Jeremiah 1: 4-10

Psalm 71: 1-6, 15-17

1 Corinthians 12: 27- 13:13

Luke 4: 21-32


“The Word on my Lips”


Grace and peace to you my brothers and sisters in Christ, Amen.


How many of you feel inadequate in your speech, in your ability to teach or preach and simply say what is in the Bible? Whether in part or wholly, how many of you feel that you are not well equipped with spreading the Good News? Maybe you have stage fright, a stutter, an accent, a small vocabulary, not enough education, or you're too young in the faith.


Whatever it is that troubles you, there is something that prevents you from believing that you are well equipped to spreading the Good News. Myself? I too have these fears. I fear that I will fail God, that I would misspeak and cause confusion. I fear preaching and teaching something that goes against the teaching of God. I fear that because of my own verbal struggles that the message I convey comes out as only garbled noise. I stumble over myself. I lose myself in the sermon. I have struggles producing certain sounds. I always second guess my sermons even while preaching them. Sometimes I speak too fast. Some days my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth as I am at a loss for words. I get butterflies in my stomach as I get wrought with fear, and after my sermons I can't stop criticizing myself.


Public speaking terrifies me, why did God pick me? All I wanted was to go into the math field and be a civilian mathematician and army engineer. I have no speaking skills. Quite the opposite. So why me? I would be lying if I told you I answered God's call instantly. I second guessed him, and sometimes I still do, but I am a Soldier and Soldiers obey orders, and my supreme commander is Jesus Christ Himself alone. So how could I disobey a direct order from God? Though I didn't disobey, I didn't trust God's judgment and asked my peers about this calling. Every one of them told me to go this route. My fellow Soldiers. My fellow Mathematicians. My teachers. My family. God was telling me to go, but this must be a mistake. I cant speak to save my life. My grammar was horrendous, and by far my absolute weakest subject. I went through 9 years of speech therapy just to learn how to speak and instead of graduating I ran away, giving up thinking that I will never learn and it was better that use my time learning things more important than grammar and my sounds such as Math. I ran away from ever thinking I would be some orator, and here God is telling to go into a profession that depends on good oral skills. Though I didn't run away, I did wonder, “Why Me.”


So I understand if you may have your struggles. If you may be terrified with standing in front of others. If you don't trust yourself. I truly do. I understand if you fear you may fail God, and thus leave more well-spoken people the task of delivering the Gospel. I understand if you fear you may even look like a fool either because you can't speak or because you are too young in your Christian understanding.


So what do we do when we receive a command from God to tell our neighbor, “That Jesus died on the cross for you.”


It may sound too simplistic to trust and obey, but that is the answer, at least from our part. Do you think that if Jesus commands us to spread the Good News that He would not equip us? We may think He doesn't, but He does.


As we read from Jeremiah, we get one of many times in the Bible that God calls the ill-prepared and prepares them. Jeremiah is called by God to be a prophet of the Lord. But Jeremiah is just a mere youth appointed under a priest. Jeremiah is right to say, “I do not know how to speak.” How could Jeremiah be an effective prophet of the Lord? I have neither the skills nor the education. What can He give or do that the priests around him can't do better? Why Me? For most of us, we will never find out the answer to that question. Why Me? But did God leave Jeremiah ill-prepared? No, far from it! For God looked upon Jeremiah's weakness, and told him quite firmly that whatever He commands Jeremiah must obey, but to not be afraid because the Lord will be with him. Then the Lord touched Jeremiah's lips with His hand and told Jeremiah that He had put His words into Jeremiah's mouth.


God knows Jeremiah cannot do this by his own ability. He already knew Jeremiah's weaknesses and his struggles. He knew Jeremiah before He was born; He was the one who consecrated Jeremiah before Jeremiah's birth. He knows all the hairs on Jeremiah's head, every thought, every evil, and all that he doesn't have. But God also doesn't make mistakes. He picked Jeremiah, knowing Jeremiah's faults, and instead of leaving Jeremiah alone God became Jeremiah's words. Thus it was not Jeremiah who spoke through his own lips, but it was the Word of God that proceeded out of his lips.


