Wheres Your Passion

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					Sermon: ‘Where’s your passion?’

Rev. Tony Miles

Methodist Central Hall, Westminster – 20th August 2006 11am

LESSON: Jeremiah 20:7-13

The following is a true, but unfortunate, extract from a Church news sheet: ‘The minister is going
on holiday next Saturday. Please return all missionary boxes to the manse by Friday
evening at the latest.’


Well, one person won’t need missionary boxes for his holiday is the Archbishop of York, Dr John
Sentamu.

Last Sunday, he gave up his family vacation in order to shave his head and set up camp in a tent in
York Minster.

It was part of a public act of witness that was a rallying call to people of all faiths, and none, to
encourage them to pray for peace in the Middle East.

Dr Sentamu wanted to take action to help the countless numbers of people caught up in the conflict
between Israel and Lebanon.

The conflict has seen more than 1,000 Lebanese and more than 120 Israelis killed since Hezbollah
militants captured two Israeli soldiers on 12th July in a cross-border raid.

Many innocent civilians are sleeping rough and without proper food, so the Archbishop will sleep
rough and fast, whilst praying for peace.

Dr Sentamu was also urging people to give up a meal and donate the money to charities that are
working in the crisis region.

His vigil concludes this morning (20/8/06) with a Eucharistic service.

Passionately he said, ‘But we as people also have a role to play in showing our common
humanity with all those who are suffering.’

Sometimes it takes an individual to have courage to speak out, or do something dramatic, in order
to bring about change.


Jeremiah was an Old Testament prophet who couldn’t do anything else but dramatically stand
against the flow of his society around and about 600 years or so before Jesus.


1. Jeremiah was passionate about God’s word.
He said: "God's word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of
holding it in; indeed, I can not." (Jeremiah 20:9)

He felt compelled to speak for God and was unpopular because of it.

He denounced the social evils of his day and God’s people didn’t want to hear what he had to say!

He opposed what we call ‘syncretism’.

In other words, he wasn’t happy with a pick ‘n’ mix approach to religion, where people take the best
bits of religions and try to string them together.

In these days it’s a problem with much of ‘New age’ spirituality, or post-modern thinking that
stresses, ‘If it feels good, do it!’

What’s the problem with that?

Well, it has no integrity with regards to truth; to what’s right, or wrong.

In Jeremiah’s day, this ‘syncretism’ was considered adultery against the one true God who wanted
them to remain faithful to him!

So, at a comparatively peaceful time in the southern kingdom of Judah, Jeremiah had a message
of doom and judgement

He also declared that people should accept God's will and surrender to the Babylonians who were
their national enemy.

Imagine saying that to Israel or Hezbollah today!

Jeremiah’s message wasn’t easy for people to hear.

The Message Bible has a helpful translation of Jeremiah 20:9: “But if I say, "Forget it! No more
God-Messages from me!" The words are fire in my belly, a burning in my bones. I'm worn
out trying to hold it in. I can't do it any longer!”


All this is such a contrast to Jeremiah’s call, which you may remember from chapter 1.

Initially, the prophet had resisted his call. Jeremiah said he was too young; that he wouldn't know
what to say.

Nevertheless, God said he mustn't say he is only a child, for God’s own words were in the
prophet’s mouth.


This has always been an important passage for me.

I resisted God’s call to preach and become a minister at first.
This was mainly because I felt I wasn’t academically ‘good enough’.
I wasn’t ‘holy enough’, or ‘articulate enough’.

You might still agree!

Whatever the case, as a young person, I found tremendous strength and inspiration in the account
of Jeremiah’s call.

Like him, to keep silent about my faith became inward torture - perhaps worse than any outward
hostility!

My ministry and testimony echoes the words of St. Paul, ‘Woe is me if I preach not the Gospel’

I could do no other!


A few years ago I tried my hand at wind surfing again.

I hadn’t done it for a while and I was a bit rusty.

I launched out into what seemed like a calm sea, with gentle winds.

However, the trouble was not above the water, but below!

I knew where I wanted to go, I set the sail in the right direction, but the under currents swept me a
long way down the beach in the opposite direction.

It took grit, determination, skill, AND (I admit) the help of my brother, to get to my destination.

It’s hard to go against the pull of the sea.


Sometimes Christians need to go against the flow of a society that has taken political correctness
too far; a society where anything goes apart from Christianity which is often marginalised and even
trivialised; a society where social evils and injustices need addressing.


NOT judging people and forgiveness are essential Christian qualities!

BUT, we have to hold these things along side the call to speak out in God's name against that
which is wrong or evil in the world.

If you like, we need to speak out in love, offering positive constructive criticism, and an alternative
vision for the world.

Yet, Christians often find it difficult to speak out against things they think are wrong.

But someone once said: ‘God equipped us with necks - occasionally we should stick them out
for the Lord!’
 Often we're slow to stand against the flow and speak out for God's sake – and when we do,
sometimes we lack the fruit of the Spirit.


In his day, Jeremiah stood against the flow and stuck his neck out.

1. Jeremiah was a passionate about God’s word.
2. Jeremiah questions what God is doing.

In the first half of today’s reading, the prophet addresses God with a complaint.

His unpopularity had resulted in him becoming depressed and despondent.

In fact, his fellow countrymen, and even his own family, had rejected and ridiculed him.

Earlier in the book of Jeremiah, we can read how Jeremiah was beaten - put into stocks because
of what he had to say.


Jeremiah's experience was very much like that of Jesus.

