I confess that every time this set of readings comes up, I stumble a bit. It’s hard not to when I hear the call, the conviction, and the conflict that flows through the readings.
First there is the call of Jeremiah. Such power here! Jeremiah is a boy and reluctant to be God’s prophet. God isn’t thwarted by his excuses. God touches the boy’s lips and fills him with words and power. Specifically, the power to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant. This is where I falter. Is this not what happens to us in the laying on of hands at ordination? Is this not the power the church has wielded for centuries? How often have we leaned more readily toward the pulling down and destroying side of this prophetic power?
From this call we move into the Apostle Paul’s conviction that love abides above and beyond all things. This famous passage that often fills people with warm fuzzies and nostalgic thoughts. These are dangerous words, though. Aren’t they? Paul has given voice to God’s vision for the body of Christ. These are the ultimate words of prophecy for those of us who have taken up the mantel of leadership. Do our prophetic words both comfort God’s people and call them forth into the embodying the love that Paul so eloquently describes? At this point I’m on my knees.
And then there’s the Gospel reading. Jesus rejected by his own people. Jesus fulfilling scripture in the presence of a hostile crowd. This crowd can hardly bear this God-in-their-midst so they become angry and ridiculing. They do not want to change their ways to embrace this Love; they want to remain as they had always been with the Messiah coming in some far off day yet to come. They resolve to push Jesus off the nearest cliff. Now I’m doubled over in pain. I have seen my face in the crowd. I have shouted along with them to rid myself of the yearning for a better way that could be right now. I have been disappointed when it is discovered that Jesus has slipped away and will try to ignite the fire of love elsewhere.
Only as tears fall can I hear the words of the Psalmist reminding me that God will rescue me yet again. God will put God’s words in my mouth one more time. God will lend me the strength to wade through the confusion and conflict that fills our congregations all the time. Once again, God will dream that vision of love that might flow through our worship and convict us all once again that there is a better way to be embody Christ in the world.
These texts are rich with power and images that tell God’s continuous story in the world. What prophet word is forming on your tongue this week? Will you remind those who worship with you that we all share a call to be God’s prophets in the world even though that can be a very scary thing? Will you invite your community to join together to more fully embody Paul’s prophetic words? Will you explore just how much a part of the Jesus-rejecting crowd we can be? Will you sing a song of reclaiming joy as the Psalmist did? Just what is the Spirit stirring in you, o Prophets of God? Share your thoughts and struggles and questions here as we all seek to speak God’s word.
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