8/22/2010 -- The Rev. Anne-Marie Jeffery -- 13th Sunday after Pentecost

posted Sep 8, 2010, 1:38 PM by Unknown user   [ updated Sep 8, 2010, 1:40 PM by Terry Brady ]

Text: Jeremiah 1:4-10

            Tis the season for going back to school. If not tomorrow, then in the next few weeks.  For some, this year, going back to school means going to college for the first time.  I remember when I went off to college. It was a big deal. Not only was I entering a new phase of my life, I was going to live in a different country as I was moving from Antigua in the Caribbean to New York.  I welcomed and feared the change, and I found that life was quite different.  There were many reasons why it was different.  I had a new independence.  I had to make the day to day decisions about my life without the input or interference from my parents. However, there was something else that was different, and it took me awhile to put my finger on it. I was being treated like an adult. Maybe like an 18 year old that was headed towards being an adult, but definitely no longer as a child. For the first time in 18 years, there was no one around who had known me as a child, and for me, who had grown up in what was essentially a very small town, that was very different. 

            It was wonderful in some ways to not be known. I had the freedom to something else besides my parent’s daughter. However, it was also a little scary, because nobody really knew me. They didn’t know what I liked and what I didn’t like.  They didn’t know what I was good at. They didn’t know that when I was three I wanted to be a fireman. When Christmas came and I couldn’t afford the plane trip home, I really began to miss being around people who had known me for a long time. My solution was to spend time with my Aunt Muriel and family in Queens, NY, with whom my parents were staying when I was born as they were doing a post graduate course.   With Aunt Muriel’s family I felt known even though they had only seen me from time to time over the years. They had known me when I was a baby, and remembered when I took my first steps.  With them I felt a comfort and security that is difficult to describe.

Perhaps this is why I am so attracted to the Old Testament reading and God’s words to Jeremiah – “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.” Being known is powerful, and if being known by people is powerful, then how much more powerful is a God who has known us before we were formed.   How wondrous is it, that no matter how young or old we are, we can be in contact with God who knows us inside and out? We are able to come into the presence of God who knows how wonderfully we were created and knows the gifts that we have been given.  To be known, to be truly known in our deepest depths is a gift from God.  I find God’s knowledge of me incredibly reassuring.  If God knows me and I am listening to God, then the path I follow is one that I have the gifts to take. God will call me to follow the path that God created me for, and as Jeremiah finds out further on in the Old Testament reading, the call from God is no small thing and as Jeremiah is sent out as a prophet, to speak to those God sends him to and to say what God has commanded.  Jeremiah objects saying he is too young - only a boy - not qualified to speak to people and to say things that may be hard to hear.   But God knows Jeremiah, knows that this is the work that he is called to do, and that he has the ability to do it. 

Jeremiah trusts in God’s knowledge and answers the call.  What is it like to trust in God’s knowledge of us and therefore to then have the courage to answer God’s call?  What is it like to put down our human objections where we say, “I am only a child.  I can’t speak well. I don’t have the right knowledge. I’m not qualified. I couldn’t possibly do what you ask.” and say, “Yes Lord. I will go.” 

One of the places I have learned to trust in God’s knowledge of me and in my God-given gifts is in a faith community.  It is in such a community that I listen to and study the scripture stories of all those who came before me who and who sometimes paused before answering God’s call – Abraham Sarah, Hagar, Moses, Jeremiah, Jonah, Mary and Mary Magdalene.  It was in a faith community that I saw others taking up answering God’s call and where people who knew me encouraged me to follow God’s call. In faith communities, our church families, we have an opportunity to know each other in a different way that we might know others at work or at home.   In our churches, we look for each other’s spiritual gifts and pay special attention to how those gifts can help each of us follow God’s call.   As I get to know you, the people of St. Margaret’s, I see the fruits of answering God’s call in many places in your life here, and I’m not even talking about the ministry you do when you go outside these doors.   I see you answering God’s call in the people who serve as Lay Eucharistic visitors bringing communion to those who cannot make it to church, and in those who work with the Sunday school and the J2A programs who are beginning to get ready for the new Sunday school year.  I see it in those lead and participate in EFM, and in those who are greeters and ushers welcoming and guiding visitors. I see it in those who prepare our altar for worship from setting out the linens and vessels to the arrangement of the flowers. I haven’t experienced the choir yet, but I hear they are amazing.  I see God’s call being answered in work of the vergers, acolytes, and lectors who lead worship and help it go smoothly and reverently.  I see it in organization of the many activities you offer from the Cabarets to the rummage sale.  I see it in those who offer themselves for leadership positions such as vestry or the various committees. I know I have left ministries out, and I am sorry for that, but know that at St. Margaret’s you do many many things and I am still trying to learn about them all.  

In all these tasks your God given gifts are being used. Maybe someone helped them you discover their gifts for these ministries and encouraged you to take them up. Someone saw you, and knew what you could do. Whether you are new here or have been here at St. Margaret’s for 20 years, this is a place where there is the potential to be known.   This is part of our work as Christians to truly know each other, to do our best to see who each of us is, and to help each other discern those God given gifts. To be known gives us the assurance we need to go out.  To be known by others helps us get a glimpse of the complete knowing that we receive from God – the knowing that began before we were born. I invite you today to think about how you know another in this place whether it is only by the smile of someone who has walked in for the first time or the many years you have had to experience the gifts of another.  God gives us the ultimate gift of knowing each and every one of us. May we have the grace to know each other and to see and encourage the gifts of those we encounter.