Preaching at the Commissioning of the Community’s Concentor on Saturday Bishop Richard, our Episcopal Visitor quoted:
Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,
“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.”
On this occasion of commissioning Simon Pratt as Concentor, I want to reflect on Jeremiah chapter one.
The call of Jeremiah is described in detail. It speaks of the intimate link between the one who is called and the one who calls. It’s personal…indeed it is very personal. God knows Jeremiah before he is born and sets him apart for God’s work as a prophet.
Is Jeremiah vocation’s typical – of a type, or is it special? In my various roles of discernment, as DDO, Selection Secretary and Bishop, I have had the opportunity to listen and experience second hand the connection that people make between what is happening in their life and the will of God. There are common elements in the stories.
First, they are always personal. It may start off with some other person nudging, affirming or just asking the question. But eventually it becomes personal. This is great at one level, because after all it suggests that one is appreciated, even recognised. Life has meaning and value. But it also has its dangers. How often do I say to candidates – it’s not all about you! Yes, God has called you, but and this may be disappointing, he’s calling everyone! The account of Jeremiah is marked out, because Jeremiah has a specific ministry and it really does matter that he’s given personal credentials! We see this specific calling in Moses, Isaiah, and of course Jesus. All prophets, are called to be mouthpieces of God. They have a specific task to tell the nations, what God thinks and what God is doing. Be careful, in your ministry not to over emphasise your importance and I’m speaking to Bishops and to Priors as well!
Secondly, the calling is God shaped and ordained. Jeremiah feels vulnerable and unsure – another common pattern in the journey of vocation. He says I’m only a child, or youth. He was around 18, still dependent. But God won’t have any excuse, He says. I will be the one who will look after you and anyway you will do as you are told!
A youth. It is so good that the core members of the Holywell community are young! And even if the others are older, they too have to have youthful qualities: of dependence and belonging to a caring family. You learn humility and begin to be open to the God shape if you have to depend on each other and trust each other. That’s the great gift of this community and every community. Whether it’s an orchestra, a choir etc. One of the greatest follies of the church, is believing in independence….oh, I don’t like what’s going on in the church…I’ll walk away. Well do so, because you are self orientated and selfish and you need to learn humility! Because of course, the purpose of the faith community is to learn and live out the will of God.
Which brings me to the third characteristic of a calling. It’s being one with God. A casual reading of Jeremiah might suggest a pre-ordained plan. Poor Jeremiah . He couldn’t plan his own life! Rubbish! Of course he could, but he wouldn’t be fulfilled. And that goes for all of us. Yes, Jeremiah had a job to do, but it was God’s. And God and he were to be so close, that he would touch his mouth and Jeremiah’s words and God’s were the same. Pray God that I could be so close to God that you and I would hear and listen to his word! This is the meaning of vocation…not the doing but the being. Where our spirit or true self is united in God’s self, or spirit. That’s our final destination.
My friends, my brothers and sisters, today we rejoice in this vocation of love. We stand, or kneel with this community to support Simon he in his next step of vocation. He may serve God obviously or tangentially in his life stages but like all of us, he is acknowledging that God has something to do with his life in a deep and meaningful way.
Yes, God knew Jeremiah and loved him. He also delights in us and knows that we will only be happy, truly formed, if we are about his business. Let us, therefore commend ourselves to his guidance and will today .