Rev. Aisha Karimah, Associate Minister
Metropolitan AME Church
Sunday, March 30, 2014, 7:45 a.m. Service
Scripture: Jeremiah 1:4-12, New Living Translation (NLT). Jeremiah’s Call and First Visions: 4 The Lord gave me this message: 5 “I knew you before I formed you in your mother’s womb. Before you were born I set you apart and appointed you as my prophet to the nations.” 6 “O Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I can’t speak for you! I’m too young!” 7 The Lord replied, “Don’t say, ‘I’m too young,’ for you must go wherever I send you and say whatever I tell you. 8 And don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you. I, the Lord, have spoken!” 9 Then the Lord reached out and touched my mouth and said, “Look, I have put my words in your mouth! 10 Today I appointed you to stand up against nations and kingdoms. Some you must uproot and tear down, destroy and overthrow. Others you must build up and plant.” 11 Then the Lord said to me, “Look, Jeremiah! What do you see?” And I replied, “I see a branch from an almond tree.” 12 And the Lord said, “That’s right, and it means that I am watching, and I will certainly carry out all my plans.”
“God is Still Speaking”
Have you ever tried warning folk about a pending disaster, an upcoming problem or something you knew for sure was about to happen that would be tragic for them if they continued what they were doing or go where they are heading? Only to have them ignore your warning, totally disregard your advice or worse – turn their backs on you and maybe even ridicule you or tell you to get lost, leave them alone?
Being discounted or rejected can be hard to swallow. It can be heartbreaking especially if you really care about the people you are trying to warn. Their refusal to even acknowledge your concern may very well move you to tears. One life lesson I have learned along the way is it can be difficult to convince people to hear you, to listen to you and then believe you enough to change or turn from what they are doing or believing. People tend to dig their heels in, sometimes out of spite or just plain stubbornness, or sometimes because they are stuck on stupid and there really is no rhyme or reason why they won’t heed good advice.
Imagine if you will, Jeremiah the author of our text who is anointed and filled with holy words. Words that are not his own. Words given to him by Yahweh – God Almighty. Words intended to convince the people that now is the time to turn away from disaster. You know the story, the people ignored Jeremiah, they turned their backs on him and refused to change their behavior. Jeremiah on a mission from God kept sounding the alarm.
Sally A. Brown writing in her homiletical perspective on this text says, Jeremiah offers a striking glimpse into the intimate, often tumultuous relationship between Jeremiah and God whose word Jeremiah uneasily bears. She says we are moved by this portrait of a vulnerable prophet who feels too young and too inexperienced to bear the weight of the divine word. We see this relationship between Jeremiah and God as reflection of our own personal inadequacy. We hear our own protests in Jeremiah and our personal vulnerability through Jeremiah.
The Interpreters Bible describes the prophetic book of Jeremiah as searing our souls, challenging our conscience and promising hope to the wounded in body and spirit. For 40 years, Jeremiah was God’s spokesman to Judah. Often called the weeping prophet because he cared so much and had a loving warm heart for the people. For Jeremiah to watch the people reject the good word and counsel he offered from God was heart breaking. Jeremiah was called by God to suffer with a people destined for judgment; a people who persistently rejected the prophet and his message.
During this time, there was serious tension between Babylon, Egypt and Assyria for world supremacy, severe spiritual decline in Israel after Judah’s last revival under Josiah, as well as people who had been raised on God’s Word and true religion had turned to worshipping pagan cults. Jeremiah’s message fell on deaf ears and stony hearts. Even though the people ridiculed and slandered Jeremiah, he remained faithful to God continuing to urge the people to repent and be saved. Jeremiah’s message to Judah is a message for us today. It is a message, down through the ages that has not changed. Repent and be Saved! God is still speaking! Brothers and sisters here are a few thoughts from Jeremiah’s message.
1. The first thought: God still has a word for us to speak.
Our text says: Look, I have put my words in your mouth say whatever I tell you … stand up against nations and kingdoms.…up root, tear down, destroy, overthrow, build up and plant.”
When God calls us—anyone of us—into service. When God speaks to us and sends us on a mission. God will equip us. God will give us everything we need to achieve God’s mission. God will not leave us hanging. That is not God’s style. The Bible says let everything be done decently and in order. Even though Jeremiah was hesitant – I can’t speak. I’m too young. God knew all about Jeremiah’s inadequacies. The text says God knew Jeremiah before God shaped and created Jeremiah in his mother’s womb. God created Jeremiah and therefore knew where Jeremiah would fall short. God knew what Jeremiah needed to achieve the goal God had set for him.
God always knows what we need. Remember God is all knowing. God is omniscient: Om nis shent. God cut right into Jeremiah’s, I can’t speak dialogue and placed the words in Jeremiah’s mouth. That is my daily prayer. Lord place Your words in my mouth that I may speak to uplift, to make a difference to please YOU – God ! I pray that prayer everyday. I have prayed that prayer as long as I can remember praying. I need God’s words to navigate and negotiate throughout the day, I need God’s words to encourage me so that I can encourage someone else. When I awaken, I spend time in morning devotion, which includes Bible reading. I need the word of God before I leave my house. When I get in my car when I get on my job, wherever I go, whatever I do I need God’s word to fortify me…as my protection, my shield. My light, my sword; I need God’s words living in me. I honestly don’t see any other way.
