The book of Jeremiah is fascinating to study in depth. There is so much about Jeremiah that applies to us in our world and context. Jeremiah is essentially speaking in a politically volatile time. Jeremiah is witnessing the last days of Judah as an independent political entity and the rise of the Babylonian Empire and power. The Babylonians are a growing empire that is threatening to Judah.
It doesn’t take too much to draw similarities to todays world and context. In fact as we look back over history we can recognize the rise and fall of empires throughout history. This is nothing new to us. We are entering an election year both in Canada and the United States. Financial experts are doing their best to predict when the next recession is going to hit and how best to prepare. Thrown into the mix is the ongoing conversation in the United Kingdom, that doesn’t seem to be too united and Europe regarding the EU and Brexit. Are we seeing once more the rise and fall of empires? Our world is anxious and our future is uncertain.
What becomes important in this context is the voice of the Church. We are the ones who are called by God to bear witness and to pluck up and pull down when appropriate. We are called to destroy and overthrow and while doing so, to build and plant. We are the ones to hold up a yet more excellent way of being in the world. Now before we feel completely overwhelmed and out of our league, we should also remember that this too is nothing new for us. Church history is dotted with examples of hero’s in faith who have effectively and at great cost spoken truth to power. The same is true for us today, where we are called to speak truth to power in our context.
The work of the church is counter-cultural in nature. The very fact that we gather from our diverse backgrounds and experiences to sing, pray and worship together is a political act, an act of mission and a statement that says God is here in this world. God is here in our lives and the lives of all. Our worship and purpose as a Church says that we are the people God chooses to use for God’s work in the world. Think about that for a moment. We are chosen by God. Listen again to these words from Jeremiah, the Lord God says, “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” (Jer. 1: 5). Before we were formed and born, God new us, had purpose for us and calls us into the work and mission of God everyday.
Yes, this can overwhelming for the best of us. But the funny thing is there is a Facebook post, so it must be true, that says something along these lines, “God already took into consideration all our faults and shortcomings before calling us into God’s Mission.”
God doesn’t require us to be perfect in our work. God doesn’t require that we are always right. God doesn’t require that we have the perfect family and the perfect career. But what God requires of us is to say “yes.” We are required to join Mary and the saints and prophets down through the ages to say “Yes” to God and join in the Mission of God in God’s world today. We commit to this ministry despite ourselves and with all our shortcomings, because we have been made for God’s work in this place at this time.
In the months ahead, you as a parish will once again begin the work of discerning what God’s mission is for St. Martin’s this year and in the years ahead. There will be questions and times of uncertainty - for sure. But what you already know is that God is already alive working in each one of us, and we are already chosen by God before we ever chose God.
This truth speaks to one of the most important aspects that will sustain the church in any context. Our attention to relationships. Remaining in relationship with God and one another and how we care for one another will sustain the church for the next generation and the generation after them. There is a lot of concern and anxiety about the financial viability of our beloved St. Martin’s. These concerns are again, nothing new to us. They are valid and real in every way. I don’t know a lot about secular business. But I have been in the Church Business all my life, and I do know a bit about that. What I know from my experience is that the real currency of the Church has less to do with whether the budget balances with a surplus or deficit but rather in the 1:1 relationships and interactions with people.
A man phones his priest at 3am. Mom has suddenly taken a turn for the worse. The priest gets up, goes to the hospital, holds mom’s hand, says a prayer and returns home. He is there all of 10 minutes. That man has long forgotten whether the budget balanced or not. What he does remember and will remember to his dying day is that in his hour of need. When he needed support the most, the Church responded in the person of his priest. That is the real currency of the Church and that is what will sustain the Church long after the need for stain glassed windows, buildings or anything else.
We have to, above all else, pay attention to the nurture and care of our relationships with one another and with God.