Lectionary Passage: Jeremiah 1: 4-10
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 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.”
This account of the calling of Jeremiah includes the things that so many call stories do (including, probably, most of ours). They include a calling from God, a promise that God will help and support and walk with the one that God has seen fit to call. Then it includes an argument. “No, no, no, not me. I have my life all planned out. This cannot be happening. In fact, this is really going to mess up my plans.” But, finally, it includes a response. In Jeremiah’s case, God puts the words in his mouth, promising him that he would know what to say and when to say it. And from that time on, Jeremiah is single-minded in what he is called to do. But the problem is that the words that Jeremiah was called to say were not what people planned on hearing. In fact, Jeremiah’s message didn’t resonate at all with the society to which he was appointed to serve. He wasn’t called to tell them how great they were doing; instead, he was called to pluck up, pull down, destroy, and overthrow. And then, and only then, is he called to build and plant. What is that about? This plucking and pulling and destroying and overthrowing doesn’t sound like God’s work. In fact, it just sounds like out and out chaos.
So did you forget? Did you forget what God does with chaos? Read Genesis 1. God took chaos and created order. And, as I recall, it turned out pretty well. And yet, we often forget that. We would much rather God take the plans that we’ve conjured up for our lives and have God just continue them. But sometimes we have to pluck and pull and even destroy and overthrow. Sometimes, we just need to start again with a new plan. But change is hard. Change is scary. Walking that tightrope can tip us into opportunity or crisis at any turn. So how do we prepare for that?
Maybe we don’t. Maybe preparation comes not in the form of plans but rather a sort of clearing of our minds and our souls so that God can fill us. Maybe preparing for change, preparing for what God is going to do in our lives, has to involve plucking and pulling and destroying. Maybe deep in that chaos is a certain holiness, a newness that has just begun to emerge from its womb. And God, rather than stamping some sort of holy approval on our comfortable and complacent existence, calls us into a new way of being. God is always recasting the vision for our lives, always pushing us out of our comfort zones, and always birthing us into newness.
But God reminded Jeremiah that even in that womb, he was not alone. God is there in our transformation. But we can’t stay there. God has too much in store for us. So, all through our lifetime, as we emerge from womb to womb, God is birthing us closer and closer to the life that God has created just for us. Maybe we’re not called so much to plan our lives but rather to emerge.
Grace and Peace,