Sermon writing can be a funny thing. Well, maybe not funny…but interesting. Well, maybe not for you, but for nerds like me. I’ve been working on one particular sermon for a while now, and I just can’t seem to get it right. Maybe it’s because I’m not scheduled to preach it for a few months and I like to tinker if I have time. That, and I can be a perfectionist about certain things.
A typical sermon of mine is about 8 pages. I’ve written nearly 30 for this one. Obviously, there’s a lot that has to go. This is why the Good Lord invented blogging! So here’s a bit from a sermon on Jeremiah 1 that you will never hear me preach.
4 The word of the Lord came to me, saying,
5 “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.”
6 “Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.”
7 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.8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.
9 Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth.10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
This is Jeremiah’s divine interruption. He’s minding his own business, quietly going about his priestly duties in the comfortable suburb of Anathoth, when all of a sudden God shows up and ruins everything.
Jeremiah wanted out of this. His was not a welcome divine interruption. Jeremiah didn’t think he was cut out to be a prophet. He was afraid. So he gave God two excuses: “I do not know how to speak. I am too young.” In other words, “I don’t have the skill, and I don’t have the experience.”
When God comes to us with a job offer, we, like Jeremiah, try to reason with him that we possess neither the skill nor the experience for the task. “A prophet has to speak,” Jeremiah reasons, “but I don’t know how. A prophet has to have a certain gravitas and wisdom that can only come with age. I’m just a kid. So you see, Almighty God, Creator of the universe who stands outside of time and sees the end from the beginning, you must be mistaken. I’m not the right guy for the job.”
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to reason with God, but it generally doesn’t go well for us. I imagine God standing there, listening patiently, and then responding, “Oh, okay. Did I mention that whole, ‘Before I knit you together in your mother’s womb, thing’? Oh yeah, that’s right, I did.”
Our excuses never hold water with God, because he knows that behind your excuse is fear. Jeremiah was afraid; it’s as simple as that. Jeremiah’s fear, like our fear, was borne out of his frailty. He could not speak, and God was calling him to a speaking ministry, to be a prophet to the nations.
Many of you have seen The King’s Speech, the story of King George VI. He had a major speech impediment at a time when, due to the advent of radio, public speaking became a necessary task for England’s royals. He was the second son of King George V, and as the second son, the odds were against him ever becoming king. This relieved him, because his speech impediment, his frailty, made him very afraid of ever becoming king.
But his worst fears were realized when his father died and his older brother abdicated the throne to marry a divorced American woman. On top of this, Hitler, who was a renowned and captivating orator, was on the march on the Continent, and a second great war seemed inevitable. Such were the circumstances under which the stammering Duke of York became King George VI.
As with Jeremiah and King George VI, God calls us to tasks that take us into the heart of our frailty. The stammering king stands up to the loquacious Fuhrer; the unskilled and inexperienced prophet takes on his own people, calling them to repent of their idolatry. And you, called by God to a task that demands what you do not have within you to deliver. But God says, “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you.”
Jeremiah’s divine interruption came with two divine promises: 1) I am with you. 2) I will rescue you. God’s presence and strength will overcome Jeremiah’s lack of skill and experience because God is with those he calls. Divine habitation follows divine interruption.
Your divine interruption has come with two divine promises: 1) God is with you. 2) God will rescue you. God’s presence and strength will overcome your lack of skill and experience because God is with those he calls. Divine habitation follows divine interruption, for Jeremiah, and for you. God is with you, and God will rescue you.