September 26, 2012
Dr. Norma Cook Everist
Being Disciples of Jesus is the theme for these chapel texts. And, of course I love these words of Jeremiah. We who are called to Wartburg to prepare to become and deepen our preparation as laity, deaconesses, associates in ministry, youth ministers, diaconal ministers, pastors, hear these words acutely. Jeremiah: "The word of the Lord came to me, 'Before I formed you in the womb I knew you and before you were born I consecrated you.'"
Appointed to be a prophet to the nations.
And Jeremiah's words: Ours? "I am only..."
And God's words: "Don't say 'only.'" Only a boy. Only a girl. Too young. Too old. Too inarticulate. Too inexperienced. Too... Only...
"For you shall go to all to whom I send you. And speak whatever I command you.
"Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you," says the Lord.
Let's just stop there. But, too late. We have already heard the John 8 text. Frankly it troubles me when preachers begin by saying, "How come I got this text to preach on?" "This is a hard text." Because, you see, it is a hard world in which we are called proclaim, especially when God says, "I have put my words in your mouth." Blessed are we with challenging texts, because the faith communities in which we are called to minister are challenging and the world in which we are called to be disciples is difficult.
Jesus' words in John 8:
"You will die in your sins
Where I am going you cannot come (Is he going to kill himself?)
You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world. I am not of this world.
Why do I speak to you at all? I have much to say about you and much to condemn."
All in the context of Jesus foretelling his death. And why that? Because people were trying to kill him. And why that? Because of his astonishing teaching, and his bold healing of people who were blind or lame and saying he had been sent and saying, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me," and, "I am the light of the world," sounding like he was the promised Messiah.
But they listened, and heard him say I don't do these things on my own. Jesus didn't have a Messiah complex. He was the Messiah. And as Jesus was saying these things, many believed in him.
Then, "If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth and the truth will make you free."
Among the verses in the Bible lifted out of context, this is surely one of those done the most often."
You will know the truth, about sex, about reverse home mortgages, about miracle drugs, about tax loopholes. About none of these!
"What do you by mean saying, 'You will be made free?' We're descendants of Abraham and have never been slaves to anyone."
And Jesus told them, and us, that we are slaves to sin and, "If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed." This is the truth that will make us free.
Good powerful words... I really want to end right there. I proclaim a Gospel of freedom in Jesus Christ. "Freedom from is freedom for mission and ministry of powerful servanthood."
But this section of scripture goes on for twenty more verses: issues of not believing, not trusting, or believing rather, "Abraham is our father..."
Jesus: "I am from God." Why would they not believe him? Why should they? Why should anyone ministering in the name of Christ be believed? I did not come on my own but God sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? (We might find ourselves saying those words.) Why should anyone believe you? Or me?
And it becomes worse. "You have a demon." "You aren't who you say you are." Prove it, but we still aren't going to believe it. (A young pastor recently told me some congregation members had said to him, "You aren't the pastor we thought you were going to be.") And Jesus was told, "You aren't old enough." What would he say to that: "Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am." Well, how do you think that went over?
God's words to Jeremiah: "Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you,"
John 8: "They picked up stones to throw at Jesus."
But Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
And as he walked along... outside the temple... he saw a man blind from birth...
HYMN 580 How Clear Is Our Vocation Lord