Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Yermy Doesn't Get the Girl

Jerry Doesn’t Get the Girl

This is our Old Testament reading for Sunday, January 31, 2016, Epiphany 4C. 

Jeremiah 1:4-10 (NRSV) 

4 Now 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.”

6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” 

7 But 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.
8  Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
says the Lord.”

9 Then 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.
10 See, 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 bible is full of Call Stories, God calling people into his prophetic or leadership service, Jesus calling people he encounters into discipleship. But this is one of my favorites, maybe even my topmost favorite, God calling Jeremiah. I have a mental image of the two, Jeremiah standing there maybe in the dusty street or maybe in his parents' house, suddenly confronted by a yellow-white brilliance that starts talking to him. Oval, about human-size, a little taller than he is, a little higher, it’s just “there” sort of suspended in front of Jeremiah, suspended in that it has no human shape to it, including no legs or feet, just this bright Oval like a fuzzy star or something. 

Jeremiah is a youth in my image of what happens, older than ten but younger than eighteen. Seeing him standing there stunned, I reckon he’s about sixteen. Adolescent, full of himself, but not all that full that he’s not taken aback at the bright specter in front of him telling him to do something he has no intention of doing. It’s not “asking” either, it’s telling him, like it thinks it’s all of a sudden in charge of him.

“Not me,” says Jeremiah, whose name sounds something like YermyYahu and means something like “uplifted by Yahweh.” As his father is a priest, Jeremiah knows he’s in for it in the years-ahead course of his life, but not now while he’s trying to screw up the courage to ask that cute blond fourteen year old girl next door if she’ll go to the movies with him Saturday evening. Maybe his dad will drive them, and in the back seat of the car he can hold her hand. Maybe even a kiss? He's had a crush on her all his life.

But here’s this bright thing instead, and not taking any protests or backtalk either.

“Young man, don’t you tell ME you’re ‘just a boy,’ I knew you before you were, and you’ll go where I send you and say what I command you.  

“Jesus Christ, man,” says Jeremiah. “I’m only fifteen years old. I got other plans.”

Some other boy got the girl when Jeremiah didn't ask her as she'd hoped. Maybe that's why he was so irritable as a prophet.

Meantime, what theological hides within Adonai's call to Jeremiah? "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you." Perhaps for one, that we are, were, that each of us existed as a being before ever being conceived as human, but as a "person" in a sense like the divine person of the Son. Part of eternity, even, as John says, "with God." If we return to the Lord after we die, were we also part of the Lord before this life? I don't know. I'm uneasy about whether this has implications for abortion issues --- before I formed you in the womb I knew you.


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