Sermon from ordination worship service with the Committee on Ministry, used in worship at Prospect 9-5-21
I don’t have that much in common with the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah lived during the time when the Israelites were separated from their homelands, when they were exiles in Babylon. He is deeply concerned that the Israelites remain steadfast to the God of Israel, even while in this foreign land with these foreign Gods. He sees the people adopting Babylonian practices and is relentless at trying to get the attention of the religious leaders.
Our reading today is a powerful line from what is considered his sixth lament. It’s a lament of persecution after having been placed in the stockades by a religious leader in order to humiliate him, to get him to stop.
Jeremiah could not stop. God had placed a call on his life, a call that felt like fire in his bones, a call that made him weary to hold it in.
This is the part I can relate to. I myself had a long decade of wrestling with accepting my call to ministry. After that first initial ping! of God’s nudging, I came up with endless – and reasonable! – answers why this wasn’t a very smart idea: I was a mother to three young children. I was the primary breadwinner. The cost and time were astronomical.
Those reasons kept me from saying yes…but the thing is, saying no – refusing to ‘Speak in God’s name’…it was like fire in my bones. It made me weary to hold it in. I fear that if I had continued to hold it in, the fire would have burned my insides to ash. Perhaps you know some people, as I do, who’s unfollowed dreams have charred their spirits.
Here’s the thing about fire.
When tended and cared for, it becomes a life-giving force for good.
When properly kindled; given oxygen; the Holy Spirit’s flame within us can become a bonfire that lights the way for others. Your holy fire could offer heat and comfort to God’s people.
That sense of burning in your bones? That is the Holy Spirit trying to get your attention.
What is it saying to you? What fire is God calling you to kindle? Imagine the glory of seeing a people each listening to the fire in their bones, and responding. Saying YES. Imagine the human flourishing that would unfold.
What do we need to do to help you say yes to your fire?
How can we create a space in our churches and communities where people do not weary from holding their fire in, but instead are beckoned forth in their full flamed glory?
What world might be possible if we said yes to our call, yes to the fire, yes to God. Amen