Sermon Epiphany 4C Sunday January 31st, 2010 Ocean Forest
I think I can, I think I can Jeremiah 1:4-10
“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.”
Living this Christian life can sure seem like climbing big mountains – like that little engine! It can feel like we have to keep geeing ourselves up with pure determination and grit all the time. “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can, I know I can…….”.
We all have mountains to climb. Here’s some I can think of…. • I want to be the most loving and effective parent I can be to give me kids the best possible start in life that I can. I will not ever hurt them. I will always listen. I will not make mistakes. I will protest tem from all harm and danger so that they never experience any pain or sorrow……. impossible expectations!
• I want to maintain a worthy body – I want to look like those magazine and TV people. I want to be fit, never get sick, avoid all disease, be able to leap building in a single bound and be cool enough to wear my red underpants on the outside of my blue tights!
• I want be a faithful person of God. I want to love and serve. I never want to hurt anyone. I never want to disagree with anyone. I want to be clean living and morally perfect so that God can’t lay a finger on me. I want to know my bible so I can win any arguments about creation or Jesus or God. I want to forgive everyone all the time quickly and easily. I want to be able to make the right decisions all the time about my job and family……
What’s your mountain at the moment – I can think of a few possible contestants for the little engine award!
What’s the mountain? How are you going to get yourself over it?
Will it be a matter of being that little engine that could? I hope not. I am sure that this is not the way of Jesus – to have to convince ourselves that we really can do the impossible tasks he has set before us from our own resources. This is not how he has ever worked. Just look at Jeremiah. God calls a young man (maybe 16-18yrs old) and Jerry can’t handle it. What excuses does Jerry give? (can’t speak – too young/doesn’t know enough….)
Let’s place our current stuff in this account of Jerry.
Name you mountain or mountains………………………………..
Name your inadequacies about getting over that mountains…………………………………
Note: You probably are inadequate for the task – especially if it is a “God-mountain”. Message to self: It’s okay to be inadequate for a “God chosen mountain”. That’s pretty much how God intends it to be.
Let me tell you how this usually works. 1. God calls a person 2. The person objects and focuses on his/her inadequacies and the enormous impossibility of the calling 3. God responds to the person’s called fear, doubt, unbelief and self-focus by giving a gift for the calling – a reasurance that the task actually is humanly impossible and the truth that the person is inadequate for the calling and the promise that this is how it is meant to be because God’s got it covered in mountain climbing 4. God follows up by giving the person called a sign of his promise and presence in their life and in their calling and reaffirms the person in his call
Here’s how it worked for Jerry. God calls him to be a prophet to all nations – and particularly to the under pressure, faithless people of Israel. • In his lifetime, Israel will seemingly come to an end when in 587BC, the capital city is razed to the ground and its leading people taken off to exile in Babylon by King Nebbedkednezzer. • Quite a task to call a nation back to God in repentance and faith in God – quite difficult. Just ask Jesus as he goes to his home town and they try to kill him! • The tried to kill Jerry too. In fact, every prophet was quite reluctant when God showed up with that Calling! None of them wanted the job. Remember Moses at the burning bush? He also said he was not up for the call. Remember Isaiah? “Woe to me a man of unclean lips” – a profound sense of personal sin and inadequacy for the calling.
God does not give up. He is actually the little engine that can – because he can! “Well Jerry, you say you cannot speak well and you don’t know enough; you have not got enough experience for the job? I know. No worries. I will speak through you. I will speak my word through you. It will be me working in you in this calling. You’re not the little engine that thinks he can. I am and I know we can”.
God goes further. In Jerry’s doubt and fear and ducking for cover, God gives Jerry a gift. He puts out his hand and touches Jerry’s mouth. This is the sign that God’s words are in Jerry’s mouth for this impossible calling.
God completes the picture and the call: He reaffirms his call on Jerry’s life; but now with this special gift to take into it. “See, Jerry, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”
How is it working for you? You have been called and commissioned by God. • If you’re not sure about that, reflect on your baptism. That’s the commissioning ceremony where you are called into God’s family and ordained for a life of service to him and his people. • But also, recall those moments you have had when God gave you a specific nudge to do that thing in that place with those people. • Also, reflect on the day you got married or the day your child was born (not too long ago for Ruth and Charlie!) • Reflect on now. What’s God’s call now?
Whichever way you look at it, you are called and commissioned by God to live a life worthy of the calling you have received” Romans
Now, what are your inadequacies that you keep reminding yourself, others and God about? It’s probably a long list ranging from thing like… i. Don’t know the bible enough ii. You want people to like you and you know they won’t if you start getting religious on them iii. You can’t love enough; you’re too impatient, not wise enough iv. You’re not appealing enough; you have not got the stature, the looks, the respect you think you need v. insert own inadequacies here……..
God is responding to you today. • Don’t know enough? “No. You don’t. But I do”, says the Lord. • Want people to like you? Yes. Everyone does. True, this is impossible. Not everyone will like you and it will cost you, being faithful to Jesus. • “But I like you”, he says. “I love you. I love you a lot. I formed you in the womb and have known you since birth”. • Whatever your inadequacies are and how ever you feel unable to climb the mountain, God is responding to you and continues to Call you today
And what of a sign for you of God’s continued calling? • Signs can be many and varied. A visible spiritual experience, like Jerry received. A palpable dream that was more than imagination, a word of scripture that enlarged to fill your being for a moment and you just knew. A quiet word from another that created a ripple effect in your life and thinking about yourself and God • And let’s not forget those visible signs of God’s presence that he gives – that visible moment when the Holy Spirit came to free you and live in you – baptism – a sign that was real, that happened in your personal history and on your physical body when water and Spirit flowed. And then that sign of Jesus’ continued healing, encouragement, power and peace – the holy meal of his body and blood in bread and wine shared with his body, the church. • Do you need a sign from God that affirms you and reassures you that you are still in his calling and that the mountain is a mole hill in God’s love and power? • Ask for a sign. Seek a sign. Seek his breath, his Spirit in his Word and among his people. He will come through. The mountain will somehow be reduced into a mole hill and it will be conquered because we are “more than conquerors through him who loved us”.
And there is it; A final re-commissioning of you. You are called by God to be his mouthpiece and presence where you are. That is the truth of who we are and what we are.
No need for excuses. No need to try and get ourselves over the mountains before us. Only a need to seek the Spirit and receive his gifts, his love, his power.
The psalm writer gets it. He utters are prayer of the heart for the called person of God living in the world today – a prayer for every lived day in the call of Jesus for every mountain.
Psalm 71:1-6 In you, O LORD, I take refuge; let me never be put to shame. In your righteousness deliver me and rescue me; incline your ear to me and save me. Be to me a rock of refuge, a strong fortress, to save me, for you are my rock and my fortress. 4 Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked, from the grasp of the unjust and cruel. For you, O Lord, are my hope, my trust, O LORD, from my youth. Upon you I have leaned from my birth; it was you who took me from my mother’s womb. My praise is continually of you.