What do you want to be when you grow up? What did you want to be?
Now why did you want to do that? We focus on occupation, jobs, why? Did anyone think, wise, or funny, or giving? No our answer to that question is a job. Why?
Money? What does money give you? The things you need, security?
For some money, having money, spending money, is a status symbol.
But, really all it boils down to is I think respect. We want respect whether its as a teacher, a police officer, a mom or a dad, an receptionist, mechanic, a nail technician, whatever. We want, I’m pretty sure to be respected, to have our voice heard.
But sometimes it may be hard to know what to say, and even the most articulate, the most wise, the highest authorities may be dumbfounded.
For example, what would you say if a man with guns and ammo walked into your office, your job, the store where you shop, what if someone walked right in here? What would you do?
Would you say this to that man: : So just stay there calm, don’t worry about it. I’m gonna sit right here so they’ll see that you tried not to harm me, ok? Ok. Would you say to this potential shooter or murderer? It’s going to be alright sweetie. I just want you to know that I love you though, ok? And I’m proud of you. That’s a good thing that you’ve just given up. And don’t worry about it. We all go through something in life
Those are just some of the words that Antoinette Tuff said to the man with 500 rounds of ammo and a gun as he stood in a school office in Georgia earlier this week. There were a lot of other things said, and if you can get a chance to listen to that 911 call recording I encourage you to do that. It is terrifying; it is heart warming. Now as many of us know Mrs Tuff is not a hostage negotiator, she’s not a psychologist, but she is the school book keeper and she is Christian. Later in the call when she, exclaims “Oh Jesus”. It isn’t some thoughtless byword, but the deepest prayer.
Mrs Tuff has gone through something that hopefully none of us will ever have to. However,the world we live in is terribly uncertain, frightfully violent.
There is fighting between nations, between neighbors, between strangers, and within families. It is reasonable to fear strangers, who knows what they might be thinking, who knows what weapon they will use? Fear and uncertainty fills the hearts of the people.
I could be describing today, just as easily as I am describing the world of the prophet Jeremiah. The people of Jerusalem, sandwiched between the great nations of Egypt and Babylon, thought political alliances and the armies and weapons of one nation or another would keep them safe. Within this space of fear, the people clung to the belief that their holy city Jerusalem would never be destroyed. That they could count on God to give them success, give them wealth and prosperity, that God would always be on their side and got their back.
Is our day so very different? Nations are at each others throats. Random acts of senseless violence are on the news. The American Way of life that worked for some people seems to be threatened. Believing that prosperity is God’s vision for us and our way of life so many people have turned to various forms of violence to preserve a sense of security. With guns and more guns and with laws that allow us to use those guns shoot first.
I don’t know about you but some times I feel it’s just gotten to the point where I feel powerless even speechless. What do we say in and to this world?
Our bible readings this morning tell us that in terrible times, God is not silent. God is calling up prophets, prophets like Jeremiah, who in the Bible are not so interested on telling the future, but instead telling God’s truth. Now for most of these prophets, and especially for Jeremiah, this truth was unpleasant, it was unwelcome. His warnings against playing one nation off another were not welcome. His call to faithfully following God and not the power of weapons was not welcomed. It is not a life of ease and respectability. Jeremiah even complains that he didn’t want this job that God has given him.
But, God didn’t stop at Jeremiah. We can believe that God was at work in Antoinette Tuff, in her church giving her a way to save lives, so that while shots were fired, not one person was in that school was killed that day, not even the man tormented by mental illness, desperate, distraught, and bent on destructive died that day.
God has been calling people like Jeremiah –prophets who don’t foretell the future, but tell the truth, God’s truth. People, mostly but not exclusively women our grandmother and great grandmothers who fought so that on Aug, 26, 1920 the 19th Amendment to our Constitution,the one giving women the right to vote could be announced as law to our nation.
God lifted up the voice of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. And Congressman Lewis and others 50 years ago at the march on Washington. And yesterday as speaker after speaker called this nation to our unfinished business of securing rights to all the people.
But as Mrs Tuff should point out to us, you don’t need to be great orator, a certified ordained preacher, God gives us the words to say to this world. So we end as we begin. What do you want to be when you grow up, or rather what is God calling you to grow into being? God is calling us to stand up straight, to be the voice for the voiceless–to work against all the violence in this world– to pray for healing, not just of a few here and there. How are you going to let God speak through you at home, at work?
And don’t spend time thinking up excuses, God’s heard them before, from Moses to ?jeremiah an more. But God doesn’t want us to let evil, fear, keep us down and silent. In our culture of spending money as a way to feel good, to gain respect, how are you going to call those around you to something, better, we pray that we may never be in the same situation as Antoinette Tuff, but wherever we are God knows us, has known us from the beginning.
And I’ll conclude with the words of artist Lupe Fiasco, who will be here in Milwaukee this weekend. You may or know him, you may not agree with all he says, but hear these words
It’s so loud inside my head
With words that I should have said!
As I drown in my regrets
I can’t take back the words I never said, never said
I can’t take back the words I never said
I think that all the silence is worse than all the violence
Fear is such a weak emotion that’s why I despise it
We scared of almost everything, afraid to even tell the truth
So scared of what you think of me, I’m scared of even telling you
Sometimes I’m like the only person I feel safe to tell it to
I’m locked inside a cell in me, I know that there’s a jail in you
Consider this your bailing out, so take a breath, inhale a few
My screams is finally getting free, my thoughts is finally yelling
No matter how old or young we are God is calling us to grow into being not just quiet and bowed down beneath the evil of this world, but to stand up, to respect ourselves, respect others and speak God’s words of life. Let’s grow up, grow up in Christ. Amen.