Tuesday of Epiphany IV – Jeremiah 1:4-10

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

“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.”

Then I said, “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” But the Lord said to me,

“Do not say, ‘I am only a youth’;
for to all to whom I send you, you shall go,
and whatever I command you, you shall speak.
Do not be afraid of them,
for I am with you to deliver you,
declares the Lord.”

Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth. And the Lord said to me,

“Behold, I have put my words in your mouth.
10 See, I have set you this day over nations and over kingdoms,
to pluck up and to break down,
to destroy and to overthrow,
to build and to plant.”

In 374 the church in Milan, Italy was in an uproar. The Bishop had died. The church was split between two parties, the Nicenes and the Arians. The dead bishop had been sympathetic to the Arian cause, but the majority were pushing for a Nicene bishop. It was complicated and tempers were flaring. It was not unthinkable that this would get ugly and violent.

The local governor, a young man from the senatorial class of Rome, showed up at the church to keep a lid on things. He urged everyone to state their position, but to do so calmly and without rancor. He had just gotten things calmed down when a child-like voice from somewhere in the crowd shouted the governor’s name: Ambrose for bishop!

With one voice the whole assembly shouted their assent. His objections were overruled by their shouts. With that child’s acclamation, a promising career in politics was ended. Ambrose became one of the most important bishops of the western tradition, particularly through his protégé, Augustine of Hippo. He would stand up to emperors and even write some hymns that you sing today. In the hymnal on my desk, he wrote three, a morning hymn, “O Splendor of the Father’s Light,” an evening hymn, “O Trinity, O Blessed Light,” but more familiarly he wrote the Advent hymn, “Savior of the Nations, Come.” God calls all sorts of people into service. Jeremiah claimed he was too young, but God brushes that aside. It is not Jeremiah’s word he is to speak, but God’s Word. God can make any speaker into a conduit for His potent Word. Jesus has made you a speaker of His Kingdom word. “If you forgive anyone their sins, they are forgiven.” (John 20:23) God has known you from eternity. He has called you to be His child in Baptism. He has given you a word to speak – forgive a sinner today.