Jeremiah was a reluctant prophet who didn’t like what he saw, correctly anticipated that speaking out would make him seriously unpopular, and tried his best to dodge the responsibility of what the Quakers call “speaking Truth to Power”.
But there is something about God’s truth that simply won’t let him alone. Maybe that’s what it means to be a prophet, someone who can’t just be content to do what everyone else does – turn a blind eye to injustice and wrongdoing, choose what is convenient, expedient, and comfortable over what we really know deep inside is responsible and good.
Jeremiah’s prophetic career started early. One of the first objections he made to God’s call on his life was that he was way too young – nobody would listen to him. God promised he would be with him. That may not have been entirely reassuring. I remember the great preacher John Wimber commenting that God’s way is never easy. What he actually said was, “Get filled with the Holy Spirit and spend the rest of your life desperate!” John Wimber said he knew three prayers: “Help!”, “Oh God!”, and “Oh God, help!”
I guess Jeremiah knew what he meant.
Any day of the week you can hear the old folks complaining about “young people today”; they seem to be held in no higher regard than they were in Jeremiah’s day. What do you think? Does the church community take its young people seriously? Do the lives of the older church members offer enough of a prophetic example and ethical challenge to inspire the younger ones? Can you remember a time when someone who you assumed was too young to have a worthwhile opinion surprised you by their insight and sagacity?
The prophetic life is not easy. Can you think of issues of importance in our day where doing the right thing seems too large and complicated to tackle? What would it mean to live a prophetic life in the modern world? On what topics would you want to speak out and try to make a difference?
Jeremiah’s ministry meant accepting unpopularity and loneliness as an everyday way of life. Have there been times when you (or someone you know) have lost friends and encountered antagonism and disapproval by standing up for truth and goodness?
O God of truth, whose word burns like fire, whose light exposes what is hidden away, who calls us to live as the prophets of our day – give us wisdom and courage, give us honesty and determination, and with that give us graciousness, gentleness, and kindness, so that we may witness to both your truth and your love to the people of our own day. In Jesus’ holy name; Amen.