Jeremiah: Resilient Prophet 8/18/13

Aug 18, 2013

 Jeremiah: Resilient Prophet 

A child’s world is small. I remember when I was little a walk up the street was a pretty big excursion. I went back to see the house where I grew up after I was grown up, and the house and the street seemed so much smaller.  The woods next to house where I grew up had been such a great place to explore! I spent hours in that place – and when I went back, that woods was actually just a path through a few trees really.
I loved being in that smaller world with my son when he was small – seeing so many things with fresh eyes, noticing small things in the world and enjoying the moment. In our passage for this morning, God is that small world with Jeremiah, but promises him bigger things:  ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you and before you were born I consecrated you;’
If you have cable television, you may have noticed that week before last was “Shark Week” on the Discovery Channel. My son was into Shark Week. Well, I heard a while back that exotic fish stores are reporting that sharks have become a popular aquarium fish.  If sharks are caught and confined when small, they grow only to a size proportionate to the aquarium.  The limited environment determines their growth.  Sharks can be six inches long and still be fully matured.  Only when set free in the ocean do they grow to their normal length of eight feet.
In some ways people can be like that too. We can get stuck with limited vision and limited sights when we don’t challenge ourselves to live in a bigger world as we grow up. People need big dreams, expansive horizons, large challenges, stretching ambitions.

The book of Jeremiah is a book where the prophet grows into himself and bumps into a world that is not what he hoped it would be, not what God hoped it would be. God challenges Jeremiah all his life to see how Israel has limited itself, choosing over and over to worship smaller gods – idol gods that they could keep on a table and feel like they had it under control.
Jeremiah has to become a resilient prophet as he grows into himself, challenging Israel to be faithful to their bigger God instead of settling for their little gods that make them feel good. Jeremiah rails at the idols, the worship of lesser gods. We may think we are beyond that, but we, all of us. are tempted to sit at the altar of lesser gods – the gods of money, or popularity, or entertainment, or comfort. None of us find it easy to grow into the tank that the God of Life would have us inhabit.
All of us grow up in a tank that not only is too small for us, but in which we get knocked about until we don’t want to notice when we are set free to live and thrive in a bigger venue.

‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.  A prophet of love, of Living, of Wisdom.  Do not be afraid, for I am with you.  Now I have put my words in your mouth.  See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.’
We are made for bigger things than we can almost imagine. In the next week or two, we will read about how Jeremiah responds to the big vision God has for him, and how he challenges Israel to reach beyond their fears to thrive in a bigger world than they thought possible, to be a resilient people in a difficult world.
As we read Jeremiah, I encourage you to read along, though it is a bit challenging to read Jeremiah’s bitter disappointment with his people. I invite you to read Jeremiah and see how he turns his disappointment into hope, finds a resiliency in his faith to keep going even when he faces war and possible destruction of his land.

Last week, I spent 3 & ½ days at the Wild Goose Festival in North Carolina. This festival is my current inspiration to resiliency in the church. Two thousand plus Christians gathered at this festival in the rain and the mud, to listen to fun music and inspiring speakers “at the intersection of justice, spirituality, music, and art.” They see themselves as part of a movement to recover and recreate church, a new reformation that opens doors to people who have been excluded from the church and that opens doors of creative religious expression.
They challenge us to tear down the walls of the church that keeps the church an institution within a small tank. They challenge us to live in the whole world, building up a new ethic of respect for our environment, the earth beneath our feet, challenging the divisions of our society and the divisions in our church. They put out a vision of a resilient church, living in a bigger world, courageously remaking itself for the 21st century, embodying the love of God, neighbor and self, following the Spirit where the wind blows.
It is not a coherent vision, but a challenge to participate in creating one, and to participate in recreating the church. We are beginning to engage that process, and for the next few weeks, Jeremiah, the resilient prophet will be our guide.
This is God’s good news.

2172 We are Called