Sermon for 11th Sunday following Pentecost, Proper 16-08/21/2022
Jeremiah 1:4-10; Psalm 71:1-6; Hebrews 18:12-29; Luke 13:10-17
“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)
First of all, let’s all say a very loud, “Thank You, Jesus,” for our recent rainfall, as it was getting pretty dry. I hope you all have received rain, and let us all say a prayer that our whole planet needs rainfall, sooner rather than later.
Our lesson from Jeremiah this morning is a reminder for us all that the prophet began his ministry in Judah, when King Josiah was in his thirteenth year of reign, and that Josiah had reformed the country to worship the One God. You may ask why we need to know about the stories of the Old Testament, but in truth these stories and those of the New Testament are really our stories. As human beings, we simply need reminders that God created us and desires us to be in relationship with Him all the time, not just some time. They made mistakes and so do we. We must be reminded of what He has done for us. It is really this simple.
The lesson is about Jeremiah’s call to serve God and his response that call. In Old Testament times God called selected certain messengers to proclaim His message. God set Jeremiah apart even before he was born! Jonah received his call well into his adult years. We also need to understand that Jeremiah, like predecessors Moses and Elijah, tried to resist God’s call but found himself pressed to obey and encouraged by the promise of God’s steady presence. Remember, “God does not call the equipped, He equips the called.” I’m not on the level of these messengers of God, but I’m willing to admit that I had a whole list of reasons that I was not worthy or ready for the call. God promised me like all others, that He would be near if needed. He always has been and I have learned to take comfort that if I was in trouble, He would show up at the right time. God can be depended on to support those of whom He makes requests. God’s calls to individuals differ, since God does not set up qualification lists. He called Moses in middle age but Jeremiah as a youngster. A purified Isaiah volunteered for service. Jeremiah was chosen prior to birth.
The prophetic task involved Jeremiah in being God’s messenger to royal courts to announce God’s plans in international politics. The prophet announced both salvation and judgment. God’s calls established servant leaders of Christian movement. Inner peace comes only as individuals find, accept, and follow God’s purpose. The prophetic call to declare God’s message has several significant evangelistic principles: 1) God calls in His sovereign purpose; 2) the call comes from God, not human agencies; 3)human limitations are not important; 4) human obedience is expected; 5) God is with those He calls for a task; 6) God enables His witness to speak His word; 7) the message will provoke a crisis of decision and the message is outlined in Matthew 28:19-20.
Our Psalm is simply a lament, one asking for immediate help, though in a humble manner for an urgent need.
Our Lesson from Hebrews addressed an audience desiring to face two directions at the same time; the security of a Jewish legal system and the freedom as a slave of Christ Jesus. The inspired author urged them to face full forward toward Christ and forget legalism. The gravest sin they could commit would be to tr to earn salvation through the law and miss the way of grace. Any system that encourages us to accomplish something to be be saved leads to the sin of unbelief in the grace of Christ and the in the sufficiency of His saving work through the cross and resurrection. The other side is that grace does not give unlimited moral freedom; it frees us from slavery to sin so we may follow Christ in the ways of peace, holiness, and purity. Jesus is our Mediator and as such, His atonement for our sins makes it possible for us to participate in His new covenant. The reference to shaking both heaven and earth is to reveal the coming kingdom of God; it will be eternal. The though of the coming kingdom should lead people to grateful, reverent worship. The inheritance that belongs to Christians and the awesomeness of God make worship and grateful prayer logical actions of a well thought out plan.
Finally our Gospel from Luke. Jesus is in a synagogue teaching when a woman who had been crippled by a spirit for 18 years entered; she was bent over and could not stand up straight. Jesus said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” Then He put his hands on her and immediately she straightened up and praised God! The synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” Jesus called them hypocrites for chastising Him for healing on the Sabbath, but to take a ox or donkey out of their stalls to get a drink of water is somehow prevented this woman and daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for 18 years from what bound her?” It says those Jesus was speaking to were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.
Most of the religious leadership at the time felt more threatened of Jesus because He might succeed them, when in fact, He was healing people to enable them to witness to others of what He did for them. What is God calling you to do for Him? Are you going through a process for a new ministry or task? Open your heart and your mind for Jesus to enter and prepare you as He does for all of His messengers! Amen