Now is Jeremiah alone in this gift? No, for we know of many others whom God speaks through, but is this a rare case? I say no to even that. Jeremiah is no different from any Christian today. Jeremiah is the Church. For if left to our own devices, we will truly fail. It doesn't matter how smart we sound or how charismatic our words are. If God does not speak through our lips, if the Holy Spirit is not present, then our utterances are just noisy gongs. How are we to obey God's commands without God on our lips?


Speaking of which, what is this command God has given each and every one of us? Why the Great Commission; to baptize, preach, and teach. But like Jeremiah, we are all equally ill-prepared to fulfill this task if left to our own device. If anyone believes they have the ability to spread God's Word without the help of God then they are puffed up and a liar. Jeremiah knew his weaknesses, and instead of hiding them, he exposed them. Jeremiah wanted to obey God, but he needed help, for he had the humility to accept that he couldn't do what God wanted of him. We, if left to our own devices, will fail God. Who are we to believe we could genuinely convert even one soul to Christ? We can't. We are like Jeremiah, whether we recognize or not, whether we accept it or not.


But just like how God placed His Word on Jeremiah's lips, when we speak the Gospel, God places His Word on our lips too. That much is a guarantee. For if anyone was to convert it was not because of your own intellect but because of the Holy Spirit which you did not bridle but boldly released for others to receive.


There are many reasons why we bridle our tongues. Most all are related in some way to fear. Fear of messing up. Fear of getting laughed at. Fear of being the center of attention. Fear of losing a friend. Fear of being ostracized. Fear of getting fired for merely speaking the Word of God. In all these cases, God tells us just as he tells Jeremiah, “Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, declares the Lord.” Do not be afraid, for God is with us and His Word will be our words. Do not be afraid, for God knows our struggles and never leaves us up to our own weaknesses. Do not be afraid, for this world is too short for such worries, but the reward in Heaven is great for according to Christ's Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” When people persecute on account of Christ, rejoice and be glad? How could we rejoice and be glad? That is fear speaking. Rejoice and be glad because God is indeed with you and your reward in heaven will indeed far surpass whatever trivial earthly pleasures the world will have to offer.


And in case we come to believe that God won't speak through us like He promised Jeremiah, read Psalm 71. It reads, “My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day.” Well how does that prove God speaks through us? Christ tells us many times that it is only because of the Father that we can proclaim Jesus is Christ. So in Psalm 71, what is this “salvation” if not Jesus Christ? Christ is the source of our Salvation, and through Him we are given the ability to proclaim Him as our Lord. How can we speak of the deed of salvation which comes from and is the Lord, our Savior, Jesus Christ who died on the cross for all sin, if not through the power of Christ who is the Word which is placed on our lips through baptism? Our mouths will tell of your righteous acts because through the Holy Spirit we can't help but proclaim from our lips the Word which saves. I may be a mess when it comes to preaching, but it is not my words that leaves my lips which is out of my weakness, but the Word which is not of myself but of God and all of His might!


So why me? It is not up for me to determine that, but to simply trust and obey, to have faith in Christ that He will guide me and supply me. To never give into fear and simply do what Christ commanded of me, not because I wish to obtain salvation for through Christ I am already saved but simply out of love for Christ that surpasses whatever fears may avail me.


Before I conclude, I wish to read the Gospel according to Matthew chapter 10, verse 16 to 23. I noticed that in our LBW lectionary this part of Jesus' speech is excluded. It is completely skipped. And I believe that to be a complete disservice. Why? Because I have heard many chaplains, Lutheran chaplains at that too, who abuse part of this scripture by saying it in part but not all together. No verse in this passage should be read apart from another but should all be read in light of each other. Thus I ask that as you listen to the Words of the Lord that you listen carefully and then reflect on what I have already said in this sermon. When “wisdom” is mention, that is to be understood in light of Job 28:28 which states that Wisdom is found in the fear of the Lord. When “innocence” is mention that does not mean to act blamelessly but to act in a way that is innocent of the cares and evils and vices of the world. And the rest, listen in light of Jeremiah and Psalm 71.


The Gospel of Matthew, chapter 10, verse 16 to 23.


16Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22and you will be hated by all for my name's sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.”


The Gospel of our Lord.


Let us pray,


Dear Lord give us the Strength to preach your Word, the Humility to know that it is not our own, and the Wisdom to trust Christ above all things. In your holy name we pray, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

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