Can a Fire Engine Be Green?

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Reading from the Hebrew Scriptures        Jeremiah 1: 4-10

4 Now the word of the Lord came to me saying,

5 “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.”

6 Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak, for I am only a boy.”

7 But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, “I am only a boy’; for you shall go to all to whom I send you, and you shall speak whatever I command you.

8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you, says the Lord.”

9 Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth; and the Lord said to me, “Now I have put my words in your mouth.

10 See, today I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms, to pluck up and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

 

Sermon              Can a Fire Engine Be Green?

Do you remember what it was like to be a child

and no one would listen to you?

I remember one time seeing a fire engine

racing down the road with its siren blaring

and lights flashing . . . and guess what . . .

it was a green-colored fire engine.

That’s right . . . green.

But when I told my parents that I saw

a green fire engine . . . they just laughed at me . . .

because, according to them . . .

fire engines can only be red.

There’s no such thing as a green fire engine.

And no matter how I argued with them . . .

it didn’t matter . . . they said I was mistaken.

And to make matters worse . . .

my sister even started to tease me about it.

 

But sometimes, children do have important things

to tell us . . .

much more important than the color of a fire engine.

Do we listen to them when they tell us

they have something important to say?

Or do we laugh at them . . . and tell them

they are mistaken.

 

The prophet Jeremiah had something to say . . .

God had even put the words in his mouth . . .

but Jeremiah didn’t think he was qualified

to speak for God . . .

after all . . . who would pay attention to him . . .

he was just a young boy?

Can’t say I blame him . . . after all,

who would take the word of a child

who was trying to tell you that the nation

was heading in the wrong direction

and God wanted things turned back around . . .

who would listen to words of such a prophet . . .

such a young child.

 

Do you think the king of Judah would pay any attention

to one of God’s prophets?

Makes you wonder about today . . .

do you think the leaders of this country would pay

any more attention to a young prophet of God?

Do we really want to hear the words of the prophets

any more than the king of Israel

wanted to listen to Jeremiah.

Would you listen?

 

When you think of a prophet . . . who comes to mind?

I suppose being here in a church

you might naturally think of prophets

in the Hebrew scriptures like Jeremiah . . .

and Isaiah . . . and a whole bunch of those

minor prophets like Micah and Obadiah . . .

and then if step over into the New Testament

you might remember the disciples

and John the Baptist and, of course, Paul.

But not all prophets are just in the Bible.

Think about it . . . who would you call

a prophet in today’s world . . .

who do people pay attention to

when they have something to say?

I can think of several . . .

John Lewis speaks a prophetic word or two . . .

younger generations pay attention

to Shane Claiborne and Brian McLaren . . .

Dr. William Barber is often called

the new Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. . . .

the Dali Lama and Desmond Tutu are considered

by many as prophets of the 21st Century . . .

then there are prophets that I don’t really agree with

such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell . . .

some even claim Donald Trump

is a modern day prophet  . . .

but he prefers to tweet his prophetic words.

 

But is it a requirement to be rich and famous

before you can be considered a prophet

and people will stop what they are doing

to listen to you?

Are there other prophets in the world . . .

even here in the United States . . .

who you’ve never heard . . . never paid attention to?

Well yes . . . there are.

Actually there are lots of them . . .

it’s just that we don’t pay much attention to them . . .

we don’t hang around with them long enough

to hear their stories that might want to share with us.

We might label these kind of prophets as misfits . . .

or illegal . . . or the wrong color . . .

or uneducated . . . or lazy . . . or criminals . . .

and there are plenty of other labels I could mention,

but I’d rather not.

They are the prophets who are powerless . . .

they are the prophets who are forgotten . . .

they are the prophets who are oppressed . . .

they are the prophets the dominant culture

ignores and continues to abuse . . .

but they are still prophets . . .

and their voices need to be heard . . .

because they, too, speak the word of God to us.

 

Someone once wrote these powerful words . . .

and they hit the mark . . .

“When the prophet Jeremiah protests,

“Truly, I do not know how to speak,

for I am only a boy,”

he gives voice to the language

of internalized oppression—

that sin-sick chorus of voices saying some of us

don’t matter that inundates us

until it becomes nearly synonymous

with our self-understanding.

I am only a boy.  Or a girl.

I am only an illegal immigrant

or minimum-wage worker.

I am just another black life.  Or gay runaway.

Or foster child that no one

has been able to really see, truly love.

It is so easy to diminish voices

speaking from the margins.

They are periphery voices, too long neglected

in the halls of power and pulpits of our churches.

These voices are difficult to hear,

because they are thick with a pain

in which we are complicit.

They are inconvenient, because they ask us

to do things like rework an entire service,

center the experiences of the suffering

in our sanctuaries,

and march in the streets with those

disrupting the status quo.

(Rev. Amanda Hendler-Voss, Land of the Sky UCC, Asheville)

 

So today . . . I am going to ask you to listen

to the words of two prophets . . .

two prophets who are going to bring their story to us . . .

and out of their stories . . . if we listen hard enough . .

.we, too, might feel a bit unsettled . . .

maybe even  uncomfortable . . .

and they might just ask us to do something

we’d rather not do . . .

maybe even disrupt the status quo.

But you know . . . those good prophets in the Bible

did that a whole lot . . .

and another prophet . . . Jesus Christ . . .

my Lord and Savior . . . did that all of his life.

But you have to take time to listen . . .

to really listen.

 

I invite you now to listen to the stories of two prophets .

. . both students of Freedom University . . .

both DACA recipients . . .

both who have already given so much to this country . .

. and still have so much more to offer  . . .

 Alma Ol-Fer and Rafael Aragon

will now share their voices and their prophetic words . . .

let us welcome them.

TO HEAR THEIR STORIES . . . WATCH THE VIDEO

 

Can a fire engine be green?

Yes it can.

Can two DACA students from Freedom University . . .

who have been told by the government

that they aren’t welcome here . . .

be a blessing to you and me and to this country.

Yes they can.

Let us pray:

 

Lord of all . . . Creator of everyone out of the dust of the cosmos . . . we pray for all of your children . . . all of our brothers and sisters . . . who are one in your family . . . a family that knows no borders . . . a family that stretches from one end of this world to the next . . . a family that finds joy in diversity and differences . . . a family that gathers at your table where there is enough for everyone . . . where there is hope and plenty of grace for everyone . . . where there is love and acceptance beyond measure. Soften the hearts of those who would exclude others . . . so that one day . . . we might rejoice as that one family in your holy and magnificence presence.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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