August 21, 2022——-11th Sunday after Pentecost——-Rev. Patrick Mecham
Jeremiah 1: 4-10; Luke 13: 10-17
Jesus was crazy about children. In a culture in which children were desired but not so much cherished and respected, Jesus showed a remarkable connection with kids, holding them up as models of Kingdom citizenship, and demonstrating that he considered them to be precious.
In today’s culture, I see the same dichotomy. We want kids, we say that they are important, then I see them being pushed into a premature sophistication. Just look at the clothes that are marketed to pre-teens, or the movies and music videos made for our youth. We even expect them to have “grown-up” attitudes while they are still just children! (I would prefer that we respect the richness of childhood and just let kids be kids.)
Obviously, we want children to mature—yes—and we also hope that adults would maintain something of the childlike. The Bible has plenty to say about the way God gifts children and uses them to accomplish God’s purposes. We used to sing a song with lyrics taken from Proverbs 20:11, “Even children make themselves known by their acts, by whether what they do is pure and right.” And I love how the Apostle Paul encourages his young assistant, Timothy: “Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.” In other words, Don’t let anyone look down on you, just because you are young.”
Our scriptures for today talk about God’s call to a youngster (Jeremiah), and the child-like interpretation of God’s commands. Let’s take a look—and bring along our own “inner child”!
A Prophet Is Called
God tells Jeremiah that, before he was formed in the womb, God already knew him and appointed him a prophet to the nations. God says, “Before you were born, I consecrated you.” (That means he was set aside for a special purpose.)
And Jeremiah’s response? First, he echoes Moses when he tried to get out of delivering God’s message to Pharaoh, “I do not know how to speak.” Then he throws up another objection, “I am only a boy.” God first addresses his concern about his youth. God says, “Do not say, ‘I am only a boy.’” Then he makes it clear: “You shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you.” Then he adds, “Do not be afraid; I am with you.”
Then Jeremiah tells us that the Lord touched his mouth with his hand, saying, “Now I have put my words in your mouth.”
Recap: God knew Jeremiah before he was knit together in the womb; God consecrated him to be a prophet; Jeremiah felt unworthy of the call; God promised to be with him and help him to do God’s work. And, Friends, God did amazing things through this young man!
I suspect that you may well have your favorite passage from Jeremiah. Mine comes from the time when Israel’s best and brightest have been hauled off into exile by the Babylonian conquerors. Jeremiah sent a letter to these exiles, a message from God to encourage them to trust that God sent them there, and that God wants them to prosper there. “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.” (A GREAT message for anyone who is wondering why God has let them suffer terrible experiences.)
Yes, God used Jeremiah in powerful ways to help God’s Chosen People get through an extremely tough period in their history. Even a youngster can be God’s powerful instrument!
Jesus Cures on the Sabbath
Now let’s take a look at our reading from Luke. Jesus is teaching on the Sabbath, using both WORDS and ACTIONS. A woman was there who had been crippled for 18 years—bent over so badly that she could not stand up straight. Knowing that God cares for his children, Jesus demonstrates the LOVE of God that supercedes the human interpretation of the Ten Commandments. He heals the woman.
Of course, the leader of the synagogue is upset, because he believes the LAW of Moses is being broken. Here is that law:
“Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your manservant or maidservant, nor your animals, nor the alien within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
By the time of Jesus, healing had come to be considered work, and therefore not allowed on the Sabbath. This is interesting! Who exactly did they think was DOING the healing? Is it not GOD who heals, while you and I simply foster a good environment for healing? Of course, it is God!
Jesus responds by saying, “Hypocrites! You care for your animals on the Sabbath. Should not this daughter of Abraham be set free from Satan’s bondage on the Sabbath day?!”
When she was healed, the woman stood up straight and began praising God–acknowledging that God is the healer.
The people in the synagogue were watching this exchange very carefully—knowing the law. And when Jesus put his opponents to shame, the crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things he was doing. In a few short minutes, they had been liberated from the bondage of the Pharisees.
You see, Jesus had already criticized the Pharisees for heaping burdens onto the people (legal requirements in which they had found “loopholes” for themselves!) These were sophisticated people who knew the letter of the law—how to get around it.
The common people at that synagogue saw God in action! They had a childlike faith, and they were being freed from the tyranny of Pharisaic legalism.
Even a Child
So, a very young prophet and a childlike people and children in general. Anyone who has ever taught children (and I mean school teachers, Sunday School teachers, parents, aunts, uncles, you get the idea…anyone who has ever taught children knows:
- Children see some things more clearly than adults do
- When we interact with them, they teach us!
So, it should come as no surprise when God says, “Do not say ‘I am just a child.’” God uses children and the childlike to do great things. God also says, “Do not say:
- I am too old
- I don’t have the training I need
- I don’t have any experience in this area
- Please, God, find someone else!”
The truth is, friends, God has already gifted you with precisely what you need to serve God’s purposes. Stepping further into service will develop those gifts and God will be glorified!
Prayer: Lord, today we echo the words of Isaiah and pray, “Here I am. Send me.” Ignore our excuses. Calm our fears. Fill us so full of your love that we are impelled to step out in faith.