God’s words have power and authority. God’s words shouldn’t be taken lightly. In the case of Jeremiah, God’s words were to empower Jeremiah to stand against the pervasive evil of the nations to admonish them to know that if they continued on the path that they were on, they were going to be uprooted and torn down. God doesn’t mince words. God wanted the people to know that God had enough of their wickedness. They were going to be destroyed. They would be captured by their enemies. They were not just going to keep sinning against God (pause) doing their own thing, ignoring God and expecting no consequences. Brothers and Sisters, do you realize that for every action, there is a reaction. You reap what you sow. God is a loving God but there are times when God has had enough of our mess. God also gave Jeremiah words of hope and encouragement. That’s what God will do, God wants to save us. If we turn from our evil ways, the word of God says if we humble ourselves, pray and seek God’s face and turn from our wicked ways, God will forgive us.
God message to us today is still profound. God has expectations that we will use God’s words given to each of us to speak truth throughout our communities. God has given each of us words to use today to make a positive difference in where we live, work and play. We are to speak up to make life better for everyone. Look around us who is speaking truth to power? Who is speaking for the most vulnerable in our midst?
Consider 8 year Relisha Rudd? Who spoke for her? Who cared enough that she was absent from school 30 days before anyone notified the D.C. Child and Family Service Agency. Who cared enough to issue an amber alert so that people everywhere would look for her? Jesus is calling us to use the words given to us. God is calling us into service—there is so much work to be done ….look around us… more than 600 homeless children in the D.C. General Homeless shelter on some nights in the nation’s capital. More than 300 families, living in a homeless shelter that was once a hospital. A hospital, I might add, where I was born. Who is speaking for them? Where are the words that God has given to us. Who is speaking on God’s behalf ? How can we as a community rest knowing that so many families and children are suffering –have no place to call home. God is calling us to lift every voice—even the voices of the homeless whose voices are being shut out. Hear them…see them…know that they too are children of God.
God’s word is available to everyone. The Word of God is not for an exclusive club or a select group of people or one ethnic group or another. Everybody, regardless of circumstances, pedigree or no degree, has access to the Word of God. The bible says God’s word became living flesh and dwelled among us. One day on Calvary’s Hill the Living Word, in the person of Jesus Christ, became a living sacrifice; hung on a cross was buried and rose from the dead for our redemption…for our salvation. God’s Word lives today. We have no excuse. Living in us is Holy Ghost power from the living word. You and I have all we need to speak to declare to share the word of God. Today we have the assurance of a mighty strong and anointed word of God to speak up and speak out as a witness to the redeeming and saving grace of Jesus, therein lives the absolute power of God’s word. This is good news. God’s word is a lamp to our feet. God’s word is a light to our path. God’s word prepares, provides and promises us saving grace for life everlasting. Therefore with God’s words, we are obligated. We have no choice because God still has a word for us to speak
Another thought from Jeremiah’s message
Do not live fearful. God promises to be with us and protect us.
Our text says
…don’t be afraid of the people, for I will be with you and will protect you… I am watching.
God said “I am watching.” There is no greater assurance than knowing that the eyes of almighty God are scanning everywhere, watching over us. God promised Jeremiah that God would be with him. Don’t be afraid of the people, God said. Too often, like Jeremiah, we struggle with new challenges and are hesitant, have feelings of inadequacies, afraid to step out and move forward in our lives. We may have low or no self esteem, limited self confidence, fear of people, or just fear of what we think might happen. Our mind can create scenarios that are not real and really should be considered for a drama on prime time television.
Think about this, maybe that stuff that goes on in our minds that hold us back or causes us to act out in harmful and self destructive ways ought to be written down and sent off to the producers of the show everybody seems to watch and love so much—Scandal. Because truth is much of what we imagine that prevent us from living a Godly and fulfilling life is scandalous. We conjure up stuff in our minds –incredible unrealistic situations that only hold us back. We need to let all the negative, frightening mess go. We have God’s promise of protection. But here is what we should know: God’s protection requires something of us. We must seek the Lord, call on the Lord, ask the Lord to help us, cover us with God’s almighty shield. We cannot sit back in our corner of the room. Mumbling and grumbling about what we don’t have, what somebody hasn’t done for us. Why me… whining, whining, whining. You know what I mean. Like me, you’ve either been there or have witnessed the woe is me and I can’t– attitude. I wanta…but; a life filled with contractions.
So many of us are stuck in a rut. We have no power or protection because we haven’t asked God to give it to us or when we ask God, we really don’t believe that God has all power and authority and dominion. Why are we waiting? Speak to God now; open our hearts, minds and souls to God now. God is present and available to each of us.
