I Was Sent for This Purpose
February 3, 2019 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: Being SJLC 2019: Consecrated, Lord, to Thee - Part 2
Topic: Biblical Verse: Luke 4:31–4:44
The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany
February 2-3, 2019
“I Was Sent for This Purpose”
On this Super Bowl weekend, people fall into three different camps: Patriots fans, Ram fans, and everybody else. I almost feel like I need to reintroduce myself to all of you, having been away so much of late. This sense of being absent was preceded by the cancellation of worship services due to heavy snow on Sunday, January 13. Remember that? I left for Iowa the next day on January 14, and returned this past Monday, January 28. From everyone in my family, please know how grateful we are to you, the members of this congregation, for the outpouring of love and support at my mother’s passing. At age 96, my mom was more than ready to go and be with the Lord, and so hers was truly a blessed death. It was my privilege to preach the sermon at her funeral. Iowa in January is always cold and wintry, but I am so very glad that I got out before the arctic blast of this past week. This was my daughters’ first ever experience of my home state in January, and they all said the same thing: “We’re never going back!” When I received word on that Sunday afternoon, January 13, that my mother was in rapidly declining health, I knew what I had to do. You just know that you have to pick up and go, no matter what you may have on your to-do list. I knew that at this particular point in time, I was being sent back to my little hometown for this purpose: to be with my mom in her final days and prepare for her homegoing from this life to life eternal. It is that sense of purpose that is before us in today’s Scripture lessons, both Old Testament (Jeremiah 1:4-10) and Gospel (Luke 4:31-44). This becomes the theme for preaching today, using the very words of Jesus from the Gospel lesson: “I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43b). May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
“I was sent for this purpose” comes through loud and clear in that Old Testament lesson with the call of the prophet Jeremiah. The Lord God makes clear that He has a plan and purpose for the young Jeremiah. In fact, God’s plan and purpose for Jeremiah were in place even before Jeremiah was born: “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” (Jeremiah 1:5). Wow – no pressure! Jeremiah felt wholly inadequate for what God wanted him to do. Like so many others before and after him, he wanted out of the task God had appointed for him: “Ah, Lord God! I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth” (Jeremiah 1:6). We can come up with a thousand excuses why God should look for somebody else: I’m not qualified; somebody else can do it better; it’s not the right time; I’m busy doing other things; and on and on. But here’s the thing: God does not call those who are qualified, but God does qualifiy those whom He calls. And that is certainly true with me! I did not grow up in a parsonage, the son of a pastor, schooled in theology and church. Nope – I grew up on a farm, the son of a farmer, schooled in field work and livestock. But the same Lord who called Jeremiah called me also. The words of the Lord to Jeremiah were before me at my ordination into the office of the holy ministry more than thirty years ago. This banner is from that very day, reminding me to this very day of this sacred calling of which I am not worthy except by the saving grace of God: “Behold, I have put my words in your mouth” (Jeremiah 1:9b). I follow in Jeremiah’s train because like him, I was sent for this purpose: to proclaim what God has said. Like Jeremiah, at times I feel wholly inadequate to the task which He has called me to do. It is only through the amazing grace and strength which He provides that any of us can do what God calls us to do.
“I was sent for this purpose” is what Jesus is all about in today’s Gospel lesson: teaching, casting out demons, healing the sick, seeking out quiet time with his Father in prayer. The local people there in Capernaum didn’t want Jesus to go. If they had their way, they would have locked him up in a room to keep him all to themselves! But Jesus’ mission is much bigger than that: “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43). Behind this urgency to go on to the next town, and the next one after that, is the saving truth that Jesus was sent for all people. Not just a select few, but every tribe and people and nation and language. Jesus who came to teach, cast out demons, and heal the sick, also came to offer his life as the once-for-all sacrifice for the sins of the whole world; your sins and mine. The sinless Son of God was sent for this very purpose: to suffer and die in our place on the tree of the cross. He died that we might live, not just for ourselves, but for him who loved us and gave himself for us. This is the good news that makes an eternal difference in the lives of people, but how are they going to hear about all that God in Christ has done for them unless we share this with them? That is where each and every one of us comes in.
It is true that pastors are called to preach the good news of Jesus, but it is also true that all of us are called to be witnesses of Jesus through our Baptism into his death and resurrection. That is what this season of Serving Jesus – Living in Community is all about. Each one of you has access to circumstances and people that I will never have; this is your unique mission field. The Lord God who set apart Jeremiah has also set you apart for this unique calling to be his hands and feet and mouth in that unique mission field of your home, your place of work, your time with friends and neighbors. At the heart of our sharing Jesus is love, as Paul the apostle tells us in today’s Epistle lesson (1 Corinthians 12:31b-13:13): “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). This is the purpose for which we all are sent: to hold out the love of Jesus to a world that desperately needs his love. Love is at the heart of who we are and what we do as the people of Christ. Love is what moves us to serve the homeless at the Hypothermia Shelter as we did last week. Love is what moves us to put together 10,000 meals to help the hungry as we did yesterday morning. Love is what moves us to send a team of people to Haiti for more than ten years as we are doing again this week. Love is what moves us to see the world around us through eyes of Jesus. This is the purpose for which we are sent, all in the Name of Jesus.
From Jeremiah to Jesus, from then to now, from time to eternity, may the love of Jesus be the purpose for which we are sent. Amen.