When God Chooses You

Past
August 21, 2022 Pentecost 11
SCRIPTURE: Jeremiah 4: 4-10
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.
Jeremiah 1:5 (NIV)

GOOD PLANNING

We had a good vacation. We missed our Gilliland family and our church family but we had a relaxing and refreshing time touring Pennsylvania. We went all kinds of places. We took long walks in the forest. We found a couple covered bridges. We spent an afternoon in a zoo. We went to Gettysburg and toured the battlefield there. We stood in the cemetery where Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg address. We saw lots of horse and buggies in Lancaster County and saw many quaint little towns. We avoided toll roads as much as possible and discovered some very scenic and hilly highways. We visited the Hershey Chocolate factory in Hershey Pennsylvania… and bought a bunch of stuff. We visited many, many quilt and fabric stores along the way and Ruth was successful in adding to her stash. The last few days we spent in the hill country of northern Pennsylvania where there was no cell service and discovered that, much to the surprise of some people, that we could survive just fine. We even managed to get our Arrive Can apps all done in time to get back to Canada.

What was the best part for me? Just being away from home for a while. It was the first time we were out of the country since Covid hit in 2020. I love being in our little trailer because it is one of the few places in the world where I can really and truly relax. And, on top of everything else, I learned how to braid my own hair.

But I want to note something. Before we left, we planned out our vacation. We reserved all of our camping sites. We had a good idea of the routes we would take. We had a good idea how money we could spend – except on fabric where there is no budget. So we had a plan. We knew what we were going to do. That’s not to say that things would all go as we expected. We know that we have to be ready for surprises and that adjustments may be necessary. And there were some interesting surprises. The lack of cell service in Wellsboro was a surprise. We visited a town in Lancaster County called Intercourse. I was tempted to buy a t-shirt there that said, “I love Intercourse PA” but Ruth wouldn’t let me. Besides, where could I ever wear it. But maybe the biggest surprise was meeting a couple in a quilt shop near Gettysburg from Chatham, Ontario. And I knew her father who was a retired officer with the E&K Scots. It really is a small world, is it not. But the point is that, despite the surprises, we had a really good sense of where we would be, how we would get there and what we would do. A good vacation for us is a well planned vacation,

GOD’S OMNIPRESENCE

This week and next we are going to look at the prophet Jeremiah. I must confess that Jeremiah is no one’s favourite book. It is prophecy of doom and gloom. That’s because Jeremiah prophesied in a time of unparalleled unfaithfulness and his purpose was to call the people back to God. But there are a few passages in Jeremiah that speak strongly and tenderly of God’s love for his wayward people. Those are the ones we are going to focus on. What we will discover is that God has a plan and a purpose for his people, despite their waywardness.

The passage that we are going to look at today is God’s call to Jeremiah. Note this comes early in Jeremiah’s life. He is only a boy. Yet God has a plan and a purpose for his life. Let’s read Jeremiah 1:4-10 (NIV):

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;

    I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ 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.

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “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.”

God said, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

To be a prophet is not the most sought after calling in ancient Israel. Prophets are not popular because they say what people did not want to hear which often leads to abuse. Elijah fled into the wilderness from Jezebel after she put a price on his head. Isaiah was reportedly sawed in two by evil King Manasseh. Amos was clubbed to death. John the Baptist was beheaded. Jesus attested to the poor treatment received by the prophets when he was speaking with the Pharisees in Luke 13:34 (NIV). This is what he said: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” No one in their right mind would want to be a prophet and yet that is precisely God’s calling on Jeremiah’s life.

Remember that Jeremiah is a mere boy. In fact, in verse 6 he says, “Alas, Sovereign Lord, I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” Scary for a grown man. Scarier for a boy. But let’s go back to verse 4 where God says, “… before you were born I set you apart.” God knew before Jeremiah was born that God wanted him to be a prophet. In fact, God knew that he wanted Jeremiah to be a prophet before he was even conceived.

