Consider Jeremiah’s story in a lively translation, “The breath, she came out of the mouth of God in the form of a word. The word of God, it came toward me and over me in order to say to me, ‘in the time before my hands squished and shaped and molded you inside the womb, I was already intimate with you. And in the time before you were pushed out of them womb, I set you apart to be sacred and holy for a special purpose. I put you in place to be a prophet to all the peoples of the earth – to every nation.”
And Jeremiah says, in Hebrew, “ah-hah” which is English for “ah-hah.” “Now look here God, my master. You can plainly see I don’t know how to make words, I’m only a youngster.” But God said right back, “Don’t tell me you’re only a youngster. It doesn’t matter because – toward everyone I send you, you must go walking and of all that I command, the words will come out of you. And by the way, don’t be afraid of those words because I am with you – to rescue you. This is the word of your God!”
When do you tell someone not to be afraid? That’s right, when danger is present. When God calls someone there is always an element of danger. It is as if God needs something changed and the last time I looked new stuff and change is not widely accepted. Prophets are people who announce change and new ways of living in community are usually ignored and if they become too troublesome the community just kills them. And God says, “Don’t be afraid, I am with you, even until the end.”
God called young Jeremiah and put words in his mouth. He was put in place over all the nations and over all the kings in order to pull out by the roots, to destroy and to overthrow. But Jeremiah was also put in place over all the nations and over all the kings in order to build, to construct, to design and engineer with his own hands. He was put in place to plant fresh seeds in the ground, to work the soil, nurture and protect the seedlings until new life could spring up.
Jeremiah was not called to keep the old ways in place. He was not called to keep the future from transforming the past. He was called to redeeming the past and send it out into the future. The danger to our souls lurks in being stuck in the struggle of our own lives to the extent that we want to pass that same struggle and wounds, on to others – even when life has moved on and changed and our struggle should stay where it belongs, in our history and in our stories. We often recreate a crisis that no longer exists or does not exist in the same way, all the while hoping that a next generation will appreciate it so much that they will assume the burden for themselves. At our worst we find ourselves recreating hatred just so the next generation will be prepared to face off the same enemy we hated.
For Jeremiah his call was the beginning of a powerful relationship between the people and God. A living relationship that grew and changed. Sometimes a period of plucking up and casting out was a living sign of a growing relationship. Other times planting and building up new communities and forming relationships in new way was a sign that God was pushing the future into the present.
The present moment is not permanent. The past does not have to be permanently the kingdom where we live. Parts of it may need to be forgotten. The future contains what may not be shaken and it already exists. It lives as the power of life redeemed and resurrected in both the earthly and the heavenly places. Resurrection lives in the center of God’s being. It cannot be shaken.