January 30, 2022

Rev. Mark F. Bartels



Epistle Lesson; 1 Corinthians 12:27-13:13

Psalm of the Day; Psalm 78

Gospel Lesson; Luke 4:20-32                        

Sermon Text; Jeremiah 1:4-10


Our lesson is taken from Jeremiah chapter one, verses four through ten.  This is known as the calling of Jeremiah, the prophet.


The Word of the LORD came to me.  Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I set you apart.  I appointed you to be a prophet to the nations.  But I said, “Ah, Lord God!  I really do not know how to speak!  I am only a child!” 

The LORD said to me, “Do not say, 'I am only a child.'  You must go to everyone to whom I send you and say whatever I command you.  Do not be afraid of them, because I am with you, and I will rescue you, declares the LORD.”  Then the LORD stretched out His hand and touched my mouth.  The LORD said to me:  There!  I have now placed my words in your mouth.  Look, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and to tear down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.



These are your words, Heavenly Father.  Lead us in the way of truth.  Your Word is truth.



Yesterday our family ordered some food from Olive Garden, to be delivered to our house.  I had gotten a nice, big salad.  I ate that salad, and it was wonderful.  When supper was over, we were cleaning up.  My salad came with a bag of croutons that I had not used on my salad, so I threw them in the waste basket, and went to bed. 

All of a sudden, as I was lying in bed, I thought, “What a great sermon illustration”.  So, I went and got the croutons back out of the waste basket, and brought them here to church, this morning. 

As I was throwing those croutons away, I actually felt a little sorry for them.  Here is why I felt sorry for them.  I thought, “You know that wheat was planted by somebody.  It spent all summer growing.  Somebody harvested it.  It was milled, and then it was made into bread.  It was cut into croutons, put into a package, and sold to a restaurant.  The restaurant sent it to my house to put on my salad.  The whole purpose of that wheat, the whole reason it existed, was  so someday I would eat it, be nourished by it, and I would enjoy eating it.  But, I threw it away.  I thought, that wheat, its whole purpose for existence was wasted.  It was wasted, because I threw it away.”

I feel that way, when I throw away junk mail that comes here to Holy Cross.  I think, “Man, that tree grew years, and years, and years.  It was turned into paper.  It was printed on.  Its whole purpose is to give me information, and I am not even going to look at it.  I am just going to just throw it away, and never even use it.  And, I think that poor tree, its whole existence was wasted.  Its whole purpose for existence was wasted.”

I am going magnify that.  One day, I was talking to a gentleman.  He had lived a full life.  He had lived a very successful life.  But, God had not been important to him.  Church had not been important to him.  But, he found out he was right at the end of his life.  He had only a few days left to live.  And at that point, thank God, the Holy Spirit convicted him, and caused him to think, “I better talk to a pastor.”

So, he called me up. 

When I was in his house, he said something to me that cut to my very core.  He looked at me, and said, “Pastor, I have wasted my entire life.” 

He was just distraught.  I could see his wheels turning, thinking, “If only I could do it all over, again.  If only I could be back with my kids, when they were kids, I would do it all different.  If only I could  be with my wife again, I would do it all different.  If only I could go back to my job again, I would do it all different.  It would be so different.”

But now he had come to his last couple days, and he knew, “I can't go back.  I can't do it all over, again.”  And, he felt as if he had wasted his entire life.

When I was a kid, I remember a Sunday School Teacher gave me a little, cardboard piece of paper.  I kept it for years.  Here is what it said. 

“Only one life to live 'twill soon be passed,

only what is done for Christ will last.”

The point of that is we have one life, one life.  That is it.  And when it is over, it is over, and you can't go back, and do it, again.  So, don't waste your life.  Don't waste your life!

I am going to look at that, on the basis of today's scripture reading, on the basis of what happened to Jeremiah, when he was called by the LORD.

First of all, it is important for us to understand God has a purpose for you being here.  God, Himself, has a purpose for you being here on this earth.  Here is what the LORD said to Jeremiah.  The LORD said to Jeremiah,

“Before I formed you in the womb,

I knew you, 

and before you were born,

I set you apart. 

I appointed you to be a prophet to the nations.”