Actually, when some Jews heard Jesus they thought he was Jeremiah resurrected.

People didn't like what Jesus had to say and they persecuted him.

Hence, the Lord made it clear that his disciples that THEY would suffer too when speaking God’s
word.

They had good news to share and yet they'd be unpopular – people wouldn’t like it!

Now, Jeremiah had BAD news - so little surprise HE was very unpopular!


It’s my experience that Christians have highs and lows in our journey of faith.

Sometimes discipleship is a struggle. I sometimes find myself saying, ‘God why did you call me?
There are others more qualified and more able; and why are things so tough at times – did I
hear you correctly?’


So, as the prophet is ridiculed and mocked, he makes one of Jeremiah’s six ‘Confessions’.

He bares his soul before God in an intensely personal manner.

If you didn’t know better, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was like a diary room confession in Big
Brother!

He says it as it is!

Confession is good for the soul – if done honestly before God, or in a safe place.
I encourage you to speak your mind to God.


Like Job he begins to ask God questions about his very existence: ‘WHY?’ he cries.

He even goes on later to question why he was born – even cursing his birth.

Why did God ‘deceive’ him into being a prophet?

He'd been ‘enticed’, even ‘seduced’ into being a prophet.

And now what? He felt rejected and isolated because people weren’t listening.

His words of impending destruction had brought him nothing but insult and reproach.

A ‘Jeremiah’ became a name given to a miserable pessimist - something he was acutely sensitive
about.

We know how we can all be sensitive about things - hair loss for example! (A reference to my baldness.)

Comments can cut quite deep.

1. Jeremiah was passionate about God’s word.
2. Jeremiah questions what God is doing.
3. Jeremiah acknowledged that God was with him

Despite feeling hurt, Jeremiah remained faithful.

Out of his dialogue with God, his underlying faith breaks through.

His feeling of God’s deception is replaced with a firm belief in divine protection.

And so he says: The Lord IS with him, like a ‘mighty warrior’ to defend him from those waiting to
trap him.

Jeremiah 20:13 “Sing to the LORD! Give praise to the LORD! He rescues the life of the needy
from the hands of the wicked.”

In other words, if God is on his side he needn’t be afraid of the numbers, animosity or power of his
enemies.

So, in God’s name, Jeremiah stands against the flow;
against the persecution; against his depression; against his pain and loneliness.

Why? For God’s word was like a fire in his heart and bones!

As Christians we should remember that Jesus is with us too – even when things get tough.

You may remember my recent sermon about Jesus being present with His disciples in the storm.
For us, we should also remember Jesus’ words to his disciples: “But when they arrest you, do
not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say, for it
will not be you speaking, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
                                                                                    (Matthew 10:19-20)

1. Jeremiah was passionate about God’s word.
2. Jeremiah questions what God is doing.
3. Jeremiah acknowledged that God was with him
Finally:
4. Where’s your passion?

On this August morning, where’s the fire in your bones?

Whilst we shouldn’t look for persecution, we should check we’re not avoiding it!

It’s easier to stay with the crowd.

Perhaps condoning many practices that are becoming accepted in this anything goes society:

   •   getting drunk,
   •   having affairs outside marriage,
   •   cheating the tax man,
   •   allowing swearing and blasphemy to become part of your vocabulary,
   •   forwarding rude or explicit emails round your friends in the office.
   •   allowing social injustices to take place without addressing them.
   •   Allowing ourselves to be informed by the media without checking the story, or understanding
       the issues for ourselves.

Are YOU ‘going with the flow’, rather than standing up for what’s right and true!

Is saving face more important to you?

And, have you reflected enough on what God might be calling you and me to do or say in these
days?


In a perverse celebration of Hitler’s birthday, two heavily armed students stormed through
Columbine High School in Colorado, on April 20th 1999, killing as many people as they could.

Confronting 17 year old Cassie Bernall, they put a gun to her head and asked: ‘Do you believe in
God?’

She said, ‘Yes!’

The killer laughed and pulled the trigger.

The night before she was killed, Cassie wrote a note to her friend.

This is what she said at the end: ‘P.S. Honestly, I want to live completely for God. It’s hard
and scary, but totally worth it.’
Most of us, I guess, won’t be called to stand up for God in such a dreadful situation, but I don’t
know about you but I feel greatly challenged by Cassie’s faith.

Would we have her courage and commitment?

What’s more, it makes me realise how little we pray for those who are persecuted for their faith in
the world today!

I heard only yesterday of three Christians in Indonesia who were due to be executed for their faith
last week, but they were spared at the 11th hour and granted a stay of execution until today!

Churches today have been encouraged to pray for those three Christians as they go against the
flow for their faith.


We can’t respond to every need, but do we allow ourselves to be galvanised into action about
anything?

Are you thick skinned and too comfortable?
Or are you passionate for Jesus?

Jesus who loves you and is passionate enough to forgive your failings if you confess your sins to
him; who was passionate enough to die for you upon the cross;
passionate enough to give you new life and hope for the world;
passionate enough to be present to help you day by day;
passionate enough to send you the gift of his Holy Spirit,
passionate so that reluctant Jeremiahs can stick their necks out for him and share the work of his
kingdom.

I encourage you today to be honest with God about your life and feelings, and to pray that there
may be fire in your bones!

And may the strength of our ‘mighty warrior’ God,
the love of Jesus,
and the fire of the Spirit sustain you,
despite the trials you will face through obedient discipleship. Amen

Copyright May 2006 Rev. Anthony D. Miles

				
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