Our passage this morning is what is named by my theologians as a call narrative. It is
Jeremiah 1:4-10:

Now the word of the LORD came to me saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
Then I said, “Ah, Lord GOD! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.” But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, “I am only a boy”; for you shall go to all to whom I send you,
and you shall speak whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the LORD.”
Then the LORD put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the LORD said to me,
“Now I have put my words in your mouth. See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

I bet that most of you have received a phone call from Roy Melvin Cox, Jr. or Aaron Michael Jones. Ok, let me rephrase. How many of you have received a call about your car warranty? Yes, these two men have been named by the Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost in a complaint. They are responsible for billions of scam robo calls since 2018. This scheme is one of the most sophisticated illegal scams over the phone ever. Attorney General Yost said this was a “biblical plague of locusts that’s descending on our cell phones.” The good news is that they have gone from 5 million calls a day to only a million!

Many of us no longer answer calls from numbers we don’t know because of calls like this—and sometimes we miss important calls. As we explore Jeremiah’s call from God this morning, we want to make sure that we do hear God’s call on our lives and not miss the Spirit’s guidance. In our passage today, Jeremiah seems to think it is a wrong number or a scam call.

I love how it starts. God created Jeremiah for this purpose. God consecrated Jeremiah for this job. This reminded me of our time raising puppies for Guiding Eyes for the Blind. We volunteered with this organization for about 10 year and raised four puppies ourselves, and puppy sat, or helped with, dozens of others over the years. I remember our first one, Lila. We had to go to six months of classes before they would let us have her. We had to puppy sit other dogs. We had to have a home inspection. The bar was high to have one of these puppies. They were not your run of the mill Labradors. They were a result of an elaborate breeding program so that the dogs would be smart, calm, and healthy problem solvers. They were bred to have good elbows and hips. They were supported with state of the art training practices and some of the top dog trainers. The puppy raisers, who had the dogs in their homes from 14-18 months, were volunteers, but we were supported by a whole professional system. When we volunteered, if you divided the costs of the organization across the puppies that made it all of the way through the program and they matched with blind people, it was $45,000-$60,000 per dog. About half of the dogs washed out of the program and only the best made it. These dogs were created for a purpose—much like Jeremiah!

When you heard that God consecrated Jeremiah in the womb, you may have thought that meant he would be a perfect prophet. Apparently, his poor behavior made people question his status as a prophet. One of the commentaries I read to prepare for this message said he was a man of “small vision and narrow self-centeredness” and questioned his role as a prophet due to his “groans of self pity and pleas for retaliation against his enemies.” The way that it was determined he was indeed a true prophet was that his prophecy about the Babylonians came true.

Added to that, even Jeremiah thought he was too young to be a prophet. God assured him that indeed, Jeremiah was the right person, gave Jeremiah God’s word, and sent him off. Apparently, prophets don’t need to be perfect—and Jeremiah wasn’t.

This gives me great encouragement and hope. God can and does use imperfect people. As a matter of fact, pretty much everyone in scripture has a flaw. Other than Jesus, there is something that makes every other person in scripture flawed—or human! God calls unlikely people to do God’s work in the world. And God calls us, just like God called Jeremiah.

You may wonder what God calls us to do. First, God calls us into relationship with God—as a disciple or learner. Let me clarify what it means to be a disciple. Being a disciple does not mean the biblical disciples. It isn’t only pastors or missionaries, or professional Christians who are disciples. What is a disciple? A disciple is someone who follows their leader, their teacher, so closely that they learn what that teacher would do if he or she were living their lives. Several weeks ago, Patrick mentioned that we are called to walk humbly with our God. We all read that just a few minutes ago in our prayer of confession from Micah 6:8. Being a disciple merely means learning to walk humbly with our God—learning to match our steps to God’s. Learning to walk where God wants us to walk when God wants us to walk. We are all called to learn about the heart of God so that we can walk more in step with God.

God absolutely calls some people into leadership as pastors, elders, or deacons. God also calls people to teach Godly Play, or help out in the Youth Program. Some are called to help at the front desk, or help in the kitchen. Some are called to pray, or send encouraging notes or texts. Some are called to help out in our Saturday Sanctuary. That said, all of us are called to discipleship. All of us are called to learn more about who God is and how God would respond to different scenarios. We learn about God’s heart and what God wants through scripture. This summer, we have learned what God wants through the prophets. We learn about God and what God wants through conversations with others in groups and classes. We learn about God and what God wants through experience, and prayer, and reflection.

What have you learned about what a disciple does? Regardless of our age, we can share. Regardless of our abilities, we can be kind. Regardless of our education, we can look for and befriend the lonely.

Disciples have certain practices that help them stay connected with God. In some ways it is like turning our phones on. If our phones are off, it is hard to get a call. Spiritual practices, like coming to church on Sunday, is like powering on our phones. Spiritual practices are ways that we can increase our spiritual connectivity. Spiritual practices include reading scripture, worship through music or song, prayer walks, being in nature and recognizing the creator. They are called practices because they form muscle memory that helps us out when life gets really hard.

Let me go back to the guide dogs for a minute. When you are raising a guide dog, everything you do is about that guide dog being a good guide dog. What is the number one thing a guide dog needs to do? Stay tuned into his or her handler. They have to do what the person wants them to do—sometimes without the person actually telling them to. These dogs have to watch out for things like cars, and sidewalk cracks and signs and potted plants—even if their person didn’t tell them to. They just learn to do that. As puppy raisers, everything we do is about being a guide dog. How the dog eats. How it sleeps. How it walks on a leash. How it goes to the bathroom. Everything we did with those dogs was about giving them every chance at success. We practiced over and over and over again. We expected that while they were learning that they would mess up. We expected that they would get distracted and ignore us and chew anything we left out. We would go to class and they would put food on the floor, and the dogs would have to learn to not eat food on the floor. We did some classes in a Christian school and painted on one of the walls was Ephesians 2:10—which is my favorite verse. You are God’s masterpiece, created in Christ, to do good works, prepared in advance for you to do. That sounds a great deal like what God said to Jeremiah. He was created to do good works.

Being a disciple takes practice. Being a disciple means you will mess up. Being a disciple means that God will forgive you and that even your mistakes can be redeemed. Being a disciple isn’t about having it figured out, it means that we will practice learning to walk humbly with our God.
As I look at the congregation on Sunday morning, and as I walk through the halls of this church, I see disciples who are loving God with their voices, their ushering abilities, their coffee making abilities, their cooking, their teaching. I see disciples in groups and classes. I see disciples singing in the choir and in the congregation. Being a disciple means that you are going to work to hear God’s call on your life so that you can do what God created you to do. You are God’s masterpieces, created in Christ, to do good things, prepared in advance for you to do. Do those things with grace and mercy!

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