The Formation Of Something Wonderful

What a fun Sunday!  The kids and I played with clay during the children’s sermon!  But that’s another story for another day … enjoy today’s sermon!

Jeremiah 1:4-10

The Formation Of Something Wonderful

When I was in seminary, my Old Testament professor’s name was Dr. David Petersen. He was the Emory University Franklin N. Parker Professor of Old Testament. He was the senior Old Testament editor for the New Interpreter’s Bible, the Old Testament editor for the Common English Bible and the author and co-author of numerous books and articles. He was – and is – an absolutely brilliant man.

This is how he began our first lecture on the Book of Jeremiah.

Play first 10 seconds of Joy To The World (Jeremiah Was a Bullfrog)

Okay, okay, so perhaps there is more to Jeremiah than that.

The Book of Jeremiah is one of the prophetic books in the Old Testament; it chronicles the life and prophesies of the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah came from Anathoth, which was a village located approximately three miles northeast of Jerusalem.

Jeremiah prophesied in the 6th and 7th centuries BCE. He was the son of Hilkiah, a priest in Anathoth and a descendant of Abiathar, one of the two chief priests of King David. Jeremiah’s theology was very Mosaic – he strictly adhered to the traditions of Moses. Jeremiah emphasized customs that came from the exodus from Egypt, the wandering in the wilderness and the covenant God made with Israel on Mount Sinai. Jeremiah – being so allegiant to Moses – believed in the law and strongly criticized the house of David and the Jerusalem temple.

Jeremiah – like many of the prophets of the Old Testament – prophesied during unsettling times. The fall of Jerusalem was imminent; people were fleeing for safety; and a great drought threatened their land. Jeremiah declared God’s horror and judgment against the people of Israel – there was often little optimism in his life and in his prophesy.

When God called Jeremiah to be a prophet, he knew that the task ahead of him would not be an easy one.

And here is the thing that I love about Jeremiah: When God called him, he said “No.”

When God told Jeremiah that he appointed him to be a prophet, Jeremiah said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” {Jeremiah 1:6}

The first time God called, Jeremiah said “No.” Jeremiah said, “I am just a boy.” Jeremiah said, “I do not know how to speak.”

The first time God called, Jeremiah did not feel as though he would be able to live out God’s call for him in his life.

But God was persistent. “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’,” he said to Jeremiah. “For you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you.” {Jeremiah 1:7-8} God said to Jeremiah, “Do not say that you are not enough. Do not say that you do not have what it takes to fulfill this ministry. I will be with you; I will give you the strength and the words.”

On a personal level, I love this passage in a kind of tongue-and-cheek sort of way. When I first started college I was business and econ major; I pictured my life on the west coast and in corporate America. And I pictured myself making a lot of money. Then I felt called to vocational ministry.

I am pretty sure I might have mentioned to God once or twice that I was not the right person for the job.

But God was persistent. And here I am.

Have you ever felt a nudge from God – a call to do something – but felt that you were not enough, that you did not have enough time and that you would not be able to live out that call?

Well, guess what – God does not simply call people into ministry; God forms people into ministers.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you;” God said to Jeremiah. “I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

God was working on Jeremiah long before Jeremiah heard that call. God was using his hands to form Jeremiah, preparing him to be a prophet.

What would our ministries look like if we believed that God was doing the same thing in our own lives?

This morning’s scripture comes from the very beginning of the book of Jeremiah, but later on in the book the imagery of God’s formation of humanity and ministry continues:

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done? says the Lord. Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. {Jeremiah 18:1-6}

How would we respond to God’s call if we imagined that God was using his hands to form us like a potter forms his clay? Would we still be hesitant to say “yes” if we felt that God was shaping us, molding us, carefully preparing us in a unique way, to equip us for a certain ministry?

How would we feel if we realized that our lives and our ministries were being carefully formed by God into something wonderful?

Look around you; yes, there is devastation in the world and yes, people are hurting in real ways, but good things are happening as well. Every single day God is forming people in his image and calling them into ministries in communities around the world.

Take a look at this church. Every single month we support – with our time, talents and funds – several local, national and international organizations. Week after week our youth and children are having fun and safely learning through the help of volunteers. Throughout the years our Prayer Shawl ministry has touched people around the world. Our Lay Shepherds Outreach and Visitation Program consistently meets the spiritual, pastoral and tangible needs of the congregation. Greeters welcome people into worship with a smile. The choir fills the sanctuary with song. Members of various boards and committees ensure a well-kept building, meaningful worship, food and fellowship and educational opportunities. I could go on and on, but suffice is to say, God is truly forming something beautiful in our midst.

Is it always easy to say “yes” to God’s call? No.

But I think if you look around you and imagine what would happen if we all said “yes” something truly spectacular would start to happen.

So pause often. Listen carefully. Trust fully. Discern prayerfully. Say “yes” wholly.

And see the formation of something wonderful in your life.

Hear God say to you now: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you … Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand.”

Thanks be to God!

Amen.

2 thoughts on “The Formation Of Something Wonderful

  1. Thank you for this post! I am the Director of Children and Youth MInistries and in the final steps of my journey to become a licensed pastor in the United Church of Christ. I am currently preparing my sermon for Rally Day. The children learned (and loved) a song in Vacation Bible School called “We are the Clay”. I envision them singing this song either before or after preaching a sermon centering on the Jeremiah scripture.This post has helping to form some of my thoughts. Thank you so much! I will definitely continue to visit your blog. Many blessings to you!

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