Now, that is a stunning thing to think about.  The LORD is telling Jeremiah, (now Jeremiah lived about 600BC), He is telling Jeremiah, “Jeremiah, I have a critical purpose for your existence.”

This is what the LORD knew.  He knew the people of Judah were going to become incredibly wicked.  They would have wicked kings, a wicked government, and wicked religious leaders.  God knew they would need a prophet, somebody who would come, call them to repentance, and preach and teach The Word of God.  So God, for that very purpose, formed and made Jeremiah.  He is telling Jeremiah, “I knew you before you were even formed in your mother's womb.” 

So, the LORD had a plan.  And, the plan was, “I need to make somebody who is going to be able to be a prophet to my people”.  So, He says, “I formed you in your mother's womb”.  That means the LORD made Jeremiah just the way He wanted Jeremiah to be.  The LORD gave Jeremiah the traits he needed, the personality he needed, the parents he needed.  He was born in the setting he needed.  He was with the friends, and people he needed so that when the time came for the LORD to have Jeremiah carry out His purpose, he was prepared.  So, the LORD made Jeremiah, formed him, and had plans before he was ever formed in his mother's womb. 

Then the LORD says,

“I set you apart.”   

In The Old Testament some things were set apart, and consecrated.  The word there for 'set apart' means 'they were to be used for nothing, nothing except holy purposes'.  So, God says, “I made you, and I have set you apart for holy purposes.  Your job is to be a prophet to the nations.”

Now, what about you?  Can we say the same thing about you?  Did you know The Bible tells us,

“All our days were ordained,

before one of them came to be.”

So, before you were ever formed in your mother's womb, God already had in mind all about you.  He knew all of your days.  He had it all planned, and all figured out.  He had a purpose for you.  There is another passage that talks about God is like the potter, and we are the clay.  It says,

“Who are you to say to the potter,

'Why did you make me this way?'” 

God has an intent, and He shaped you, formed you, and made you just the way He intended you to be, because He has a plan, and a purpose for you in this life.  You are not here for nothing.  He has a plan.  So, the way your eyes are made, your ears are made, the setting you were born in, the parents you had, the friends you had, the things that happen to you, that is all part of God's plan to carry out His purpose for you. 

And, just like Jeremiah was consecrated, set apart, The Bible tells us God predestined you, before the creation of the world.  Even before the world was ever created, God already had you in mind, and He had already planned to save you for all eternity. 

So, when you were baptized, then you were consecrated, you were set apart, you were made part of His family.  And, you were set apart for what?  For nothing, but holy purposes.  That is what you are here for.  You are here for holy purposes. 

The Bible tells us that we are part of the body of Christ.  You were set apart to be a part of Christ's body.  Every one of us.  We all have different purposes in the body.  In fact, the Epistle Lesson that Pastor Tweit read says,

“You are the body of Christ,

and individually you are members of it. 

And God appointed in the church:

first apostles, second prophets, third teachers,

then miracles, healing gifts, helpful acts,

leadership abilities, kinds of tongues.” 

Then it says,

“Are all apostles?  Are all prophets?   Are all teachers?  Are all miracle workers?  Do all have healing gifts?  Do all speak in tongues?  Do all interpret?” 

No, we are all made differently.  God made you for a purpose, and your purpose is to be a part of the body of Christ.

Now, that means maybe you are a kneecap.  Maybe you are a hand.   Maybe you are an ear.  Maybe you are an eye.  But, if you are a kneecap, you are just as important as the mouth, or the eye, because if my kneecap does not work, my mouth cannot go, and tell other people about Jesus.  If my kneecap does not work, I can't go, and hear from as many people about what might be hurting them.  So, we are all important parts of the body of Christ. 

You may ask yourself, “Well, what is my role?  God has a purpose for me.  He has created me, made me, shaped me, and He has put me in the family, but what is my particular role?” 

Jeremiah's was to be a prophet.  Our Epistle Lesson says this. 

“Are all apostles?  Are all prophets?  Are all teachers?” 

It goes through this whole list, and then it says,

“But eagerly seek the greater gifts.” 

What is the greatest gift?  What is the greatest calling you could have in life?  You know what it says?  This is something you are called to, everyone of us, no matter what our vocation.  It says, the greatest gift is love.  It says,

“Love is patient.  Love is kind.  Love does not envy.  It does not brag.  It is not proud.  It is not arrogant.  It does not behave indecently.  It is not selfish.  It is not irritable  It does not keep a record of wrongs.” 