2. Here’s something else to remember: God promised to be with Jeremiah and take care of him; but God did not promise to keep trouble from coming Jeremiah’s way. God did not promise to insulate Jeremiah from encountering life’s storms. This is the case in our lives, God’s presence doesn’t mean those who are bent on doing us harm won’t try. In fact, they will most likely try even harder. Those who are determined to destroy our peace, to kill our joy, to walk all over us will continue to try. But we have the assurance from God to be with us and never leave us. Whatever we encounter, we will not face the challenge all by ourselves. God is present. God is watching. If we stay close to God, develop our relationship with God, we have shelter in the time of storm, we have a solid rock in a weary land, a refuge, a covering, a hiding place in God. To get to us, the enemy will then have to go through God.
God’s promise to be with us protects us, tears down strongholds, breaks shackles that enslave us. God’s promise of protection keeps us from being consumed by the situations or circumstances in our lives. There is no reason for us to live a defeated life, tucked away, hidden, living on the fringe and in dark shadows. There is no reason for us to run and hide. No reason to live in fear, frightened, worried, or stressed. God can and does make a way out of what appears to us to be no way. God does provide. God does dry our weeping eyes. Brothers and sisters, if on today, if you find yourself tested and overwhelmed, feeling downtrodden, hopeless, useless, can’t see any way out of your valley of despair, unclear on how to get out or how to overcome. Our God is a miracle worker specializing in things that seem impossible …the same GOD who parted the sea before the Israelites…the same GOD who protected Daniel in the lion’s den…the same GOD who freed Paul and Silas from the jail… The same God who woke us up this morning in our right minds with a good portion of health; that same God promises to be with us always. Keep praying, keep studying God’s word, keep worshipping, stay on the battlefield, never lose heart. Be ever vigilant, calling on God day and night, staying connected. There is nothing too hard for God. There is no secret what God can do. Do not live fearful . God promises to be with us and protect us.
And our final thought from Jeremiah’s message
3. When God touches us, we are never the same. An encounter with the Lord changes lives.
Our text says
“Then the Lord reached out and touched my mouth.”
When God touched Jeremiah, Jeremiah’s life changed. Jeremiah’s initial reluctance—too young; unable to speak. These objections were no longer an issue. After that single touch from God, Jeremiah had words. Jeremiah had confidence to stand. He wasn’t intimidated by the people who disrespected him and disapproved of his message. One touch is all the Bible says God gave to Jeremiah. That’s the power of God. Throughout the bible we can see how people are changed at each encounter with God. Abraham’s encounter with God caused him to drop everything and go where God sent him. Even though he really didn’t know where he was going. He picked up and went where he was sent. The New Testament tells us about the woman with the issue of blood who brushed up against Jesus and was immediately healed. Paul, as Saul, tortured and killed followers of Jesus Christ until that day on the road to Damascus. He met Jesus on that road and was forever changed…becoming a follower of Jesus and the faith’s greatest apostle.
But just know not everyone is ready to be touched or have an encounter with the Lord. Messed up stuff gets exposed. Dark places are illuminated. Haters are called out. Enemies are confronted. There is no hiding. Covers are pulled off and wretchedness will be uncovered. Encounters with the Lord are serious and life changing. Brothers and sisters, are you ready to be changed? Are you looking for an upgrade to your daily walk? Are you ready to submit to the will of God?
Our purpose for coming into worship Sunday after Sunday is to be transformed. Our worship means nothing if it has no effect on what we do with what we have experienced through our Spiritual encounters. If we come and sit on church pews week after week and are not transformed through the grace of Jesus to do all that God has called us to do that will help change and save lives, then our worship means nothing. If we come and are not moved to go into community and take a stand …make a difference..say something to help somebody and do good, then we are missing the point of our faith.
Our faith, which comes through our close personal encounters/our personal relationship with Jesus, must make a difference in how we live, in how we react and respond to the beloved community of God. God is calling us through Jesus Christ today to changed lives. Jesus wants us to live with HIS transforming love in our hearts and words in our mouths to be encouraging and uplifting to everyone we meet. Robert Linthicum in his book, Building a People of Power, suggests that we should be working towards transforming the world into what GOD intended it to be. Like Linthicum I believe that God’s intentions for humanity are decent and affordable housing, jobs with adequate income…health care for all; safe neighborhoods; healthy environments; quality education; wealth, equity and living in peace.
Jesus has called us into His Beloved Community to—
Witness for Christ through our actions.
To put our faith to work for good
To pick up those who have fallen
To prop up those who are weak and vulnerable
We are the witnesses to the saving grace of Jesus. We are called to help those who don’t know Jesus in the pardoning of their sins to get to know Jesus, to be touched by Jesus, to have their personal encounter with Jesus. When we come into this house of worship, we should want to feel the presence of the Lord. We should bring that feeling in with us and take it out with us into a world that needs to know that Jesus lives!!
As we move through this season of Lent, our prayer is that we are ever mindful, never forgetting the price Jesus paid for our salvation. On that Friday so long ago, Jesus who was without sin, took on our sins and gave His life for us. Today I stand remembering my personal encounter with Jesus.
I was sinking deep in sin,
Far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within,
Sinking to rise no more;
But the Master of the sea
Heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me,
Now safe am I.
Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help,
Love lifted me.
God is still speaking …Amen God Bless you.