As I sit with this remarkable piece from Jeremiah this week, I cannot help but wonder who among us hasn’t thought about ‘call’ lately.
- Maybe you, like I, have more frequently wondered of late what God could possibly have been thinking when this call was first placed on your heart.
- Or perhaps you have wondered if you misheard.
- Or maybe you are even now beginning to hear God’s voice in new ways… calling you deeper or into new places and ways of being altogether.
Indeed, since many of you who open this blog every week are clergy or church workers, this may especially hit home and since I am among you, this is the shared perspective I bring, both as I listen to the stirrings of my own heart and as I hear what is happening among so many colleagues now.
- Whether you count yourself among those who have served in this particular way or this type of setting for decades or you have just begun.
- Whether you have been in the same place for ten years or ten months, the questions loom large, don’t they?
- Oh, who among us hasn’t resonated with Jeremiah in his very clear protest when he first heard God had something else in mind for him as he cried out:
“Ah, Lord, God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”
In fact, I can’t think of anyone who hasn’t lately landed deep and hard in a place where we have wanted to tell God that what is before us may just be too difficult, too challenging, too much out of reach for us to handle.
Not unlike Jeremiah.
I know I felt that way early on when first we ‘shut down,’ quickly changing how we went about most everything, even before I knew how this time would take shape two years on.
I know some days I sense it still as the pandemic continues to wage battle against us, stirring up factions among us even now.
- For how many, many times, over these last two years, have you had to summon the voice of the prophet within you to speak words others did not want to hear as you consistently urged, encouraged, and sometimes even cajoled others to do what seemed right and best to simply try to keep one another safe?
- And how many times have you found yourself as discouraged as Jeremiah did so many times when after hearing and responding to God’s urgent call to speak in God’s behalf, he met with opposition from others and perhaps even within himself so that even he must have yearned for a life not so difficult as the one he followed when he heeded that call when he was young?
So, I imagine this is so that this bit of Jeremiah’s story where he hears God’s voice and argues back is offered here at the beginning of all which would follow for a reason. And not only to give necessary background, ‘setting the ‘story up,’ but because Jeremiah, throughout his life, no doubt returned to this experience of clearly hearing God’s voice at the start again and again. Especially when the challenges facing him within and without seemed overwhelming:
- This certain truth that God had known him from before the beginning of all that Jeremiah could ever possibly remember.
- And that from before that beginning, God had set Jeremiah apart for work which would matter, which the people of Israel and all of us who come after would turn to again and again.
- And that this call did not, would not ever begin and end with Jeremiah, but that the prophet would be about God’s very work — simply speaking the words he would be given to speak.
- And that when it got hard (and it surely did), God would be there.
God would be there.
So, this is how it was for me last week.
As I sat alone in the quiet one morning, I did what another’s devotional guide suggested for me. The invitation was to experience a sense of God’s great love and to do so the urging was to simply recall the images of all the people who have loved you and to hold them in your mind’s eye for just a moment one by one by one. (You can read Judy Cannato’s powerful guide here at the end of one of Richard Rohr’s daily offerings in Trinity: Weekly Summary.)
- As I did this, I was overwhelmed by the countless ones who came to mind, some of whom still walk alongside and many of whom have long since gone ahead of us.
- As I did this, I was overcome by both grief and gratitude for in their remembered voices and beautiful faces, I also held close their consistent, loving encouragement.
- More than this even, I was struck by how so many of them have been those who have lifted me and lifted me again over these many years as I have sought to listen to and respond to the voice of God.
And I knew.
I knew that they have been and continue to be powerfully living reminders of a love so much greater:
This truth that God has held us in love from before we were born.
For as God did for Jeremiah, so God does for you, too.
And oh, this seems especially important now as we continue to discern next steps on our way forward, sorting out the meaning of God’s call for us in behalf of a world where so much remains unknown.
- Indeed, it seems to me that sometimes, now, with Jeremiah, we simply need to go back to before even the beginning of what we can possibly in order to hear again God’s urgent invitation clearly.
- Sometimes, often, we do well to pause along the way to recall the ways in which God’s guiding, protective, uplifting presence has been made known. (As was so for me in a few quiet moments spent remembering the abundance of love which has always held me.)
- Often now in such a time as this which is like no other many of us have known, we would do well to hear Jeremiah’s call as our own. For God extends not only the call, but also promises to accompany us as we seek to follow.
I know from having walked alongside you that these are challenging times.
Today I am especially leaning into the promise that as God called Jeremiah and God never left him, so also God calls you and never, ever leaves you.
May the promises spoken to the prophet ring true for you now and in the days and weeks to come as you seek to follow that call into all that we cannot yet know.
“Do not say I am only… for you shall go to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. do not be afraid, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord…”
- How is it with you now? How has your sense of call shifted and changed as a result of the significant challenge of this time? Or has it?
- What would it mean for you to remember you are ‘held in great love’ — the sort of Love which has been yours since before you were born? Can you begin to say what a difference that makes?
- I write this week from the perspective of a pastor. However, the ‘call’ extended to Jeremiah is not reserved only for professional church workers. If you are called into the world in a different way, how do these precious promises ring true for you?