Love always trusts, always hopes, always perservers.  Love never fails.

So, whatever position God has put you in in life, you serve your purpose well, if you love like that, if you love with a Christ-like love.  If you are a mom, and you love with a Christ-like love, you are not wasting your life.  If you are a dad, and you love with a Christ-like love, you are not wasting your life, at all.  If you are a spouse, and you love with an unconditional Christ-like love, you are not wasting your life.  If you are working at a place, and you love that way, you are not wasting your life. 

We are called to love. 

Now, when you look at Jeremiah, he was called to display that love in a particular way.  And, remember love, true love is a Christ-like love.  True love is sacrificial.  It is self sacrificial.  It says, “I will sacrifice whatever it takes to meet the needs of others”. 

Jeremiah, little did he know how much he was going to have to sacrifice, as a prophet.  Little did he know.  If you read the book of Jeremiah, you discover Jeremiah preached to wicked people.  They did not want to hear God's Word.  But, he was willing to sacrifice out of love for their souls. Here are some of the things that happened to Jeremiah.  He was put in stocks.  Another time he was thrown in prison.  Another time he was thrown in a cistern, in a big mucky pit.  And, he was there for a long time.  Another time, he was carried in to exile in Egypt.  He had no idea what he would have to sacrifice in this calling that he was called to.  He told the LORD, when the LORD called him, “I am just a child.  I cannot speak.  How can I be a prophet?”  

You see, Jeremiah felt unfit for the role God had called him in to.  He felt unfit.  Maybe you feel unfit for the role God has called you in to.  Maybe you never planned on being a parent, and you are one, and you feel like, “I don't know if I can do this”.
Maybe you never planned on being a widow, or a widower, but now you are one.  You have been put in that position.  You feel like, “I am not ready for this.  I am not qualified for this”.
Maybe you are going to school, and you are in eighth grade, or ninth grade, and it is way harder than you ever thought it would be, and you think, “I am not ready for this.  I don't know if I am qualified for this.”

We don't always look for our vocation.  Our vocation looks for us.  Just like Jeremiah did not look to be a prophet.  The LORD assigned him that role.  You may not look to be a widower, or a widow, but the LORD may assign that to you.  You may not look to be a mom or a dad, but the LORD may assign that to you.  You may not look to struggle in school, but the LORD may assign that to you. 

So, Jeremiah said, “I am not ready,  I can't do it”. 

But, listen to what the LORD said to Jeremiah.  “Don't be afraid.  Don't be afraid.  I will be with you”.  That was a promise.  A promise.  The LORD was with Jeremiah, no matter what Jeremiah did, said, and taught, as hard as it was, the LORD enabled him to have the unconditional Christ-like love, and speak the truth in love.  Don't worry.  Don't be afraid with whatever position God has assigned you in life.  God is with you.

Jeremiah was a young guy.  We think he was in his teens, or early twenties, by the way, when he was called to be a prophet, a young guy.  Well, I was talking to a young guy the other day.  The LORD has called him in to certain roles, and responsibilities.  And, they can be very stressful, sometimes.  He was talking about how difficult it was, so I asked him, “What do you do, when it gets really difficult?”
He said, “Well, I like to sing hymns.”

I said, “Ah, that is great!  What hymn do you like to sing in particular?”
Here is what he said, “Oh, Taste and See”.

Actually, that is not a hymn.  It is part of our liturgy.  This is one of the reasons we have a liturgy.  This Taste and See is just God's Word, parts of psalms, put in to music, so that you memorize it, so that when you need it, it is there. Isn't it a great thing to think about, when you think about some of the burdens we have to bear given the purpose God made us for, the calling He has given us.  Here are the words for Oh Taste and See. 

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good.

Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.

Your Word, O LORD, is eternal;

It stands firm in the heavens.

Your faithfulness continues forever.

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good.

Blessed are they who take refuge in Him.

That is such a comforting thing for us to know.  The LORD is good.  He is going to bless us.  He is going to take care of us.  His Word endures forever.  His promises don't fail.

