Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sermon for Jan 31, 2010, Jeremiah 1:4-10

Rev. George N. Miller
Jeremiah 1:4-10
Jan 31, 2010
Time. A difficult concept to fully grasp. What is it, this invisible idea that doesn’t really exist except as a human construct?
You can’t see it You can’t store it. You can’t control it. Time, if it does exist at all, simply moves on, ever forward, ever ahead. This is called chronos time, or human time.
If you’re not careful, chronos time can dominate your life. As a former New Yorker, time was of the essence. There was a specific time in which the train left, which meant a specific time you had to get to the station, leave the house, and wake up.
For my father, who worked as a City cop, that meant waking up at 4:30 a.m. to catch the 6 a.m. train to make it to his precinct. Then getting off work at 4 to catch the 4:30 train to be home by 6 p.m. And do it all again the next day and the next.
When you are raised in a house in which life is based around such a schedule, everything else becomes schedule-based and time-fixated. For example, we knew days in advance what film we were going to see, and when it was showing. We left for church 45 minutes before service began to get the best seat.
Rush rush rush, move move move, plan ahead plan ahead plan ahead. Exhausting.
So it was refreshing to move to the Midwest and the Midsouth where time took on a different element. Life in Minnesota and Missouri wasn’t such much about when you’re going to get there, but who’ll you’ll be hanging out with while doing whatever it is you’re doing.
With no hyper mass transit, time was allowed to unfold in a more organic way. Sit. Relax. Have a cup of coffee, black. Enjoy a cookie, sugar Share a story. Play in the snow. Walk in the park.
The only time that truly mattered was time spent with family and friends.
I liked learning that. The chance to slow down. Enjoy. Not rush or force. But be.
I have grown to have an affinity for what’s known as Kyros time, or God’s time. Kyros time, I would like to think, is much more relaxed then chronos time. It’s the idea that things will unfold as they unfold, they can not be rushed, they can not be prompted.
Kyros time is a way of saying, relax, chill, God’s an "on time God" who may not act when you want, but God will always arrive on time.
Kyros time allows and invites the miraculous and unexpected. Back against the Red Sea? Guess what: God is parting it right now. Your brother Lazarus just died? Hold on, Jesus will be there in three days to raise him from the grave.
Kyros time can also expect us to wait. Your candle is burning out, Look! Here comes the Bridegroom. You don’t have any children Abraham and Sarah? Well just wait a few decades and you will have a beautiful boy who will bless the nations.
But then, but then there is the Kyros time in which there’s no waiting involved, but happens NOW!
Moses: free my people! Mary: carry the Christ-child. Gideon: lead the army.
Kyros time can let you luxuriously sail along, can make you wait until you think you will break, or will drop upon you in an instant, demanding you to change your life and the view of yourself in a heartbeat.
Case in point is Jeremiah. Here we have the prophet to be, a young boy, the son of a priest at a time in history in which everything is about to fall apart. Scholars suggest that he’s only 13 yrs old.
God comes to the teenage Jeremiah saying "Before I created you I knew you. Before you were born I set you aside to do my will. You are a prophet to all the world."
Dang. That’s a tall order for anyone to hear. Little Jerry speaks up "Ah, ummmm...listen God. Me don’t talk so good, I’m just a lil’ tater-tot."
But God is not easily dismayed. "Don’t sell yourself short. I don’t care how old you are. Don’t be afraid: you can do this because I will send you to whom you need to be sent and I will tell you what words to say."
God touches Jeremiah’s mouth and says "NOW. Now I have put my words in your mouth, I appoint you over the nations to overthrow and build up."
That’s a huge assignment to give such a young person, especially one so unsure of himself. And it’s not as assignment to be completed in the next year or next decade.
It is to be done NOW. Not tomorrow, not next week. Not after joining the debate club or taking a class on elocution.
But NOW. As in this moment, with the skills and talents you got.
Yes sir, God’s time can be just like that.
And when it happens, it takes courage to step up and say "Here I am Lord."
Even though it’s not always easy. As Jeremiah, Moses, Mary, Gideon, and most certainly Jesus would discover.
