“I am too young.”
Jeremiah 1: 6
Today’s reading from the prophet Jeremiah (1: 1, 4-10) has often been used to encourage young people to participate in the church, to assume leadership roles, to take public prophetic stands. “Your age doesn’t matter, “ we might say.
But this morning, as I read Daniel Berrigan’s commentary on this passage, in Jeremiah: The World, the Wound of God,” I began to wonder whether we have missed something.
God is asking Jeremiah to be a prophet, which will mean announcing destruction and the overthrow of the city, as well as a call to build and to plant. More than enough to make any one hesitate.
His call, though, is not just something God just thought of at the last moment. As Dan Berrigan writes:
What a predicament; what a harsh announcement! It falls, a bolt from the blue:
“Before I formed you,… before you were born,… I appointed you.”
Isn’t that too much for anyone?
As Berrigan remarks,
Jeremiah can only protest: “I don’t know how to speak; I am too young.” Does he protest too much, as some have claimed? No matter his age, the sense goes deeper. Who, at any stage of life, issued such a summons, would not feel callow, inept, a stutterer?
Do I take God’s call too blithely? Do I recognize the seriousness of being a prophet? – Aren’t we all called to be prophets, in some way? Do I underestimate the challenge?
Jeremiah was realistic. He knew his words would not be heeded. But he spoke forth, reassured by God.
As Berrigan continues:
The word in all its integrity, be it understood, is one thing — its reception quite another. So must the speaker of the word stand and withstand, more often than not, alone, a guardian, a lonely sentinel of the truth. Regardless of outcome.
Such understanding, entering the soul’s fiber and weaving it anew, gives rise to marvelous images of strength. Jeremiah “Will be like a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall.” Which is to say: as possessor of the truth, possessed by the truth, your strength surpasses that of all the others—“kings, priests, and the people.” A bit much —
A bit much – but maybe our calling.