There was a time when for children there time at kindergarten gave pupils their first taste of learning. In these institutions a teacher could give to children gifts that they would use every day of their lives. There is a story of one teacher who taught a child to read. That teacher "loved" her pupils into learning and taught them the joy of schooling. In a way, though, she taught them too well. Their attachment to her left them terribly fearful of going to the next level – to school. Imagine their surprise and chagrin to be called by the school system to move on to another level. Many panicked when they realised this person would not be their teacher forever and that they would have to move up.
Of course, she and the pupils' parents reassured them and the students were promoted to the next level. It all worked out. The experience, though, gives us a tiny glimmer of understanding, a sense of what Jeremiah felt as a young man when he was called by the Lord to be a prophet to the nations in this week’s reading from the first chapter of Jeremiah. Imagine poor Jeremiah - minding his own business, when suddenly God barged into his life - when he heard God's call to him. Jeremiah heard God calling him to be his prophet, to speak his word to the people. And he was not called to be just any old prophet. No, God would set him "over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant."
The Prophet Jeremiah from the Hebrew Scriptures resisted. He was reluctant to obey this call. , However, God wouldn't take a simple, "No," or any kind of "No." So God and Jeremiah engaged in a little dialogue. God said, "I picked you out - even before you were born - I chose you to be my prophet." Jeremiah replied, "O, no, I don't even know how to speak. I am only a youth." God came back and said; "Don't say that. For to all to whom I send you, you shall go, and whatever I command you shall speak." Jeremiah pleaded out of fear but God assured him.
This dialogue was critical for Jeremiah's decision, in a way similar to that of many other leaders of the Old Testament. Perhaps we should pause to wonder why God has continually chosen the most unwilling characters to do God's will. Why would God have enlisted so young and inexperienced a person as Jeremiah for so immense a task? The obvious answer is that our God calls people for qualities other than gifted speech. We can be certain that Jeremiah's success rested, not within himself, but on God. This is what God promised this very reluctant prophet. We see that all the power and success of Jeremiah's life resulted from this new relationship with God.
You know, God would love Jeremiah as no other would love Jeremiah. That's not the end though and we Christians don't get off lightly and don't get comfort just learning about God's dialogue with Jeremiah. The blowing of God's spirit amongst us moves in our day as well. So we might ask, "Are we, too, called by God as Jeremiah was called?" Often we must confess our reluctance to heed God's call. We can always find a reason not to continue the journey of faith and commitment to which we feel God calling us:
I'm too old or too young.
I don't speak well or know enough.
I'm too busy.
I can't do that.
It must not really be God calling.
I can serve, but not now, maybe later.
However, if we are willing to engage in a dialogue with God, we might see something else. We are called to look beyond and continue to dialogue with God. This will allow God's spirit into our lives. We are all called into a relationship with God that is challenging. It is we who choose to accept or not accept this call. God tells us, that he will be with us, sustain us, and love us as no other does. We can rest assured of God's support and guidance and strength to sustain us in the task.
Some of us respond eagerly and some will be reluctant, like Jeremiah. But, if we engage in dialogue with God, we can learn to respond positively. We too, are assured that the God who calls us remains forever with us. The living God continually speaks to us, through many forms and media. God speaks to us at unexpected moments: through the created world around us; through the hands and voices of other people; and even in the silences of trials and unanswered prayers.
The God who has called us is always with us, speaking, if we will listen and, if we will accept it. God, who is always there for us, will give us love and support and nourishment, with the same grace that inspired Jeremiah. Despite any hesitations and uncertainties that may attack us, we can learn from Jeremiah's dialogue with God to be as steadfast as this prophet was in discovering God's call and in heeding it.