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.” – Jeremiah 1:5-8
The following verses above is probably something many of us have drawn comfort from. It is not exactly an uncommon text when used as a form of empowerment for missions or perhaps taking up a difficult task. However, during vesper today it dawned on me that the mission Jeremiah had might arguably be the mission that none of us today would want or desire. I suspect there might still be a tendency to view missions as something respected and noble, if not by the people we are reaching out to, then at least by the church that sends us. But what if we are sent on a mission knowing that it will not result in any fruit? What if the mission given to us is to preach a message that we take no pleasure in? To make matters worse, what if our mission involves our people starting to despise us as well?
7 O Lord, you have enticed me,
and I was enticed;
you have overpowered me,
and you have prevailed.
I have become a laughingstock all day long;
everyone mocks me.
8 For whenever I speak, I must cry out,
I must shout, “Violence and destruction!”
For the word of the Lord has become for me
a reproach and derision all day long.
9 If I say, “I will not mention him,
or speak any more in his name,”
then within me there is something like a burning fire
shut up in my bones;
I am weary with holding it in,
and I cannot.
10 For I hear many whispering:
“Terror is all around!
Denounce him! Let us denounce him!”
All my close friends
are watching for me to stumble.
“Perhaps he can be enticed,
and we can prevail against him,
and take our revenge on him.” – Jeremiah 20:7-10
That is, I think the mission of Jeremiah. He has the mission that nobody wants. As I reflect on this passage, a few questions come to mind. In light of Jeremiah’s experience, what counts as a successful missionary? In matters of discipleship, have I really counted the cost of what it means to respond to God? Have I…actually responded too quickly?