Be Not Afraid

“Do not be afraid” — The most frequent commandment in scripture and one often spoken by angels. In Jeremiah 1:4-10 a young man has a direct encounter with Yahweh who calls him to assume the role of prophet. And God answers Jeremiah’s objections — saying “No-you’re not too young!” and “You don’t need to know how to speak, I am going to place my own words in your mouth.”
But Yahweh doesn’t stop there. He also speaks to the objection in Jeremiah’s heart, the one too tender to name. Yahweh, firmly and lovingly tells him “Do not be afraid, I am with you.”
What is the relationship between fear and responding to God’s call? I think the two may be more intertwined than we realize. When I review the past twelve months of pastoring this church, there have been many times when I tried to give it back to God. Sometimes this push-pull session lasted only for a day, other times it was longer. Usually it hit me in moments I felt overwhelmed–overwhelmed by the intensity of the role, or by the hurts and needs of folks in the church and the complex ways they play out in our intimate community.
But Jeremiah reminds me that I am not alone when I resist God’s invitation. In fact, in an upside-down, inside-out way, resistance is directly related to the experience of standing on holy ground. To feel unworthy or inadequate goes with the project of being called as God’s servant. And it may mean you are closer to saying yes with your whole heart and your whole self than you even realize.
Now clearly this applies not only to the Big Callings, to those like Jeremiah who are called to speak truth in the realm of international politics or other Big Places. And God’s call is not limited to prophets, priests and pastors. Much like we discussed in our conversation about spiritual gifts – the Spirit delivers the gifts, and we are all gifted. Not just the special people, the charismatic people, those who have talents we admire, those who can perform on a stage. Not just the smart people, or the pretty people, or the rich people– but everyone, everyone is gifted by the Spirit. And these gifts don’t belong to us, they belong to the community.
Likewise we are all called by God. And in an interesting twist, the power and will and love we need to do the work we are called to do is also provided by God. God exists on both sides of the equation.
I don’t think we ever outgrow being called. In fact, as the seasons of our life change, I think new directions to manifest our call can sprout up around us. Have you ever met a weary ex-idealist who has been hauled by God into a fresh place? I suspect our church may be full of them. I have known and loved people like this in other places, like a dear friend Bill who after years of serving the local church found in retirement he was called to serve a different kind of congregation. Rather than rural new Englanders, Bill was led through a series of relationships and activism to a community of displaced farmers on a mountain top in Honduras. They are the poorest of the poor and Bill loves them. He walks six hours up a mountainside to be with them. He goes with them to the office of the regional official who threatens to displace them again. He has worked with them to build and staff their own health clinic. And if you are lucky, you get to be a North American who goes with him on one of the immersion trips he leads, and see a prophet in action. 
Neither our achievements nor our confidence qualify us to answer the call of God. God qualifies us to answer the call of God. And God is so clearly still calling.
Join us tonight as we read scripture, discuss the beauty and intensity of God’s call and share some good food.
en paz,
PS David Marquis is cooking the meal at Casa Semrad tonight and could use extra Nan bread and some dessert.  108 South Rosemont Ave, 6:30pm. All are welcome!  Call church number for more info 214. 233-4605.  We will end a little early so folks can catch the State of the Union address if they would like.

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