The deadline is here. I am sitting in front of my computer screen and I am imagining Bishop John enjoying his leave. Right now I am wishing we could swap places. In particular, I am wishing he was here to write his Heartland column.
I don’t know what to say!
Do you ever have the same experience? Do you ever struggle with what to say when faced with questions from neighbours or friends about the Christian faith? Sometimes their questions contain a raft of assumptions and insinuations that are subtly off the mark. I sense that answering these questions leads away from Christ rather than towards him. I am anxious not to make a mess of it and find myself floundering.
However, I take encouragement from reflecting on the calling of Jeremiah into ministry and from promises that the Lord made to him when he was installed as a prophet (Jeremiah 1:4–12).
At the time of his calling, Jeremiah was told by God, ‘I am with you’. That’s certainly something he needed to hear. God also assured him that he had been set apart for his task. Again, this was very encouraging.
And then God reached out his hand and touched the reluctant prophet’s mouth and said, ‘I have placed my word in your mouth’. For a speaker of God’s message, that has to be really good to hear. Jeremiah must have thought, ‘God’s word is in my mouth. Now I have the confidence to speak’.
Now we don’t need to think, ‘How lucky was Jeremiah!’, because the very same promises have been made to you and me. Jesus told all his disciples, ‘Behold, I am with you always’ (Matthew 28:18). And Ephesians 1:4 reminds us that we have been chosen or set apart in Christ since before the beginning of the world.
And then there’s the clincher: God has placed his word in our mouths.
I claim this last promise on the basis of something many of us would have experienced last weekend in worship. We came to the communion rail, we opened our mouths and we received the bread and wine of the sacrament. But far more than that, we received the living Christ. Jesus is with us and in us.
Now, remember that Jesus is the Word of God. That’s what John calls him in the very first verse of his Gospel. He is the word, the message and the living embodiment of the gospel. So as we received Christ at the table, God whispered from heaven, ‘Behold, I have placed my word in your mouth’.
That encourages me in my floundering. These are sustaining truths that reach past Jeremiah to us. We go with Christ into every encounter. The word of God is in our mouths. We have been set apart for this moment.
I am seeking to press into these promises from Jesus in the day-to-day encounters that I have with others. I am wanting to make these truths my own and thus be confident in my witness. Could this also encourage you in those times when you don’t know what to say?
Lord Jesus, as we have received you in the bread and the wine, may we now allow this living word to be shared with others. Bless us as we seek to share you so that others may also receive life. Amen.
LCA Bishop John Henderson is currently on Rest and Refreshment Leave.