January 31, 2016
Text: Jeremiah 1:4-10
I Corinthians 13:1-13
If you haven’t heard, tomorrow night is the much anticipated Iowa Caucus- the official beginning for the race to the white house. I encourage everyone to go if you can- participate in the process. Living here in the US, we have the freedom and right to take part in choosing our leaders and if we don’t- others will choose for us. Not telling you who to vote for. We have already heard a lot of campaigning telling us why they would make the best president and why we should vote for them. And what they are really talking about is their credibility- and why their competitors don’t have the credibility to be president. In nine short months from now, we the people will choose someone to be the next president.
May I ask you a question? Do you think you have the credibility to be God’s representative? By whose standards and choosing? Man’s or God’s? Pray.
In the gospel this morning- Jesus had just finished reading from the book of Isaiah that said: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And when He had finished reading, Jesus looked up from the scrolls and said: “today the scriptures have been fulfilled.” And then He sat down.
Up until this point, everyone was all behind him. All been caught up with pride for their home town favorite son making it good. But then he had to say that- and it made them pause and think- isn’t this Joseph’s son, the carpenter? I know Him-I watched him grow up. He’s a good man and preacher- but the Messiah? And suddenly His credibility came under question.
Discerning their thoughts- Jesus pointed out- “truth is- there were many widows in Israel at the time of Elijah. Remember that story a few weeks ago? God had sent Elijah to a small village to find a widow (who God had chosen) to take care of him. Imagine the questions Elijah must have had (at least I would have had) when he found her. Here was a poor, single parent barely able to put food on the table for herself and her son let alone someone else- and now was picking up sticks to build a fire to prepare her last meal and then die. Of all the widows in Jerusalem, why did God pick her? What credentials did she have that the others didn’t?
Again, Jesus pointed out that: “out of all the lepers in Israel in the time of Elisha, God chose Naaman. Why him? And God chose an unknown teenager peasant girl to bear and raise Jesus the man. What credentials did she have?
Was it by a lucky draw of the lottery? Was it because they had “lived right”? Campaigned for the job- or somehow convinced God by their ability to persuade that they were best for the job?
No- most of the time it was just the opposite. When God told Jeremiah that he had chosen him to be a prophet and speak the truth to Israel- what did Jeremiah do? He protested: “you’ve got the wrong man-I don’t have the right credentials- I’m only a young boy”- and so on and so on. But God never makes mistakes- in fact, God had his eye on Jeremiah even before he had formed him in his mother’s womb!
Consider Moses who argued with God that he was not the one-because he wasn’t good at speaking. Or the apostle Paul- who God called to be the banner bearer of grace while he was still Saul-a Pharisee- a legalistic bearer of the law- who was- perhaps the most unlikely candidate by human reasoning but who God saw as someone who was to become the most influential missionary for Him the world has ever seen.
None of them were looking for or seeking the job- none of them had campaigned for the job- all of them had tried to talk their way out of it. For some reason, we think a leader should look and talk a certain way. Truth is, God uses all kinds of people- young and old- introverts as well as extraverts. We don’t use a hammer for every job- and neither does God. But I am still left wondering- and marveling –why it is that God chooses who he chooses. One thing is clear however- it is God who chooses- and not us.
Back to the synagogue- what Jesus said didn’t sit well- and it didn’t just lift eyebrows, it didn’t just make them angry- it filled them with rage-so much rage that they drove him out of town to throw him over a cliff! But Jesus passed through the midst of them and got away.
It is amazing to me that in a short matter of time- this reverent group of church goers had been transformed into a raging lynch mob. Why?
Perhaps they were jealous- or offended. Maybe they were thinking that they were better qualified or entitled because of all their schooling and titles and experience- perhaps they had secretly wondered and dreamed that they would somehow turn out to be the fulfillment of prophesy themselves- but not this carpenters son who had never even left Nazareth until now.
But the bible tells us that no one can fulfill the qualifications of the law perfectly no matter how hard we work or try. There is only one who has lived it-sacrificed it- and it is not us. Christ alone has fulfilled all the requirements and credentials perfectly. It is His righteousness that we put on- not ours. We are saved by grace, live by grace, and called by grace- it is nothing we have done that makes us qualified- we have nothing to boast about but Christ Jesus our Lord.
It seems there are two prominent mindsets. Like Jeremiah and Moses- some argue with God in misguided humility that they cannot answer God’s call because they are unqualified for whatever reason. And then there are those like the Pharisees-who assume they have earned the right to have the job because of their misguided pride. But there is a third. That of a humble servant- not seeking glory for self- but to point others to Christ. When God calls them to do something- they may question it- but trust God that he knows best. The trust God to be their strength and put His words in their mouth like he promised to do for Jeremiah.
When God chooses a person for something- it doesn’t depend on where you are from, what age you are or how much schooling you’ve had. It doesn’t depend on whether you can understand all knowledge and have an unshaken hope and have faith that can move mountains. All that means nothing if we don’t have the heart of God who is love.
We are all God’s workmanship-we are His masterpiece. Nothing the world can say or do can change that. That not only applies to ourselves, but to all we meet. Wouldn’t that change the way we thought of others? That we as fellow believers- are part of the same body- each needed and as important as anyone else? We should then encourage each other instead of compete. We should then be thankful for each other- and their place in the body of Christ-
Back to the question I asked at the beginning. Do you have the credibility to be God’s representatives? The answer is that all have been disqualified by the law- but all of us have been redeemed and called by grace. It no longer depends on our qualifications, but Christ in us.
I think there is a tendency to think of God’s calling as only the high profile ones. But God has called each of us to be His representatives beginning where you are- in your homes- in your congregations- in your community. Like Jeremiah, God has had you in mind for that specific job before you were born.
There is only one name that is above all names-and it is not yours-it’s certainly not mine- no king or president- no pastor or teacher- no disciple or apostle. Every knee shall bow and tongue confess that Jesus is lord. To Him be the glory now and forever. Amen.