Sermon Ideas For Jeremiah 1:4-10 Part 4
Before word got out that he died from lung cancer, The Marlboro Man was a powerful symbol of the ideal for many in America. Images of him riding the range and working alone spoke powerfully about the rugged, self-sufficient individualist. Even when we have been unable to achieve using only our own design and resources, we have continued to cherish that vision.
This lection provides an entirely different vision: No "rugged individualism," no self-sufficiency here. The description here is of divine initiative and partnership with Jeremiah. It was Yahweh who appointed Jeremiah, acting even before Jeremiah was born. Even a quick scan of the text discloses this. "The word of the Lord came to me," "I formed," "I knew," "I consecrated," "I appointed."
In a society and culture accustomed to mission statements, one-year plans, five- year plans, and long-range planning, it is easy to assume life is explained by those plans and their implementation. Jeremiah learned, as our contemporaries must learn, that it is the action of God in the lives of people and affairs of the world that makes the difference.
The most effective approach to life is not self-sufficiency, but a recognition that help is needed. The Good News is that God does help and work with those appointed to divine tasks. God "touches," and accompanies those who accept the call to work.
Composer Don Wyrtzen told the true story of the great pianist Paderewski, who on one occasion was performing in Carnegie Hall. In the audience was a mother and her young son. During the intermission the woman suddenly realized that the boy was no longer at her side. Just then, over the voices of the milling crowd, she heard the distinct notes of "Chopsticks" being played on the piano. The child had found his way onto the stage and was sitting at the magnificent Steinway concert grand. A moment later lovely music could be heard. Paderewski had quietly slipped behind the youngster, placed his talented hands beside the boy's and added a beautiful accompaniment to that simple tune.
While the general theme of God's initiative in this world is strong, the specific issue of God's call for people to work in the divine enterprise should not be ignored.
A young boy in the third grade went with his family to the revival service at one of the community's churches. The wooden frame building was located at the center of the small village. The evangelist preached about God wanting to forgive sinners. He forcefully described the need for everyone to be saved and graphically described the danger of delay in accepting Jesus. The boy had heard all this before—many times. His family had attended this church since before he could remember. But this night, the evangelist seemed to be talking directly to him. And then the evangelist began to extend the invitation to accept the Jesus. The boy had considered it before—but never with as much urgency as that night. He knew God loved him. He loved God. He wanted to be saved. He had heard God's call and he responded.
But God was not through with that young boy. Six years later, he was one of four young people who squeezed into the back seat of the pastor's car to go to the state youth convention. The trip held several exciting opportunities for him. He had never been that far from home before. It was his first chance to go on a trip without a parent along. He had never been in a city that big before. He sat through the worship rallies, the workshops, the meals. He enjoyed it all. He was disappointed when it was time to crowd back into the car for the trip home. The next Sunday he went to church with his family—as he always did. He sat through the Sunday School class—as he always did. He went to the sanctuary for the worship service—as he always did. He listened to the sermon for a few minutes before his attention drifted off to other matters—as he always did. But as they sang, something was different. God's voice was back deep inside him. He knew in those moments that God wanted him to go into full-time ministry. Just as surely, he knew that he didn't want to. But the sense of calling would not go away. God had called him to be a minister, and he would do it.
As you have guessed, this story is my story. Whether to Christian Ministry or to other tasks, God calls each person to join in partnership to work in this world. Neither God, nor those called by God to work, act alone. Everyone who hears and responds to the call of God, experiences in some way the same offer of help and companionship.
Brian A. Nelson The Federated Church West Lafayette, IN