Think about the person who knows you the best. Isn’t that person the one whom you want to celebrate with when something wonderful has happened, and hang out with when life is good? And isn’t that person the one you want to be with when something not so good has happened, because you know that person will be caring and sympathetic? Isn’t that person the one whom you can laugh with AND cry with? Isn’t that person someone who believes in you, trusts you, supports you, encourages you?
This is the person who will also be honest when it’s hard to hear honesty—the one who, while loving and caring for you, still will say “you know, you messed up” when you know you have—but somehow from this person it’s not as painful to hear—or it seems like there is less judgment when it’s said. The one who KNOWS you knows you at your best and at your worst, and still even when you’re at your worst, this person is the one you can be genuine with. And this person is genuine with you.
This person will not only encourage you to be the best you can be, but will challenge you about this. This person believes in what you’re capable of—maybe more than you yourself believe about yourself. In the midst of the support is the reminder—you can do this, so do it--don’t be afraid of it!
This is how the prophet Jeremiah is experiencing GOD in this passage. God knows him—before Jeremiah was even born God knew him. And God therefore knows what Jeremiah is capable of. And so God calls Jeremiah to a really tough gig. Jeremiah would get thrown into a pit. His life was threatened. Nations and kingdoms don’t like it when you tasked by God to pluck them up and pull them down, to destroy them and overthrow them (Jeremiah 1:10). They’d rather not hear what a prophet has to say if it’s judging and challenging and calls for change in the way they do things, particularly if it means paying attention to people they’d rather ignore. But God had a gig for Jeremiah, and God was with him in it.
We may not be Jeremiah, and we may not be called to a gig as dangerous as Jeremiah was. But as is true with Jeremiah, God not only knows us, but loves us. And part of loving us is believing in us, and what we're capable of. We, each of us, is called to something that God has in mind for us.
A couple of years ago you, the McKnight Congregation, honored me on my thirty years of serving as a fully ordained Elder in the United Methodist Church. One of the thoughtful gifts sits on my desk. It is a framed piece of art that says: “God does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called.” This is what God is saying to Jeremiah. Don’t make excuses for what you don’t feel like you have. Yes, you’re young. Yes, you’re inexperienced. But I KNOW you, and what you can do—and besides, I will give you the words. And this is a big deal thing I am calling you to—and you and I together have got this.
God calls us, too, and knows us, and loves us. And God believes in us, most likely more than we believe in ourselves. “God does not call the qualified. He qualifies the called.” So when God calls us, God knows what we’re capable of, and God together with us means that “we’ve got this”—as long as we trust God in it.
4 Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,
5 ‘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.’
6 Then I said, ‘Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.’ 7 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.
8 Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.’
9 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.
10 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.’
10 Now he was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath. 11 And just then there appeared a woman with a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years. She was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said, ‘Woman, you are set free from your ailment.’ 13 When he laid his hands on her, immediately she stood up straight and began praising God. 14 But the leader of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had cured on the sabbath, kept saying to the crowd, ‘There are six days on which work ought to be done; come on those days and be cured, and not on the sabbath day.’ 15 But the Lord answered him and said, ‘You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger, and lead it away to give it water? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be set free from this bondage on the sabbath day?’ 17 When he said this, all his opponents were put to shame; and the entire crowd was rejoicing at all the wonderful things that he was doing.