Monday, August 26, 2019


The 7thCentury BC was a nervous time for Jews.
The sinister Assyrian Empire had devoured 
         10 of the 12 tribes
and was eyeing the last two like a ripe Palisade peach.
If Judea had been Colorado, 
         Jerusalem  would have been Denver,
          and the City of Anathoth would have been Broomfield.
Jeremiah lived in Anathoth, the Broomfield of his day.
That’s where the word of the Lord came to him
         making him a prophet.

But Jeremiah said, Sorry, God,I’m not up to that.
         I’m just a youngster.
         Public speaking isn’t my gift or talent.
God sighed. He’d had the same talk with Moses, 
         then with Isaiah.
So, God, said to Jeremiah, 
          as he’d said to Moses and Isaiah before him,
         You can do this, and I’ll tell you why.
         I’ve got your back and I am God. 

Jeremiah was understandably daunted by the task.
It proved at least as hard as he’d imagined.
But with God’s help he did it 
and we are blessed by his life and witness even today.

Life can be daunting for most of us in various ways.
When we are kids we have parents and peers to deal with.
When we are parents we have kids 
            and each other to deal with.
Then come the arduous challenges of old age.
As the folk song goes, Life is a hard road to travel, I believe.

Sometimes we may be afraid we don’t have what it takes
         to do what needs doing.
But God has given each of us a life to live
         and what God said to Jeremiah, God says to us:
You can do this, and I’ll tell you why.
         I’ve got your back and I am God.

Maybe you’re thinking,
          But Jeremiah had a word of God to share.
         No wonder God was with him.
         I don’t have a word of God.

But, you do. God as my witness, you do.
You are the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
One of the greatest 20thCentury Catholic theologians, 
          Karl Rahner, said,
         Each of us is a unique, irreplaceable word of God.

You are an expression of God.
Your life is a story God wants told and only you can tell it.
You have a gospel in you – same as Jeremiah.

As individuals and as a congregation,
         you are a unique, irreplaceable word
         that God wants spoken.
So are you up to it? Have you got it in you?
Sermon thesis right here: Whatever God calls us to do,
         God gives us what it takes to do it. //

Like Jeremiah’s era, this is a scary time for the world outside.
As William Butler Yeats said of his day:
         Things fall apart; the center cannot hold. . . .
         The blood dimmed tide is loosed. . . .
         The best lack all conviction
                  while the worst are full of passionate intensity.

Today, as in Jeremiah’s time,
the world needs people with the chutzpah 
to speak for God.
The world needs the Church to be the Church,
         to speak a word of grace and mercy right out loud
         without apology or equivocation. 

Flash forward from Jeremiah 6 centuries. It’s 30 A.D. --
another nervous time. 
The Roman boot was on Judea’s neck.
Rebels plotted insurrection that could only lead 
       to bloody repression.
Jesus was in the synagogue teaching.
Outside the doorway he saw a woman.
She was outside because women were not allowed inside.
Their social norms told women every day in every way
         they were disempowered, subservient, less than.
You could see it in this woman’s body.
She was bent over like an upside down L 
              by a spirit of infirmity.
New Testament scholar Walter Wink translated it, 
              a spirit of weakness.

Jesus saw her standing where she belonged – outside –
         in the posture suited to her status – bent over –
         and he summoned her to come in to him.
He called her into the place she was not allowed to be.
Then he said,
         Woman, you are set free. Stand up straight.
She stood up straight and, in the middle of the synagogue,
         she lifted her hands and praised God.
She performed a religious act permitted to men alone. 

The men there were not pleased.
They grumbled that Jesus was breaking the rules.
But that woman never bent over again. 
She walked upright with dignity all the days of her life.

God made us to stand up straight, 
         to speak the truth in our hearts,      
         bearing his radiant image into the world’s darkness.
For the good of all creation,
God needs each of us to live our lives 
calmly, confidently, with all gentleness, 
integrity, and strength.

Some mornings, looming challenges 
may make it hard to get out of bed.
But God needs you to show up for your life,
to be your true self, faithfully and persistently.

Just so, God needs this congregation to be itself, 
         the Body of Christ,
         to speak God’s word in Broomfield 
          as Jeremiah did in Anathoth.
God didn’t just give Jeremiah a nice, 
           consoling spiritual experience. 
God made him a prophet to the nations.
That means the outsiders.
Just so, God has blessed Holy Comforter with a mission
         to people outside your walls,
         a mission you have already undertaken 
          faithfully in love.

The world out there needs this congregation 
         to be Holy Comforter
         just as the world needs each of you to be yourself
 and the child we baptize today to be herself.
The world today needs the Church to stand up straight,
         to go places society says we are not allowed to go,  
         to say what the world would not allow us to say,
         and to praise God right out loud
                  in the midst of all the cynicism and despair,     
                  all the fear and loathing and mutual contempt
                  that are au courant in the secular world. 

Does that sound like a lot?
Do you wonder if you’re up to it?
It is a lot. It is a supersized lot. But God says,
You can do this, and I’ll tell you why:
I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand
Upheld by my righteous omnipotent hand.
Or to say it straight out:
         I’ve got your back and I am God.