Sunday, August 28, 2011

Jeremiah 15:15-21 - “Out the Door”

11th Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 17) (Year A - Lutheran Service Book readings)
Saturday, August 27, and Sunday, August 28, 2011

• Jeremiah was called to be prophet—to speak God’s Word to the people
• He was called to tear down—preach the Law, the judgment concerning the people’s sin
• But he was also called to build up—preach the Gospel, the merciful words from God
• God said to Jeremiah—“speak the words I give you.”
• And so Jeremiah had.

(Moving to side door of sanctuary that opens to the outside, opening door, and continuing outside)
• And so Jeremiah had, he had gone forward, he had spoken the words of God
• He spoke about the coming destruction that would bring judgment on God’s people
• He spoke about the people’s sin—the ways they had turned their backs on God, the ways they had practiced idolatry and greed
• Jeremiah spoke about the ways that God would tear down
• Yes, there was always a hint of hope, statements about God bringing the people back if they’d only repent
• But for the most part, the message was a tough one, a tough one to preach, a tough one for the people to hear
• Jeremiah was mainly pointing to the ways that God would tear down

• And so as the people hear Jeremiah’s message,
• As they reacted negatively to him
• As they plotted against Jeremiah, plotted to lock him up and throw away the key
• As they rejected the message of God, rejected God’s promise of removing His judgment if they’d only repent
• As the people rejected Jeremiah
• He backed away from the message

(coming back in from outside)
• He stopped preaching
• He came back to God
• He came back to God with a complaint, the complaint we have in the reading from chapter 15

• Jeremiah prays passionately to the Lord:
15 You understand, O LORD;
remember me and care for me.
Avenge me on my persecutors.
You are long-suffering—do not take me away;
think of how I suffer reproach for your sake.
16 When your words came, I ate them;
they were my joy and my heart’s delight,
for I bear your name,
O LORD God Almighty.
17 I never sat in the company of revelers,
never made merry with them;
I sat alone because your hand was on me
and you had filled me with indignation.
18 Why is my pain unending
and my wound grievous and incurable?
Will you be to me like a deceptive brook,
like a spring that fails?
• In other words, Jeremiah is saying, “I’ve done what you asked Lord, I’ve preached this terrible message, I’ve separated myself from the people, but now I’m threatened and alone and rejected.”
• Jeremiah is saying, “Have you tricked me, Lord, tricked me into preaching your message only to have it ruin my life?”

• That must have been a deadly quiet stillness after Jeremiah shouted those words.
• That must have been a cold, lonely moment for Jeremiah—separated from the people and now feeling like he was separated from God.
• And in the meantime, Jeremiah wasn’t preaching to the people, wasn’t going out the door, wasn’t doing what he had been called to do.

• But then Jeremiah receives God’s answer, a wake up call, a way of bringing Jeremiah to his senses:
“If you repent, I will restore you
that you may serve me;
if you utter worthy, not worthless, words,
you will be my spokesman.
Let this people turn to you,
but you must not turn to them.
20 I will make you a wall to this people,
a fortified wall of bronze;
they will fight against you
but will not overcome you,
for I am with you
to rescue and save you,”
declares the LORD.
21 “I will save you from the hands of the wicked
and redeem you from the grasp of the cruel.”

• At first, this message probably strikes us as harsh—God tells Jeremiah to repent, to turn away from some sin, some offense, but what is it that Jeremiah has done?
• Well, it means to turn away from this grumbling, turn away from this talk of being deceived and fooled by God, turn away from this reluctance to go out the door.

• And if Jeremiah will turn around,
• If Jeremiah will turn away from the grumbling and go back out the door and go back to preaching to the people,
• Well, then, God will restore him.
• God will make him a prophet again.
• If Jeremiah will spend his time on worthy words, on words from God,
• Then Jeremiah will be God’s spokesman.
• Don’t turn to these people, don’t fall for their threats, don’t take up their words.
• In other words, don’t turn away from the message that God had given him. Don’t turn away from being a prophet sent to speak God’s message of tearing down and building up.

• But God doesn’t just say, “Jeremiah, pick yourself up and get back out there.”
• God gives Jeremiah an encouragement, an encouragement that recalls His promises that God made when He first called Jeremiah to prophet.
• God says, “I will make you a wall to this people, a fortified wall of bronze. They will fight against you, but will not overcome you. For I am with you to rescue and save you.”
• God doesn’t just tell Jeremiah to pick himself up, stop grumbling, and go back to preaching.
• God reminds Jeremiah that there’s protection and security, there’s power and help.
• What an image to help Jeremiah—I have made you a wall of bronze.
• The people can hit him and fight back all they want, but their blows will just bounce off a wall of bronze.

