Summary: The people who lived at the time of Jeremiah could not accept his message. Many people who heard Jesus preach could not accept his words. Today people, including ourselves, find it difficult to believe in a god of steadfast and overwhelming love.
Jeremiah 11:18-20 “An Unaccepted Message”
One of the most challenging jobs, or callings, is that of a prophet of change. Certainly, the Old Testament prophets, like Jeremiah, realized the enormity and difficulty of their task. Jeremiah lived in the seventh century B.C., and attempted to call of people of Judah back to the Lord their God and away from idols and false gods. His call for change met with (to say the least) stiff resistance. Jesus was a prophet of change. He invited people to turn from their empty religious rituals and live in a relationship with the Lord, and walk in the reality of God’s love and grace. We all know what happened to him. Those who impact lives and leave a legacy are prophets of change, but the cost is high.
We humans appear to have an uneasy relationship with change. There are times when we see that change is needed. We often desire change, but we struggle to pay the price of change. The discussions that we are having as a nation are a reflection of this. Both presidential campaigns focused on change. The man who was thought would bring the most change—the greatest break with the past—was elected. Now that change is being proposed, change is being resisted—for both good reasons and simply because many don’t want to pay the price of change.
We have taken up the ministry of Jeremiah and Jesus. We have been called to be prophets of change. Our task, though, is no less demanding then theirs were. We are challenged to fight against our complacency—our innate desire not to care unless it directly affects us, and the frustration that comes from fighting for change and failing over and over again. As we read the prophet Jeremiah and the gospel stories of Jesus we learn how this can be done.
FIRST TO CHANGE
If we are to be prophets of change, we must first be willing to be changed. We can only lead where we have already traveled.
Jeremiah was from a priestly family. He could have lived comfortably and followed in his father’s footsteps. He could have ignored the plight of the people of Judah and turned away from their running after other gods. Instead Jeremiah listened to the call of the Spirit, though hesitantly. He obeyed the Spirit’s guiding and set out to bring the people of Judah back to the Lord.
Jesus changed. He shed his divinity and his godly powers and took on our form. Jesus dwelt among us. Because of his actions, humankind beheld God’s love and grace more clearly than they ever had before. After becoming one of us, Jesus called us to change and to walk in the reality of the kingdom.
If we are to take up the ministry of Jesus and Jeremiah we must be willing to be changed also. It is necessary for us to turn from the glitz and glamour of the world and to love the Lord with all of our heart, mind and spirit. It is also important that we yield to the hand of the Spirit as he seeks to mold us into the image of God.
After having experienced a changed life, we can then invite others to be changed by the power of the Spirit and walk in the newness of life.
Jeremiah was surprised by the opposition that arose against him. He was attacked by his brothers. He was beaten and put into stocks by a priest and a false prophet. The king imprisoned him. The officials of Judah threw him into a cistern, and Jeremiah was often threatened with death. His tears of pain and grief have earned him the title, “The Weeping Prophet.”
Though welcomed by many, Jesus was opposed by the priest, and the religious parties of the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Eventually, they tried Jesus in a kangaroo court and crucified him.
The ministry, to which we have been called, involves a cost. Jesus counseled those who followed him that if anyone were to be his disciple that person would have to deny himself, take up his cross and follow Jesus. Our ministry calls for sacrifice of our treasures, our talents and our time. Our message will not be readily accepted. People will think that we are pushy, crazy, religious zealots, and hypocrites.
We are called to love the unlovable. We are also called to love those who hate us. Love in the midst of ridicule and persecution is not easy. But, when it is present it is life changing for all involved. We are called to be faithful and obedient to the ministry that we have been led into.
In the middle of adversity, we can be strengthened and comforted with the knowledge that we are in God’s hands.