“How could that be?” you ask. Please indulge me for a few minutes as I delve into a bit of philosophy. We sometimes have a problem understanding the omnipresence of God because we are trapped inside of this thing called time. We exist, you and I, within linear time. There is a time when each of us was born and there will be a time when each of us dies. We live every day between those two points and as we do time passes. That makes sense to us because that’s really all we know.

God, however, is not bound by time and that can be confusing. God does not exist within time. God, in fact, exists outside of time. How do we know that? We know that because God created time. Weird, eh! Before God created time, time didn’t exist. Because God created time, God is not a slave to time as we are. Time, on the other hand, is controlled by God. Time is a slave to God. It does what God says, not visa versa.

But what does that mean for us? What it means is that because we are bound by time, you and I live in the present. We might be able to remember the past and we might dream about the future but the only thing that we can be totally certain of us the here and now. This is where we live. This is where we exist moment by moment by moment.

God, on the other hand, is not only in the present. God is in every time all the time. Get your mind around that one. To God past, present and future are all the same. He sees them all at once. To God, Moses parting the Red Sea is every bit as current as are we sitting here worshipping this morning in Cottam, is the same thing as when Jesus returns at the end of the age. It’s all the same to God; past, present and future.

To put that into a modern day perspective, think of your favourite movie, that one movie that you’ve seen a bunch of time. What is it? Whatever it is, you know what happens at the beginning of the movie. You know what happens as the movie progresses and you know how the movie ends. Right?

In terms of that movie, you exist outside of time. You know everything about that movie because you’ve seen the DVD ten times. That’s what our lives are like to God. God has the DVD for each of our lives and God has watched them all. God knows how the movies of our lives begin. God knows how they progress and God knows how our lives end. That’s what it’s like to exist outside of time as God does.

GOD’S CALL

So, what does that mean for Jeremiah? It means that just as Ruth and I prepared for our vacation to Pennsylvania, God prepared Jeremiah for his life’s work. It means that from the very beginning of creation, God knew that Jeremiah would be born. He knew what Jeremiah would do, how he would live his life and he knew how he would die. That’s why God can say:

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

before you were born I set you apart;

I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.                     Jeremiah 1:5 (NIV)

Before time began, God had a plan and a purpose for Jeremiah’s life. The amazing thing about that is that the same holds true for each and every one of us. Before time began, God had a plan and a purpose for your life too. God has things that he wants you to accomplish. God has missions that he wants you to fulfil. God has a calling on your life.

The same words that God spoke to Jeremiah also apply to you;

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

before you were born I set you apart;

I appointed you as a fill in the blank to the nations.

That last line is the only difference. The only thing that changes between God’s words to Jeremiah and God’s words to you is what God has called you to do.

What is that something in your life? Maybe it was a career like Jeremiah, not a prophet but a different career. What has God called you to be? Has God called you to be an electrician or a musician or a teacher, an accountant or a salesclerk? People don’t always realize that they’re called. We talk about ministers being called but how many times do we talk about lawyers being called or heavy equipment operators or soldiers being called? We should talk about those things as callings because sometimes they are.

Here’s an interesting thought. Maybe you’re not called to a career. Maybe God really doesn’t care how you earn your living because that’s not the most important thing that you are called to do. Maybe you’re called to something else. Maybe you’re called to a hobby? Tom Thompson, the great Canadian painter who inspired the Group of Seven didn’t earn his living painting pictures. He was a photographer and graphic artist but how many people remember that? He earned his income through photography but he was called to paint.

Maybe your calling involves your work. Maybe it’s your hobby. Or maybe your calling is in volunteering. We couldn’t function if it wasn’t for the many dedicated people who work tirelessly around here. Think of the saints who have worked so hard over the years to fulfil the ministry and mission of this church. It would be well nigh impossible to figure out the hours spent by volunteers doing God’s mission in this church. What’s your calling?

ARE YOU FULFILLING YOUR CALLING?