(Going back out the door)
• So Jeremiah goes back out the door, goes back to preaching God’s message to the people.
• He preaches about how God will tear down.
• He gives glimpses of the hope that God will build up again.
• Jeremiah preaches to the people—a fortified wall of bronze, never alone as he preaches a difficult message.

• You know, while I’m out here, I’m thinking that this is where God is sending all of us—sending us out to speak His message, His message of tearing down and building up, His message of Law and Gospel
• I’m thinking that we are sent out to the people around us to speak about Jesus Christ, to speak about Jesus living, dying, and rising again, to speak about Jesus coming to forgive our sins, to bring us back into a right relationship with God, to give us eternal life.
• I’m thinking we’ve been sent out here with this message.

(Slowly coming back in the door, closing the door)
• But aren’t we like Jeremiah—as we face the taunts of people, as we face their rejection of the message, as we face threats,
• We slowly back in
• We come back in the door
• We come back to God and complain to Him, complain that the message is too difficult, that the people are rejecting us, that we’re alone and unable to do what He’s asked us to do
• I don’t know about you, but I don’t like it when people have made fun of me for being in this Christianity stuff
• I don’t like that the way I live my life makes me stand out from the crowd
• I don’t like that people just don’t even want to hear what I have to say about spiritual things
• I’ve been told I’m a hypocrite, I’ve been told that I’m naïve, I’ve been told that what I believe is fine for me but don’t start telling other people what to believe
• I hear all of that, and I back in, come back in the door, come back to God and basically I say, “What are you thinking, God?”

• And like with Jeremiah, God doesn’t just tell us to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and get back out their, kid.
• God tells us turn around, to turn away from this grumbling, turn back to the door, turn back to the people, go back out that door
• But He also tells us that He has made us a wall of bronze.
• A fortified wall of bronze.
• There’s protection and security, there’s power and help
• The people can hit us and fight back all they want, but in the end, their blows will just bounce off a wall of bronze

• Now it may not feel that way as it’s happening
• It may not feel like those blows are bouncing off
• Sticks and stones hurt, but so do words
• It may feel very painful when we’re out there
• But God has given us this tremendous promise, this promise that we are not alone, that He will always be with us
• It’s a promise that God gave to Jeremiah
• It’s a promise that gets repeated in the Gospel of Matthew as Jesus sends out His disciples, sends out His Church, Jesus says, “And lo, I will be with you always to the very end of the age.”
• We are not alone.
• We may be threatened and made fun of and rejected and people may refuse to listen to us, but we are not alone.
• We are fortified walls of bronze.

(Going back out the door)
• So we go back out the door
• We go out to share God’s Word with others
• We go out to tell others that they have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.
• We go out to tell others that there is forgiveness and hope in Jesus Christ.
• We go out to tell others that Jesus died for our sins and rose again to give us eternal life.
• We go out to call others to faith in Jesus.

(Coming back in the door)
• And we’ll be rejected again, we’ll face rejection for our faith and our message
• But then we’ll find ourselves back here again
• We’ll come before our God in prayer
• We’ll hear from God that we are walls of bronze.
• And God’ll send us out the door again.

(Going out the door)
• We’ll find another way to speak about God
• We’ll find ways to show God’s love through our actions
• We’ll tell a friend about why church is encouraging to us
• We’ll sit with a coworker who’s going through a tough time in life
• We’ll be good neighbors as a witness of God’s love

(coming back in the door)
• And then something’ll cause us to get scared or feel lonely again
• That friend won’t want to hear about church
• That coworker won’t want us to pray for them
• The neighbors won’t treat us kindly
• We’ll come back to God, wonder aloud why all of this is happening to us, wonder whether we can really be His servants who speak His word
• And God’ll say it once again that we are walls of bronze.

(Going back out the door)
• We are fortified walls of bronze
• We have a message that tears down and builds up
• We have a message of Law and Gospel
• We have a message about our sinfulness
• We have a message of our sins being forgiven by Jesus
• We are fortified walls of bronze
• We are being sent out as God’s spokespeople.