I was talking to a couple, young, kids this past week.  Both of them have been put in to callings in life that they did not intend, but there is some really difficult stuff going on in their lives, as little kids.  They have in their family some real sickness.  I was talking to them about how to carry out their function in life.  They said it is hard, and it is a big burden.  I told them about a guy I know.  I said, “There is a guy I know, and every day he says this prayer.  The prayer is:  'God give me the strength for the burden of the day.  God give me the strength for the burden of the day.'  That friend of mine who prays that prayer, he prayed that one morning, and later that day his wife died.  All of a sudden, God put him in a different calling than he had ever had before.  He became a widower.” 

He said, “Mark I prayed that morning, 'God give me the strength for the burden of the day', and then God, that day, caused me to be a widower, but God gave me the strength.  He gave me the strength for the burden of the day.  And He gives me the strength every day.”

So, whatever calling God has called you in to, we trust He gives us the strength. 

Ultimately, ultimately, our goal then, whatever purpose God has made you for, and called you in to, we know this.  My goal is to love, to love those people I am called to.  Love my kids.  Love my grandkids.  Love my spouse.  Love my mom and dad, with an unconditional, Christ-like love.  Love the people at work.

But, you know, all of that is for naught, it is all for naught, if they don't know about Jesus.  So, our ultimate goal is that they come to know about Jesus.  That was the goal the LORD assigned Jeremiah. 

Jeremiah said, “I am not ready for this”.

The LORD said, “Don't be afraid.  I will be with you.” 

Then the LORD touched Jeremiah's mouth, and said, “See, I put my Word on your mouth.”

Jeremiah preached The Word.  It was not Jeremiah who had the strength to convert anybody.  He simply preached The Word, and The Word did its job.  The Word did its work.  God says,

“My Word will not return empty. 

It will accomplish the purpose where-onto I sent it.”

So, our ultimate goal in whatever calling God has placed you in life, (and many callings you may have), our goal is whoever we touch, whoever we know, whoever we love, we pray that somehow they would come to know The Word.  You may say, “I can't do that,” just like Jeremiah did.  But, I want to just read these two verses from a hymn. 

If you cannot speak like angels,

If you cannot preach like Paul,

You can tell the love of Jesus.

You can say He died for all.

If you cannot rouse the wicked,

with the judgment's dread alarm,

You can lead the little children

to the Savior's waiting arms.

So, don't waste your life.  Live it with purpose.  Live it with a goal, ultimately, of bringing others to Jesus.

Now, I want to end with a true story about a guy who wasted his life.  It is the thief on the cross.  The Bible calls him a malefactor.  A 'malefactor' basically means 'a professional evil doer'.  He was a bad guy.  He made a living being a bad guy.  He was so bad that he was found unworthy to live.  He was put on a cross, next to Christ.  He was so bad, so wicked, so evil, living such a worthless life, that he was making fun of Jesus, while he was hanging on the cross dying.  At the last minute, somehow the Holy Spirit gripped that man's heart.  He looked in to eternity, and he realized, “I am going to meet my Maker, and I am not ready.  There is no way I can be ready unless...” 

Then, he turned to Jesus.  The LORD had brought him to realize Jesus is the Savior of the world.  He pleaded to Jesus.  He said, “Lord, remember me, when you come in to your Kingdom.”

Now, this man had wasted his life.  He wasted it.  And, he had moments to live.  And now, he is pleading with Jesus to save him.

Jesus said to that man,

“Truly, truly I say to you,

today you will be with me in Paradise.”

Now, that man's heart must have been overjoyed to hear that!  Thank God, I am not saved, because I lived a wonderful life.  And even if I have wasted my life, Jesus has forgiven it all.  He has lived a perfect life in my place.  He died for all of my faults. 

“We are saved by grace alone,

through faith alone,

in Christ alone.” 

What a comfort to that man.

Now, this is what I want you to think about.  If that thief miraculously at the end of the day, instead of them breaking his legs so he died, if they had taken him off of the cross, and he would have gotten a second chance at life, do you think he would have gone back to being a malefactor, a professional evil doer?  I am sure he would have dramatically, from that time forward said, “I don't want waste my life, anymore.” 

And so I say this to all of us.  Christ died for all that those who live, should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who loved them, and gave Himself up for them.



May the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts, and our minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord.