Jeremiah 1:4-10, Hebrews 12:18-29, Luke 13:10-17
There is a story that Dr. Ian Paisley, the fiery Irish minister and politician, was preaching one Sunday on the end times, and in particular on the Day of Judgment. As he reached the climax of his address, he said that on the Day of Judgment, "there would be wailing and gnashing of teeth". At that point an elderly woman put up her hand and said, "Dr. Paisley, I have no teeth." Dr. Paisley replied, "Madam, teeth will be provided."
Has your life been full but not fulfilling? Has your life been successful but seemingly insignificant? Perhaps your life has been cheered by other people but it does not seem important to God. Perhaps you're restless inside. Maybe God is telling you to do something that is different from what you're doing right now. Don't be afraid to do it.Be expectant and obedient, regardless of the risks and despite you age!
Jeremiah 1:4-10 is a story of how God can use anyone and everyone to do Hisworkin the world. Jeremiah was called by God to be a prophet, but he argued that he was not qualified to be a prophet simply because of his age. God's answer was that His (God’s)request was part of his plan for Jeremiah's life. God said that he would tell Jeremiah what to do and what to say, and he did. God also knew that Jeremiah would be persecuted and opposed in his work, but God promisedto be with Jeremiah, and he was. God keeps his promises.
It is said Great men do not seek power-they have it thrust upon them. Whether true or not, When God looks for a leader, he goes after someone who isn't looking for the position. God does not call the equipped. He equips the called.
He calls us and equips us to share the Good News. He equips us to face the consequences of sharing the Good News. He uses our strengths and our weaknesses. He loves us and approves of us. Nothing we do now or in the future can change that because His love for us is genuine.
A good example of how God equips people is legendary talk show host Larry King. As a young man he hung around a radio station in Miami, Florida and kept telling the station manager that he wanted to get into radio. Finally his chance came when the morning announcer quit. On his first day, he opened his mouth and nothing came out. He played another song and tried to speak a second time. Nothing came out. The same thing happened a third time. The station manager stormed in and yelled, "This is a communications business". Larry King finally found his voice and said, "Good morning, this is Larry King". He explained to his audience that it was his first morning on the air and that he was nervous. That gave him the confidence to keep talking and he has been talking on radio and television since then.
Jeremiah accepted God's plan for his life. Jeremiah was set apart by God for his prophetic work. He was God's spokesperson. He predicted the doom that Israel would face unless the people repented. God promised that Israel's suffering would facilitate their redemption. God did not abandon them and Jeremiah's words had the power to lead the Hebrews to actions that produced results and which had consequences.
Jeremiah was to pronounce words of judgment, of mercy and hope. The people of Israel had to endure God's judgement before they could receive God's mercy. We do not have to go through the same process because Jesus accepted God's judgement for our sins when he died for us on the cross. Jesus accepted God's judgment so we would receive God's mercy; as long as we believe in faith.
Our society needs more people like Jeremiah. In other words, society needs more people who sense their call in life and who will pursue it. Many believe we have become a society that is interested only in instant gratification, short-term gains and quick fixes. We have little loyalty to the long-term because we have lost the sense of how far back our origins really do go.
God is always speaking to us. When we speak for him, he will provide the words we are to say. God has a plan for our lives and everything that pertains to life, his promises to us, our healings, the words we speak on his behalf. All we have to do is say "yes" to his will, his way and his word. But we have to trust His Word, believe it, receive it, and watch and wait for it to become fully manifested in our lives.
Each and every one of us is unique. This uniqueness enriches the world when we give ourselves to the community around us. God related to us as individuals becauseeach and every one of us is unique. We were created in love for love and by God for God. When our lives are broken, God can put them back together. When our plan for our lives falls apart, he is there to fix it so that it is the same as his plan for our lives. We are wanted, cherished and loved by God. We belong to God.
The writer of the Letter to the Hebrews calls on Christians to fulfil their Christian duty of loving others. In other words, we are to love one another, show hospitality, remember prisoners, be faithful in marriage, obey leaders, and not love money over anything else. When we love one another, we must remember that the church of Jesus Christ is universal. It is not limited by geography, race, religion, ethnicity, age groups or other reasons-hence the use of the term "holy catholic church". When we worship, we join with other believers, both those who are living and those who have gone before us.
The word "obey" as used in the passage from Hebrews means to persuade or prevail upon, to listen to or obey. This does not mean blind obedience, but obedience after thoughtful consideration that results in persuasion. People who demand blind obedience without reason (such as the Pharisees, some TV evangelists, the Jehovah's Witnesses or the Mormons) are likely to get congregations that change orientation every time some golden-mouthed authoritarian preacher comes along.
Israel in Jeremiah's time did nothave the spirit for obeying God's laws. We as modern Christians dohave the spirit-the Holy Spirit. Worship is the heart of both the Holy Spirit and God's Word. Worship is the driving message of both the Holy Spirit and God's Word. Worship is the only thing God seeks from us. We must be open to the work of Christ in our lives. We must be open to God's redemption and His grace. We must be willing and able to gain perception of the truth of Christ by studying His Word. We must show courage and boldness when we spread the Good News. We must continue to live out the gospel until it bears fruit in us and in those with whom we share the Good News.
We are surrounded by things that can be shaken up and taken away, but we also have things that cannot be shaken or taken away. One thing that can't be taken away from us is our fellowship with fellow believers. That fellowship is rooted in our faith in Jesus. God's Word and the things he gives us can never be taken away. God promises us an unshakeable kingdom because he is unshakeable. Nothing and no one can stand in his way. Nothing and no one can conquer or divide his kingdom. We can't control it, so the best thing for us to do is let the Holy Spirit control our lives and transform us.
If we refuse to believe in God, we will face the same fate as Israel did in Jeremiah's time. That is why we must remain firm in our faith, especially in times of trial. Even when the trials are caused by God, we must remain steadfast in faith. If we seem self-sufficient in God's eyes, he might allow enough trouble for us to realize our need for him.
When we worship God, we do not have to follow an ironclad, inflexible set of rules. The synagogue leader in our reading from Luke 13:10-17 was obsessedwith obeying rules; specifically, the rule about keeping the Sabbath holy. The Jews, especially the Pharisees, were so obsessed with keeping God’s Commandments that they came up with all sorts of rules to govern what the people could and could not do on the Sabbath. Included in the list of things that could not be done on the Sabbath was healing a sick person. Healing was considered work, and a good Jew could not do that type of work.
The Law did allow animals to be untied for a few hours on the Sabbath, but the synagogue leader objected to Jesus’ freeing the bent woman from her bondage on the Sabbath. In other words, in the mind of the synagogue leader, freeing animals from bondage was more important than freeing people from the bondage of sin and illness. By healing the woman on the Sabbath, Jesus’ actions are considered to be within the intention or spirit of the Sabbath, and they enhance Sabbath observance instead of destroying it.
Jesus was not breaking any of the Old Testament commandments. In the eyes of the Jews, especially the synagogue leader, Jesus broke the commandments and rules they had set. Why? To make certain that they did not break any of the commandments, especially the one about keeping the Sabbath holy. These laws allowed the Pharisees to avoid love’s obligations. Jesus argued that people’s needs are more important than rules and regulations. We are encouraged to take time to help others, even if it means compromising our public image.
By concentrating on religion and the laws, the Jews lost the ability to reach God. God had to reach man by coming to earth in the form of Jesus Christ. He emphasized that in order to have a relationship with God only two rules had to be obeyed-love God and love people. We are called upon to obey the same two laws if we want to have a relationship with God. We will have restored our relationship with God if we love people and show it by doing things in faith such as comforting the less fortunate (yes, even on the Sabbath). By doing these holy things, we will be obeying the commandment to “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy”.
Jesus set us free from the Law. After all, he replaced the Ten Commandments and all of the Pharisees' subsequent rules with the two Great Commandments-love God and love people. Freedom from the Law does not mean freedom from responsibility. We are still responsible for showing compassion just like Jesus showed compassion for the crippled woman.
So how can we set our minds and hearts on God's kingdom? First, we have to understand the true nature of God's kingdom and God's grace. Second, we must take time to pray and learn the songs of saints past and present which celebrate God's kingdom and our place in it. Finally, we must take advantage of every chance we have to tell others about the glories of God's kingdom.
This is easier said than done at times. Many times we are in such a hurry, even on Sundays, that we don't pause in our hearts and look upward into God's face. We can start by doing these things:
We will know when we are operating in the power of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit reigns, believers will relate to each other, to God and to the world. We are living in challenging times. The kingdom has started in God's church, his people, those in whom God's will is cherished and obeyed. Our worship must be filled with awe for the Holy God of Israel, the Father of Jesus who has redeemed us and made us to be a holy people unto himself.
When we follow Jesus, we believe that God has something better for us and all of humanity. That is the message of today’s readings from Jeremiah, Hebrews and Luke.
We are to spread that message in our world by witnessing to God's love for us. We are to go forth into the world and set it free from the bondage of sin and in accord with God’s Will for all who have Faith and believe.
Thanks be to God AMEN