Home » Spiritual Direction » Lectionary Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Lectionary Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

Jeremiah 1:4-10 Does God Have a Purpose for Me?

I believe the saddest of stories are those which tell us of a wasted life. A story revealed by someone who is at the end of life comes to feel their life was wasted. A story of someone who reflects upon the years they lived only to realize to their dismay that was no meaning or no seeming purpose to their lives.

This is happening more and more in this age in which we try and hide our finitude, our limited lives, our existence behind the illusion of obtaining things or seeking pleasure over pain.

How do we hide our finitude? Well, one thing we do is to attempt to conceal our dependence upon nature. (“Who cares what happens to our planet, we’ll just move to another one, right”). Another is our attempt to place emphasis on our human abilities. (“We will be able to conquer death. We are about to slow it down if we just put enough faith in human ability we will live forever”) However, the greatest lie we tell ourselves is that we do not have to depend on God. If we participate in these lies, we too will come to a time we also have a sad story to tell.

Is there a purpose for our lives? Jeremiah the prophet would answer yes. Jeremiah had received such an answer from God, an answer which produces assurance of direction, empowerment of confidence, an encouragement toward an expectation, and a power of purpose that enabled him to face hardship, suffering, and hostility. However, Jeremiah is not the only person to receive such an offer. Every human being has this opportunity.

In our age, the difference between the interested and the uninterested in being open to God’s guidance and aid in our lives is more significant than the difference between believers and unbelievers. I believe this is an accurate indicator of the true spiritual condition of this generation

How do people receive this guidance? To receive this guidance we find our purpose, we must first awaken to our calling. Jeremiah became a prophet while a young man. He was called to speak to the people about God’s displeasure. He was called to speak out against leaders which could not be trusted. Called out against apathy toward faithfulness to God and the general moral failure of the people. Needless to say, he was called to be someone who would not be popular, not accepted, not respected, not secure. His life would not be easy, it would not comfortable, however, he would never be forsaken, never forgotten, never abandoned by the one who called him. Jeremiah would truly walk with God.

Likely, the calling God extends to you is not nearly as dramatic as that of Jeremiah, it will still include three important factors that we find in Jeremiah’s calling (and everyone else’s calling). These three requirements are, the desire to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God. (Micah 6:8)

Whether we realize it or not, God is involved in the creation of our lives, every one of us. We all are made for God. It does not matter the place or conditions of our birth. It does not matter our situations or circumstances be they assets or obstacles, we are all made for God. It is through God that we come into existence. We are formed in God’s image. Also, God wants to work through each one of us if we are willing to partner with God as we live in this fallen world.

Our human willfulness may resist this calling. Jeremiah tries to use the excuse of youth. God does not accept Jeremiah’s limited perspective. God will guide him. Jeremiah just needs to trust.

What excuses do we have? What would prevent us from the desire to walk with God? Are we willing or willful? Willfulness is resistance to God and focuses upon our selfish desires. But God does not give up on us. We all are called. The issue is will we respond to God’s call.

God calls Jeremiah to be an instrument of justice. This is part of our calling as well. Justice is not legalism. Justice is caring for what is right, to seek what is right. Justice is to love our neighbor as ourselves. This is where the guidance of God leads.

A prophet had a conflict to resolve. A prophet was to speak for God. A prophet also had relationships with the people the prophet identified with. It is never easy to go against those we live with. It is never easy to point out problems in our culture.

We may not be called to be prophets, but we are called to justice. We are called to do and say what is right. We are called to speak out against any collective or individual actions that take advantage of others, vilifies others, or manipulate others in this world. We are our brother’s keeper. We all should feel compassion toward anyone who suffers at the hands of injustice. If we feel the problems people face in this world are none of our concern, then we have bought the lie. We may be in a privileged position now, but what about those who come after us? If we do not stand for justice now, are we not setting up those who come after us for more sorrow? Do we believe we will not be held accountable for our apathy and inaction?

Remember the words of the example given by our Lord, “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matt. 25:44-46 NIV)

Do we believe Jesus meant business? Do we believe this to be true? Does our lifestyle and our choices reflect that we believe and respond?

Justice leads to mercy. We should rejoice in mercy, desire mercy, and love mercy. The good news of the Gospel is mercy. The message of Jeremiah is a message of mercy. How is it mercy? It warns us of the dangers of deceptions and darkness that seeks our fall and failure, our sorrow and suffering, and our death and destruction.

Prophecy is not primarily about telling the future, it is about seeking to guide people to what is right. It is bringing to light the cause/effect relationship our actions have and God’s desire to spare people suffering. It is a message of mercy.

The Gospel is a message of mercy. It is about the coming Kingdom of God. It is about the end of sin and death. It is about restoration to a relationship of love and comfort. It is about Jesus becoming one of us, God incarnate, God who becomes fully human and experiences all that we experience. It is about mercy overriding the justice we deserve and giving us an eternal future that we don’t deserve. It is about our ultimate purpose. If we accept, believe, and live the life the Gospel offers we will not have a sad story at the end of our life, but a story of the joy of walking with God, the satisfaction of doing justice, and the fruits of mercy.

The choice is ours.

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