of us who claim not to have the ‘same’ goals as everybody else; that’s still a goal.
We all have this seeking in common.
We’re all on a quest for meaning.
We’re looking for those places where we feel significant, places where we feel we have a contribution to make.
And if we’re not careful, we baptize this search, and turn God into something like our own personal GPS, the means by which we seek and find ultimate fulfillment.
I’ve heard sermons on that before…where God serves us like a satellite in the sky; it’s our job to simply tune in and be receptive to the signal so that we can find our way.
It’s actually not a bad analogy…there’s a lot I like about it.
We do need to tune in to God. There is a signal of sorts, and it’s more reliable than our fickle cell phone towers or the 3g networks that we’re all so dependent upon.
We would do well to seek God’s ‘signal’ with more of our lives, because this connection between us and our God is a crucial part of finding our way through the muck and the grime of life.
But the truth is, God isn’t there to serve us on our quest for meaning.
In fact, I think it’s the other way around.
God isn’t there to serve us on our quest…we’re here to serve God on his.
Have you ever thought of God as a Questing God?
Now the word of the Lord came to [Jeremiah] saying, 5“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.”
I love this verse, because it paints an image of a God who is intimately familiar with his people, even before they are conceived.
But it doesn’t stop there.
God knows Jeremiah, and he consecrates him for his work before his body even begins to take shape.
He is appointed to be a prophet to the nations, to use the biblical language.
At one point in my life, this was a very important scripture. I felt like God used this scripture to help me make a decision that turned out to be life-changing, when I chose to go to Peru with the YES program after high school.
It’s still one of my favorite passages, but today it’s a favorite for different reasons.
See, it’s easy to read this verse and come away with the lesson that God knows what you’re supposed to do with your life before you’re even born.
It’s easy to think there’s a certain track your life should be on, and that if we just connect to that GPS signal enough, we’ll stay on the right course and our life will be ‘blessed by God’ (whatever that means).
I think I used to think like that.
But I see it a little bit differently today.
Yes, God knows Jeremiah intimately, from before he was even conceived. yes, God consecrates him, which is like setting him apart for a specific purpose, and yes, he appoints him to be a prophet to the nations.
But today, I think these verses say more about God than they do about Jeremiah. That’s the difference.
God knows all of us intimately, he consecrates all of us for a specific purpose, he appoints all of us to carry forth the divine vision and the divine light…but none of that changes depending on who you are.
It’s not like Jeremiah was appointed to be a prophet to the nations, and somebody else was appointed to be, let’s say, a carpenter to the local community.
It’s not like Jeremiah was consecrated for his work as a prophet, and somebody else was consecrated to be a doctor…or a teacher…or a farmer..or a nurse.
No, we all share Jeremiah’s divine appointment to bear the Word of the LORD.
It’s no less Holy of a vocation today than it was 2,500 years ago, and it’s no less compatible with our way of life today.
Everyone in this room shares this divine burden, to bear the Word of God to the people God sends us to.
We have to start paying more attention to the One we follow, and less attention to where we’re going.
And I think it’s fair to say that’s a life-long struggle.
God is on a quest to reconcile humanity to himself…all nations to himself.
God is on a quest that crosses boundaries…and just like Jeremiah, all of God’s people are called to join with him, bearing this Word and crossing those boundaries, whether they are international borders, or the hundreds of boundaries right here in Millersburg.
I like these verses from Jeremiah because they remind me that my plans are not necessarily the same as God’s.
They remind me that God is not my GPS, He is not there to serve me on my journey or my quest…I am rather here to serve God on His.
There’s the good news for anyone who’s ever wondered what they should be doing (and I think that’s all of us). The good news is this…
Your calling is not ambiguous!!
There isn’t just one option that God has for you, and you’re not stuck in ‘limbo’ until you find it.
Rather, God is on a quest…and our calling, just like Jeremiah, is to join with him on it, as fearful, or as unprepared, or as inadequate as we might feel.
For when we received Christ, we received the Word of God within our flesh even more powerfully than Jeremiah did.
Therefore choose your words carefully, for the Divine Word that you carry is powerful enough to rule the nations, and yet soft and intimate enough to speak to an unborn child.
Fear not, for you have the words of eternal life within you. You have not simply received directions, you have been shown through Christ, what is good and how to live.
Therefore, join up with God on his quest, pay attention to the Word that lives within you, and whatever you do, in word or in deed, do it all in the powerful name of our Lord Jesus, who lives and reigns forever and ever.