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August 22, 2016: Jeremiah 1:4-10, "Excuses, Excuses"

            It begins in our childhoods.  It goes something like this, “Shirley, why did you bite your brother?”  “Because he kept bothering me!” comes the answer.  “Johnny, why don’t you have your homework?”  “Well, I did it, but the dog ate it.”

            The issues become a bit more serious as we grow into adulthood.  “So, Ms. Smith, why exactly is it that you were going 20 miles per hour over the speed limit?”  “Well, I lost my keys.  I was running late for work, and now I am making up for lost time.”  Or how about this one, “Why is it that you don’t have money for groceries this week when you just got paid a few days ago?”  “Well, you see my friends and I went shopping and I hadn’t bought any clothes or any new shoes for a long time, and besides everything I bought was ON SALE!”

            You might have guessed that what I’m talking about is excuse making!  We practice it until it becomes a fine art.  We practice to such a degree that sometimes it becomes difficult for us to recognize when the excuse has validity and when it’s just something made up in the moment to try to get us off the hook.  The sad thing is that we practice it so much with people in the world around us that it becomes easy and natural to offer excuses to God as well.

            We could talk about Moses called by God to go to pharaoh, to appeal to him to let the people of Israel leave slavery in Egypt and to head to the promised land.  We could talk about the prophet Elijah called by God to go to a widow’s house and appeal to her for food and lodging. Then comes the story of Jeremiah.  The calling from God is to be a prophet—to speak messages to people as God instructs.

            Common to all these stories is offering excuses to God.  Both Moses and Jeremiah say that they are not good public speakers.  Jeremiah also adds that he is very young and fears that he is not experienced enough to live into God’s calling.  The widow is poor and is in fear of being unable to support not only herself but also her young son.  She finds it hard to envision how she could possible open up her tiny supply of meal and oil to make food for the stranger at her door.  It’s a reasonable and understandable excuse, don’t you think?

            In each of the stories God has a ready response.  To Moses he promises Aaron to go alongside and to assist in the work to be done.  To the widow God promises that as she practices generosity she will never have an empty cupboard.  To Jeremiah he promises his presence to guide and direct his steps, and he promises to put words in Jeremiah’s mouth—precisely the words Jeremiah needs to speak for all situations!

            The calling of God is not a thing of the past.  It did not happen only to Old Testament or New Testament peoples.  God calls each one of us—some in specialized ways as ministers, as missionaries, as Directors of Christian Education, or Youth, or Music.  God calls others to be strong Christian laypersons—persons who use their witness in the world as they go about their jobs. 

            Will we hear God’s voice?  What will be our response?  Will we offer excuses—too old, too young, too inexperienced, wouldn’t know where to begin?  Or will we respond to God, “Here am I.  I will trust you to be with me.  I will trust you to put the right words in my mouth.  I will be your witness wherever you choose to send me.”  This we may know for a certainty—to do God’s bidding is to experience a blessing in our lives! 




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