In my sermon this morning, I suggested that, when Jeremiah heard God’s call to be a prophet, he attempted to duck the call.

God told Jeremiah that he had been

appointed… a prophet to the nations. (Jeremiah 1:5)

Jeremiah did not respond with immediate enthusiasm.

To be fair to Jeremiah, he was being called to a pretty thankless task. Things were not going well for the people of Judah. Time was running out on their wounded little kingdom. It would not be long before the troops of Nebuchadnezzar would cross the border into Judah and carry 5,000 more Jews from Jerusalem to join those already exiled in Babylon.

The people of Judah cast around seeking various wild, improbable solutions. Jeremiah’s job was to tell them their solutions would not work. His message would be that, instead of trying to fix things, they should search their own hearts to understand why this terrible fate had befallen them. They should trust in God and resist the temptation to chase after futile human strategies. It was not going to be a popular message. He knew he would not be well-received and that the truth he would have to speak could only bring pain into his life.

So, Jeremiah took the only sensible option and tried to decline the privilege of becoming God’s prophet:

Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy. (Jeremiah 1:5)

I’m not qualified. I lack the necessary skills. This is too hard for me.

But, lack of qualifications and youth were not the real problem.

In response to Jeremiah’s attempt avoid God’s call, the Lord speaks to him saying,

Do not say, ‘I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them… (Jeremiah 1:8)

The real reason Jeremiah did not want to become God’s prophet is that Jeremiah was afraid.

The voice of fear seems to be raised everywhere in our public discourse today.

Jeremiah’s world was running wildly out of control. There was a great deal to fear in Jeremiah’s day.

But, even in the face of the danger facing Judah and the difficult truth Jeremiah had to speak, God called Jeremiah, not to be afraid, but to exercise trust in the goodness of God’s abiding presence,

‘for I am with you to deliver you,’ says the Lord. (Jeremiah 1:8)

Even when the enemy is demonstrably and visibly at the gate, fear is never the best place from which to develop a response.

We make better choices when we start from a strong, steady place of trust. We make more life-giving public policy for the greater good of all people when we start with a heart that is open, gentle, and confident in the fundamental goodness of all life and of all people. We live with greater wisdom and truth when we root ourselves in the beauty and mystery of that divine presence who can be discerned even in the midst of frightening circumstances.

At the end of 1941, the hordes had already cross the border into Austria and the Nazis were wrecking havoc in Austrian society. Thirty-four-year-old Franz Jägerstätter had been called to take his basic training in the Wehrmacht. During this training, it became clear to Franz that he could never serve as part of the Nazi military machine. He knew his refusal to support what he saw as a clearly “unjust war” would cost him his life, and yet he wrote to his mother,

I ask you, dear mother, not to be concerned about me. I believe that things will not go badly for your son in the future. When someone has nothing to fear, then things cannot go badly. Many of our soldiers here are very [spiritually] poor. They would perhaps still go to church but have this harmful human fear. As a result, they do not know how they should begin a Sunday.

Franz refused to allow his choice to be dictated by fear. He knew in whom he trusted and believed this trust would not let him down. Jägerstätter died in this confidence; we might find the world a more harmonious place if we were to live more consistently with such faith.

 

 

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