Sermon for the Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost
August 25, 2013
The art of the excuse. There are excuses for everything: for not doing your homework, for not doing the dishes, for not going to work. This week I have done extensive Google searching on this topic, and I found some genius excuses.
“I would come into work today, but I dropped a can of beans on my toe.” Or, “I dyed my hair, but I don’t like the color.” Some excuses even stray into the idiotic: “I would come into work today, but my bicycle ran out of gas.”
But. But. But.
The Lord God says to Jeremiah, “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.” Look, anytime the Lord God says anything to you, the proper response is sheer terror. Remember, in the Old Testament, nobody wants to look at God or hear God’s voice, because that would be the most terrifying experience of your life.
So, rightly, Jeremiah is scared out of his mind. The Lord God has called him to be a prophet. And you can sense Jeremiah scrambling for an excuse. “Ummm, Lord God? Yeah, thanks for the offer, but, I’m only a boy. So I’m going to pass on this one. Thanks for thinking of me though.”
If there is anything scarier than the Lord God speaking to you, it’s the Lord God rebuking you. The Lord says, “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.”
The Lord God will not entertain any excuses. Sure, Jeremiah may only be a boy, but that’s no excuse.
As utterly terrifying as this passage is, I do find some relief here. People have been coming up with excuses to not do what the Lord God asks of them since the beginning. When the Lord God was angry with Adam for eating the fruit that he was told not to eat, he makes an excuse: “She made me do it.” When the Lord God calls Moses to set his people free, Moses says: “But I have a stutter.” When Jesus calls Paul to follow him, Paul says, “But Lord, I don’t even know who you are.”
I think that making excuses is some sort of coping mechanism, a way to justify to ourselves why we shouldn’t do exactly what we know we ought to do. But I’m only a boy. But I’m only a girl. But I’m so old. But I’m so young. But I’m so rich. But I’m so poor. But I’ve never read the Bible. But I’m new to church. But I’ve been here forever. Look, whatever it is that the Lord God is calling you to do, you could talk yourself in circles with excuses. And believe me, God has heard them all.
And it’s not just us as individuals. It’s us, as a church, as Holy Comforter. We firmly believe that the Lord God is calling us to grow and expand as a congregation. We firmly believe that the Lord God has put us here, in Spring, Texas, at a time when this area is booming because we have something to offer. This is a big vision – that the Lord God is calling us to grow as a church, to expand, to remember the poor.
We believe that what the Lord God has called us to is a big task. Too big maybe. Scary, in fact, because the voice we hear is that of the Lord God. And so the excuses begin. Uhhhh, Lord God. But we are just a little church. But we don’t have enough kids. But we don’t have enough money. But we’ve already tried that. But that’s not how we’ve always done it. But. But. But. The excuses start rolling in. We are having a Jeremiah moment, terrified at how big the vision is that the Lord God has given us.
But the Lord God says – “Do not make excuses.” For there are no excuses. The Lord God knows us all too well, because it was the Lord God that created us. And believe me, God does not call those who are equipped. God equips those whom he calls. That is us. God is calling us to grow, to expand, to dream big. Real big. And there are no excuses.
Faced with such a big moment in the life of Holy Comforter, it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. Remember, anytime you hear God’s voice, the first, logical response is sheer terror. So it’s okay to think about growth and expansion with trepidation. But the good news in this lesson, is that God will be with us.
See, in the Old Testament, holiness was a communicable disease. Horribly contagious. When the Lord God touched something or someone, it immediately became sacred. Holy. Set apart. The Lord puts out his hand and and touches Jeremiah on the mouth. The Lord says, “Now I have put my words in your mouth.” Jeremiah’s mouth is now holy, sacred, set apart and reserved for God’s purposes.
And think. Pray. We are about to consume the Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. God will not just touch our mouths or our hearts or our hands. The Lord God will be inside of us. Imagine that. God is setting us apart, as a people, to do this work that we are called to do. There are no excuses.
In the forty years of Holy Comforter, I think this is the most exciting time yet for this church. A time to dream dreams. A time to cast a vision. A time to think bigger than we thought we could ever think. A time to grow, and to become what the Lord God wants us to become.
As your rector, I believe that this is what the Lord God has called me to do. And believe me, I’ve thought about the excuses. But I’m only a boy. But I’ve not been a priest for very long. But. But. But. There are no excuses. For anything less than God’s vision for our growth only shows a lack of faith. It means fewer lives committed to the Lord Jesus; fewer poor people helped in the name of God; a generation of children who do not experience the beauty of our worship.
God’s vision for us will take a lot of work, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of energy; and I’ve learned that there are no excuses. I am committed to serving you. I am not afraid to be your rector. I am not afraid to lead us into God’s vision. I am not afraid of growth, of expansion, of remembering the poor. Growth, not for the sake of growth, but for the Kingdom of Christ.
Strike the word “but” from your vocabulary. When you think of this church and our future, do not slip into the old excuses. Because God has already heard them, and God will not listen to them. Yes, we might be nervous, we might be afraid of this vision that the Lord God has put before us. Just like Jeremiah was afraid. But God was with him. And I can make the same promise: God will be with us. God will be with us as we become a new Holy Comforter. And there will be no excuses.