Summary: Year C. Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany. Jeremiah 1: 4-19 January 28, 2001

Year C. Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany.

Jeremiah 1: 4-19

January 28, 2001

Lord of the Lake Lutheran Church

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By The Rev. Jerry Morrissey, Esq., Pastor


Heavenly Father thank you for Jesus unconditional love. Amen.

Jeremiah 1: 4-19

Title: “Access not success is the goal of life.”

Jeremiah supported the religious reform that began in 629BC under King Josiah. After the king’s death in 609BC, the old idolatry quickly returned and Jeremiah was publicly disgraced and imprisoned for warning of the impending doom of Babylon’s defeating and destroying Jerusalem, which indeed happened in 587BC. Somewhere between 629 and 587, undoubtedly closer to 629, Jeremiah received his call to prophesy. He interpreted the political events differently from his contemporaries, and so was out of sync with them and suffered rejection because of it. He saw everything in the light of God’s sovereign will and attributed Jerusalem’s woes to sin. The only solution according to him was repentance. This text legitimizes Jeremiah’s claim to be a prophet by describing his call by God. His own experience of God’s promise to be with him through adversity is itself a prophecy to the people that the same can be true of them if they are faithful to their call despite the opposition.

In verse 4 the word of the Lord came to me thus: In the most succinct way the role of the prophet is defined. It is an awesome claim and it comes without explanation or justification. The “word of the Lord” is the divine interpretation to the human situation, how God sees things. It is God’s own and definitive say. It reveals human calculations, plans, strategies and interpretations for what they are: human. The Lord’s word does come through a human, however. These “human” words turn out, much to the dismay of many people, to be God’s governing word. This fundamental assumption of the prophet is simply stated, without embarrassment or force to back it up. It lays down God’s claim to order historical events, but in such a way that the “word” seems to the worldly wise and powerful to be weak, having no teeth or visible forces to enforce it.

In verse 5 before I formed you: The verb, yazar, “formed,” primarily describes the modeling of a potter. Under the influence of the Yahwistic account of creation in Gen 2: 7-8 it came to mean “create.” God claims to have created Jeremiah and decided then his role in life.

A prophet to the nations: A prophet was not a seer, looking into a crystal ball, making future predictions. He was to give the divine interpretation to the human situation. Jeremiah was called by God to do this not only as it pertains to Judah, but to the whole world.

In verse 6 I know not how to speak; I am too young: Not in the liturgical text; Jeremiah objects to his lack of qualifications for the job. This is a typical first reaction to God’s call. It was my initial reaction and many ministers that I know have told me the same thing.

In verse 7: Say not: Not in the liturgical text, again, typically, God reassures the one chosen for a task that, though he or she is not up to it, God will provide the necessary means to accomplish it.

In verse 8 have no fear: This element is present in every call and every theophany.

I am with you: God does not promise unmitigated and undeniable success, but access- to him. He only promises what his name, Yahweh, implies: “I will be with you- always.”

In verse 10 to root up and to tear down, to destroy and to demolish, to build and to plant: There are four negatives and two positives, implying that the old ways of interpreting and doing are hard to undo, but they must go if the planting and building are to be effective.

In verses 11-16: God raises questions for Jeremiah by using the watching-tree and the boiling cauldron as metaphors for interpreting the facts on the ground as God sees them, that is, as they really are. Then God provides an interpretation of those facts. In this case Judah will fall to Babylon because she sinned. The prophet is enabled by God’s word to see things others did not see and make connections others missed. God’s intentions, his interpretations, override that of the “kings” who took themselves too seriously and God too lightly. True, the kings in Jerusalem noticed Babylon, but they missed God’s interpretation. In the end they missed everything.

In verses 17-19: These verses return to the point of reassuring Jeremiah of God’s presence. Inevitably the collision with the dominant ideology of both King and Temple will put him at risk. He must bear this unbearable “word” to an unresponsive and, eventually, hostile, people.

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