First Presbyterian Church

of Hemet
Responding to the Word 
Jeremiah 1:4-10, Luke 4:21-31 
January 31, 2016 
Pastor Sylvia Karcher 
 
We want to listen to God’s Word; we want to respond by saying “yes”, and by doing what God wants of us. But what if God’s Word makes us uncomfortable? Or what if it asks us to do something difficult? What if it challenges us?  
 
Today I want to give you two short sermons. For the first one I’m going to ask you to imagine what it might have been like for a young girl in Nazareth on the day Jesus came back to town.  
My name is Tabitha. I was in Nazareth the day Jesus came back and preached in our synagogue. I only 13 at the time, but I was old enough to understand what was going on. At the time I got as angry as everyone else.  
 
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me begin at the beginning. My father Jonah kept a small inn in Nazareth. We didn’t have many guests—a few travellers on their way to Jerusalem, or people who came for a wedding or funeral, things like that. Father made barely enough money to feed us all. 
 
Then came the word that Jesus was coming back to town. Of course we all knew Jesus. He was a kind person. He always greeted me with a smile. While he was still working as a carpenter, he’d sometimes make toys for us children in his spare time. And he was coming home as a hero. People all over Galilee were talking about how wonderful he was.  
 
So at dinner that night father was really excited. “Just think, Joanna,” he said to my mother. “If things keep on like this, people will flock to our town! Our inn will be bursting at the seams. And not just us—it’ll be good for the whole village. And if we could just persuade Jesus to stay here, our fortune will be made.” 
 
Well, as you know already, that Sabbath morning started out well. We were all listening intently as he read the scripture and started his sermon. But then he said, “You’ll say ‘Physician heal yourself.’ Do for us what you’ve done in other places.” It was as if he’d read father’s mind. Father had been thinking. Jesus is a part of our village—a part of us. Helping us would be like helping himself. He’ll surely do powerful miracles here, to help us out. 
 
Well, of course that’s what we wanted. But then went on to remind us that our other prophets—Elijah and Elisha hadn’t healed Jews—they’d healed foreigners! It was like he was sitting there saying he wasn’t going to help us—that he might even help out Gentiles, maybe even the hated Romans.  
 
Right then I felt almost as angry as everyone else. How could he say those things? How could he turn his back on his neighbors? Still, when they all rushed forward and grabbed him and took him out of the temple, I couldn’t help feeling a little frightened. I was at the back of the crowd, so I didn’t actually see them take him to the brow of the hill. I did hear afterward that he’d somehow escaped and gone his way.  
 
 
It was years later, after his death and resurrection, that I became a Christian. I finally came to understand what he was trying to tell us that day. You see, he knew our hearts. He knew we wanted, let’s be honest, we wanted to use him for our own purposes. We weren’t interested in learning about God’s will or God’s kingdom. So his word to us was hard to listen to. He was reminding us that our God isn’t a tame God who will do what we want. He was trying to teach us that God’s ways are surprising and would lead us out of our narrow ways of thinking. He was challenging us to widen our hearts beyond caring about what was good for Nazareth, or what was good for Galilee or Judea—to caring about healing and helping the whole world. 
 
Centuries ago the Word of God came to our king through the prophet Nathan. David had done a very bad thing, and Nathan told him a story about a man who’d taken a families pet lamb and killed it for a feast. David got angry and said the man should be punished. “You are the man,” Nathan said, “you’re the one who did a bad thing.” David didn’t get angry and try to kill Nathan. David repented. That’s what we should have done that day in Nazareth. That’s what we should always do when God’s Word comes to show us we’re wrong and we need to change. 
 
As I begin my second sermon, I want to tell you that this is a very special day. Today we welcome three people into our church family, and today we install a deacon and three elders. In other words, this is a day when we celebrate people who have answered God’s call—people who have responded positively to God’s Word when it came to them. 
 
The Jeremiah passage is very relevant to what we’re doing this morning, isn’t it? 
 
Jeremiah’s father is a priest. So are his uncles. So was his grandfather. Jeremiah expects to become a priest too—to wear fine robes work in the temple and be admired by everybody. But God has other plans. God says, “Before you were born I chose you for this, Jeremiah. You are to be a prophet. This is what were born for.” A prophet? Prophets don’t work in the temple. They wander around giving people messages from God—messages people often didn’t like to hear.  
God has chosen Michelle and Jim, and Logan and has placed them here to serve with us as God’s disciples. God has chosen our deacon Jerry, and our elders Susan, Bob and Patrick for particular service in this church, in this time and place. And God has chosen each one of you. As the old preachers say, “We were made on purpose for a purpose.” Not only that, God has chosen this church to serve in this time and this place. 
 
But, like some of us, Jeremiah has his excuses ready—really good excuses too. “I’m not good at public speaking, God. Besides I’m too young. I can’t possibly be a prophet.” Now we don’t know how old Jeremiah was, but he said he was just a child. Perhaps he was only a few years older that you, Logan. 
 
But God is ready with the answers. “Don’t say you’re too young. That doesn’t matter. You’re going to do what I tell you to do.” Next God says, “Don’t be afraid.” God knows what is in Jeremiah’s heart, even though he hasn’t expressed it. God knows Jeremiah not only feels inadequate; he is afraid. Why isn’t he to fear? “Because I will rescue you, ” God says.  
Now on the one hand this is bad news. Jeremiah is going to need to be rescued. Jeremiah is going to be in danger. On the other hand, this is very good news. God is going to be there for Jeremiah. God will act to save him. 
And right then, God touches Jeremiah’s mouth, giving him the words to speak—empowering him for the task ahead.  
 
Pastor Mike Glenn reminds us that sometimes God calls us to just those tasks that use our gifts. He says,  
 
God knew, long before we did, the kind of mess the world would be in when we got to that moment. For that reason, He has created us in a certain way, gifted us with particular attributes and characteristics in order to serve His kingdom and our world with the greatest effectiveness. Pastor Mike Glenn The Truett Pulpit for January 31 (online) 
 
At other times, as someone said at our Deacon/Elder Retreat, God calls us to step out of our comfort zone and try something new. Like Jeremiah We may be given a task we need to grow into. 
 
In either case most important thing is that it is God acting in our lives. Just as God gave Jeremiah the words and rescued him, God prepares us, God equips us, God accompanies, protects us as we do our work for him. We don’t have to rely on our own strength; we can rely on God.  
 
We’re all called, but we may need to discern the particular tasks God has for us. Some of you know the tasks God is calling you to; some are still listening for God to make it clear. Some hear many voices claiming your attention and are trying prayerfully to discern which is God’s voice. Don’t fret; God will make it clear. 
 
The word of God comes to us, saying, “Open your heart wider.” The word of God comes to us, saying, “You were made to be my disciples, to follow me.” How will we respond?