Should I rehearse with human voice
the words which angels make their choice,
devoid of love, my song resounds,
magnificent but empty.
In love is patience always found,
for love kind hearts make common ground,
from love, conceit and pride take flight
and jealousy is banished.
Love keeps no score of what's gone wrong
nor sings a pessimistic song
nor lets regret or guilt prolong,
for love expects tomorrow.
Paraphrase by John Bell; copyright 1988 Iona Community, Scotland.
4Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, 5"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations." 6Then I said, "Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy." 7But the Lord said to me, "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, 8Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord."
9Then the Lord put out his hand and touched [strike, jolt, shock: not gentle] my mouth; and the Lord said to me, "Now I have put my words in your mouth. 10See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant."
The church's year of grace is in a fairly short segment of green and growing Ordinary Time as we count Sundays after the feast of the Epiphany. After the Festival of Pentecost, we'll be in Ordinary Time again, with a six month long Season of the Spirit, Time of the Church. Ordinary refers to structured, organized, patterned, arranged: "in order." With an emphasis on Jesus as light of the world and redeemer of all creation, Epiphany focuses on God's self-revelation from many angles.
Today's first reading is a biblical call story—this time it's the prophet Jeremiah. Section title could be "God Calls Jeremiah," and throughout this passage God is the main actor. Remember the calls of Moses, of Isaiah, of Jesus' mother Mary? Jesus' earthly father Joseph? Ezekiel, Amos, Hosea? Jesus calling his original followers? Narratives of the gift of the Holy Spirit to individuals and communities? As the main agent behind every call, the Holy Spirit or Paraclete – called-alongside One – enables us to hear, act upon, and fulfill God's callings. Like many throughout the centuries, Jeremiah feels less than adequate because he doesn't believe he can speak well, because he doesn't feel old or mature enough. But God has known, consecrated, and appointed Jeremiah; God will send, instruct, and be with Jeremiah.
Call and Response
Like Jesus' call narratives, the story of Jeremiah's call or vocation (same word from different languages) fits our lives well. We sometimes think of calling or vocation as a profession, job, or series of different more or less major work opportunities. People often feel strongly "called to" direct service professions like pastor, teacher, and nurse, though anyone assessing their interests, talents, and opportunities and putting the pieces together has discerned a call from God.
Those big ones are important, but God calls, sends, and enables everyone to hundreds of smaller jobs, ministries, or acts of service. Locally for our families, in our communities, in or on behalf of the church, in the workplace besides our main employment there. God sometimes calls and directs us to locations and work we hadn't dreamt of. Have you ever felt "this had to be a God thing, because I wouldn't and couldn't have thought of it?" Just as God did for Jeremiah, God leads us to every mega or micro opportunity, ministry, or task (all the same thing), enables us to do it, and stays with us through it. Like Jeremiah, we sometimes feel unqualified…
The season of Epiphany focuses on God's revelation from many perspectives. The Epiphany symbol of light feels highly appropriate in terms of God revealing continued or new involvements to us.
This Week's Questions
• Do you feel the endless pandemic has opened even more doors for meaningful service than it has closed off? Or maybe not?
• Can you think of an especially surprising time God has called you into a particular situation?
• Has God ever called you to a volunteer setting or maybe paid employment you initially felt unqualified for, but when you assessed your background you realized you'd fit the calling well, though maybe with some additional training?
• Have you every dived head first into something that intrigued you, but you had zero experience with? If so, did you sense a direct call from God or did you simply have a feeling it might be for you?