Summary: Using the accont of Jeremiah’s call explore the role of the prophet in a community of faith and points to Christ as the incarnation of Yahwehs prophetic Word.

Appropriating the Prophetic Word

The 21th Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 26, 2001

The Profit of a Prophet (To Uproot and Tear Down; To Build and Plant)

Jeremiah 1:4-10

4 The word of the LORD came to me, saying,

5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." 6 "Ah, Sovereign LORD," I said, "I do not know how to speak; I am only a child." 7 But the LORD said to me, "Do not say, `I am only a child.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you," declares the LORD. 9 Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, "Now, I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant."


It was approximately 125 A. D. when a Christian philosopher named Aristides penned his Apology to the Roman emperor Hadrian on the occasion of his visit to Athens. In this work, Aristides confronts Hadrian with the news that the human family has divided itself into four categories: Greeks, barbarians, Jews and Christians. This was quite a claim given that Christianity was less than 100 years old. His categories suggest that Christianity was such a radical departure from manner of living practiced and observed by everyone else at the time that it represented an entirely new way of being human.

Christian conversion represents a personal, relational, ethical, and cognitive revolution in the person who converts. The Christian faith represents a different worldview and a different manner of thinking about God and everything else in this world which he has made. In short, Christian conversion means literally becoming a new person - remade in the image and likeness of Christ.

It doesn’t end there, however. Authentic Christian conversion has a social and cultural dimension as well. The first Christians had no thought of bedding down, comfortable and content with their own religious awakening. Far from it, they scattered to the four winds from the upper room in Jerusalem where their community had been born. When plagues and famine fell upon Roman cities causing the rich and elite to flee, Christians stayed behind and cared for the sick and the starving and the dying. Though they were persecuted viciously by nearly everyone and martyred at every turn, the community grew until Christianity quite literally transformed the known world of the day.

This is the nature of Christian conversion. Far from being merely a placid, saccharine change of religious sentiment, once the good news of the death and resurrection of Jesus enters the human heart, nothing can ever be the same. Life breaks out in astounding ways and alters everything in its path, revolutionizing and recreating human lives, society, and culture, until the very kingdoms of this world become the kingdoms of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This picture of conversion issues a pretty tall order for a small church in Northwest-suburban Chicago. If you are a Christian, you might have felt the stirrings of this transformation when you first believed, you may even be able to point to those areas of your life that have been transformed in precisely this way.

That being said, however, I think all of us recognize that we are still in process. As a Christian, you have tasted the first bite of a rich eternal banquet ¾ enough to be pleasing, but not enough to satisfy.


4 The word of the LORD came to me, saying,

5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."

It has been nearly 2000 years since the sacred beginning in the upper room at Pentecost in Jerusalem and we all recognize that the story of Christianity has not been one of uninterrupted triumph. You and I can point to the ups and downs, the triumphs and tragedies, the realized hopes and horrors of our pilgrim journey together as a community of faith. We can point to these features in our own congregation and in our individual lives.

? Given the ups and especially the downs, what keeps us on the road that leads to that great goal?

? In days of coldness and indifference, what reminds us to be attentive to the call to realize the full implications of our Christian conversion?

With these questions we turn to the prophetic Word of Yahweh.

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