Sadly, not everyone knows. A lot of people in this world aren’t living the life that God wants them to live because they don’t know what God has called them to do and, even if they know, they are often too busy doing what they want to do to ever get around to doing what God wants them to do.

What about you? Are you fulfilling God’s calling on your life? If you don’t know here’s an acid test for you. Is your life fulfilled? Note that I’m not asking you if you have enough money. I’m not asking you if you have the car or the house of your dreams. I’m not asking you if you enjoyed your summer vacation. I’m asking you if you feel fulfilled in life. Do you believe that your life has a purpose and that you are fulfilling that purpose? If you aren’t fulfilled, if there’s a hole, if something seems to be missing, it’s a good indicator that something’s wrong, that you have missed your calling. And you need to figure it out. You need to spend some time discerning what God wants you to do.

I can well imagine that there are some people here today who are in that boat. To be quite honest, Ruth and I spent a lot of time talking about this on vacation. We’re pretty sure of our callings right now but how does that change with retirement? It’s a scary prospect. Much of my identity revolves around being a minister and a dad. In nine months or so, I will be dad with no children at home and an ordained minister without a church. I don’t even know what that means at this point.

If you are struggling with something like that, I want to give you a word of hope. Here it is. Pastor Kim’s reflections from vacation. If you’re unsure of your future, you need to be patient. I believe that God not only calls you to a purpose, God also opens the doors that will reveal that calling. Sometimes people are uncertain for a season in life but that season will end at the right time and God will open new doors for new opportunities for you. What you have to do is watch for those doors to open and then have the courage to walk through them. That’s not easy. It’s not easy to leave the comfortable and the familiar and strike out in a new direction. But until you do that, you will never be satisfied with life.

Do you know that people I really have a concern for? They are the ones who know what God wants them to do but they make all kinds of excuses as to why they can’t get it done. Listen to what Jeremiah says in Jeremiah 1:6 (NIV): “Alas, Sovereign Lord, I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” What he’s doing is making excuses. “I can’t be your prophet. I don’t know how to speak. And I’m way too young. I’m just a tongue-tied little kid. Go find someone else.

Here are a few excuses I’ve heard. Maybe you have too. I’m too young to be on the Church Board. Or I’m too old to teach Sunday School. Or I’ll do it later Lord, as soon as I buy that new truck. Or I’d love to do that God but that’s not what society expects of me and we all know how effective peer pressure can be. Or I wish I could stand for that cause Lord but it’s not politically correct and I don’t want to get cancelled. Excuses, excuses, excuses…

GOD WILL PROVIDE

There’s a reason why people make excuses. It’s generally because they’re afraid. They’re afraid of leaving the familiar. They’re afraid of failure. Maybe they’re afraid or judgement or ridicule. But I think the biggest fear is that people aren’t convinced that they can do what God has called them to do.

My response to that is always the same. You’re right. You can’t. You cannot possibly begin to answer God’s calling on your life. You don’t have the insights. You don’t have the wisdom or the knowledge. You don’t have the strength or the tenacity. There’s only one way that you will ever fulfil God’s purpose in your life. And that is by trusting in God to provide what you need.

That’s what happens to Jeremiah. Listen to what God says to him. Remember his excuses: “I’m too young and I’m not a great speaker.” God answers the first excuse in Jeremiah 1:7-8 (NIV):

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ 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.

Basically, God is saying, “Don’t worry that you’re young. I don’t care and neither should you. Don’t worry because you’re not going out there alone. I will be with you always. Trust in me and I will rescue you.”

God deals with the age issue. Then in Jeremiah 1:9 (NIV), God deals with the speech issue: “Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, ‘Now I put my words in your mouth.’” God doesn’t need Jeremiah to be a seasoned orator. All God needs is his obedience. God will supply the message. God will supply the audience and God will provide the words. The point of this is that before God sends Jeremiah out into the world to begin his prophetic ministry, he gives him everything that he needs to be successful.

The same hold true for us. Always remember that God will never call you to do anything that God has not first equip you to do. That was true for Jeremiah and it is also true for you and me. Say yes to God and wait for him to provide you with all that you need to fulfil his purpose.