But why does God do it? Why call upon someone so young, so inexperienced to do such work?
Why call upon someone who’s not even seeking the call?
Weren’t there learned scholars? Weren’t there experienced orators? Weren’t there political activists looking for the right cause to support?
Of course there were. But if God had called them, wouldn’t people have been listening more to the messenger then the message?
No, God calls teenage Jeremiah, and God calls him for NOW. There was a task that needed to be done, a task to be accomplished.
God didn’t wait for Jeremiah to be transformed to do the task, but allowed the task at hand to do the transformation. And therein lies the power of NOW.
Who knows exactly why God chose Jeremiah. It is an initiative that God has the right to, based on God’s free will and grace. It is God choosing the one who others may think is undeserving. It is God choosing the lowly to accomplish God’s will, not those seeking the fame and glory.
Perhaps it is also God choosing those who will at first refuse, because only a megalomaniac would accept such a responsibility at first thought.
Or perhaps God knows that if the inexperienced and undervalued are the one’s doing Gods work, then it’s more likely God who will get the glory.
And to ensure the inexperience has not been ruined by perfectionism, the time becomes NOW.
NOW to do Gods work, NOW to answer the call.
That sense of calling the unexpected, complete with that sense of urgency happens various places in the Bible. In Exodus God calls Moses to deliver the slaves. Moses hems and haws, coming up with reasons why not, inferring that he can’t speak properly.
Patiently God hears their arguments, but by 4:10 when Moses says "I’ve never been eloquent, not in the past, not now" God cuts him off and says "Who do you think gave people words and allows others to hear those words? NOW go and I will teach you what to say."
God ain’t interested in what Moses couldn’t do in the past. God’s interested in what he can do through and with Moses NOW.
If you want to talk about the lowly being made high, look at Jesus and the way Matthew tells the story. The word NOW pops up all over the place. Jesus goes to be baptized by John, but when John tries to back out of it, Jesus says "Let it be so NOW."
In chapter 4 Jesus doesn’t wait until things are perfect to begin his ministry, but when things don’t look so good. "Now," Matthew tells us, "when Jesus heard that John had been arrested he withdrew to Galilee...from that time (he) began to proclaim ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven has come near.’" (Matthew 4:12, 17). In other words "The Kingdom of God is NOW."
The feeding of the 5,000 take place after a NOW moment, and the promise of resurrected Christ begins by telling us that "now the eleven disciples went to Galilee" and ends with a promise from Christ "I am with you always, to the end of the age."
In other words, "I am with you NOW."
NOW. The only time that truly matters. The only time we truly have. The past is over and gone, the future is ye to happen and never promised. What is promised is Christ’s presence in the NOW and that NOW is always.
God calls, and I believe God calls everyone to do various things that only we can do. But God does not always wait until we are at our most prepared or best equipped, nor does God call us to do the things we think we’re the best at.
But God does call. Sometimes it is through that still small voice we hear when we try to sleep. Or God calls through that burning bush that catches our attention. Or God calls when someone with the Christ in them approaches us to do a task for the Kingdom’s glory.
And our human nature often makes us say "Who? Me? No, not yet. I don’t have the talents, I don’t have the gifts, I don’t have the proper training, I didn’t have the right voice, I’m too shy, I never gave it any thought, I’m the least of the least of these."
But perhaps, if we recall the Call of Jeremiah, if we hold onto the calls of folk like Moses and Mary, if we hold onto the Gospel message that delights in taking place in the NOW as opposed to the later, we can each find our own way to say "Yes Lord. Here I am Lord. NOW"
Because when we do we receive the promise that God will be right by our side, God will be our strength, and though the times may be tough, there will be joy in the process.
And in answering the call to NOW with a "NOW it is" we can glory in knowing that we have been consecrated by God and part of a process that has torn down the ways of chronos old to bring forth birth of the Kyros new.
All thanks and honor be to the Spirit that moves where it may, the Son who walks with us in our NOW and for God who is able all constructs humans have placed on time.
Amen and amen.

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