That’s it for today. Next week we are going to continue the story of Jeremiah and discover what happened to him when he choose to say, “Yes,” to God’s calling.

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

Holy God, your creativity extends from the heavens and covers the earth with good things. The butterflies and grasshoppers remind us that you care about all things from the greatest to the least. Your goodness is in the kind acts of your children. You have given us summer breezes, the fluffy white clouds in the sky, the beautiful flowers in our gardens, the birds singing in the trees and the warmth of the sun. Everything we see reminds us of your awesome power. We give the glory to you.

Remind us that we are called to live holy lives guided by your Spirit, inspired by your love. In Jesus’ perfect sacrifice, you gave us the gift of eternal life. In him we are born again as children of a new creation, washed in his blood and cleansed by your love.

We give you thanks for the marriage yesterday of Ashley and Aaron. Bless them as they begin this new stage of their life’s journey together.

We know that you love even us. You show us your love every day. Help us to show the love you have given us at all times, through the good times and the bad times. There may be times when we stumble and fall but with your strength we will stand tall and face bravely whatever comes our way. We give thanks today for the courage you have given us to face the fears hidden deep inside. Give them your peace and the support of your church. You, Oh God are so wonderful and we lift our prayers to you.

We remember today the 80th anniversary of Dieppe which was remembered on Friday. It is an event that still resonates loudly within our community. Bring peace and healing O God of love.

We lift up in prayer for those who are sick at home or in the hospital, remembering especially Mark, Carol, Ron, Rachel and Hazel. We come to you also with the realization that all of us are in need of your healing touch in some way. Touch us, O God, in the deepest recesses of our being where the darkness needs your light and hurt needs your healing.

We pray also for ourselves. You know the areas of our lives where we need healing. Make us whole in Jesus’ name. Amen.

WORSHIP RESOURCE PAGE

August 21, 2022 / Proper 16 / Pentecost 11

SCRIPTURE

Psalm 71:1-6; Jeremiah 1:4-10; Luke 13:10-17; Hebrews 12:18-29

CALL TO WORSHIP

God hears our voices and attends to our cries;

God listens to our prayers and responds.

May God’s grace and judgement come into our presence;

enabling us to discern righteousness.

Let us call upon God; who satisfies our every need.

PRAYER OF APPROACH

God of Hope and Peace, hear our prayers. We gather to worship and sing praises to your glorious name. Your majesty extends from east to west, north to south. Your love covers us like a thick downy quilt, giving warmth and comfort. Enable us to feel, once again, the assurance of your constant peaceful presence, beside us, amongst us and within us. In a world of uncertainty, you are the rock upon which we stand. You are the breath that gives us life and the strong arms that lift us up. Amen.

PRAYER OF CONFESSION

You call us to come to you but we often struggle against you. You ask us to do one thing and we do something else You lead us in one direction and we turn aside to walk another path. You call us to work for justice but we often chose to ignore the acts of inhumanity that surround us. We deserve your condemnation but you bless us with mercy. Forgive us and set us free from the chains that bind us. Enable us to live anointed lives in Christ.

ASSURANCE OF PARDON

One of our greatest struggles is against the temptation of sin. Rejoice when, by God’s grace, we resist and live in righteousness. Rejoice, also, that when we fall to temptation, God delivers us from the chains of death. Through Jesus Christ, we have our forgiveness and the promise of eternal life.

DEDICATION OF OFFERING

For your many blessings, we praise you. For the wonders of Creation, we give you thanks. You have given us, O God, far more than we need. You have given us far more than we deserve. Remind us, once again, that you are the source of all good things that we may offer our heartfelt gratitude and glory. Amen.

COMMISSIONING

God calls us to be one in the body of Christ. God calls us to seek reconciliation from the things that would separate us one from another. As we leave, may our lives be examples of unity and harmony. May we seek to be the people whom God has called us to be.

More Sermons

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.