You know how nerve-wracking it is to wait and wonder whether you’re hired for a job? Sometimes we have the same kind of uncertainty about God. But worry no longer…for God has made a new covenant with us in Jesus Christ. You’re hired! You are part of God’s family, now and forever.
Reformation Sunday – Sunday, October 26, 2014 – Jeremiah 31:31-34
St. Jacob’s-Spaders and Trinity Lutheran Churches, Harrisonburg, Virginia
“You’re Hired” – Pastor Evan Davis
In the summer after college, just shortly after God made me a Lutheran and I was just learning what “Reformation Sunday” even was, in a matter of months I went from understanding myself as an accountant to seeing myself as someone God has called to go to seminary to become a pastor. It was a heck of a summer! It was also a summer that cost me my job. I left the firm I was working for, and I found myself among the packs of the job seekers. I would hit “send” on my applications, and all I could do was hope I was good enough in the eyes of those who’d be sifting through the pile. I’d sit there in a job interview, across the table from the people who held my future in their hands, trying to interpret every glance, every twitch of an eyebrow, every rise and fall in the tone of their voice, to discover if they thought I was good enough. Do they like me? Have I done the right things to get hired? Am I on the right track? Y’all have been in a couple of these, haven’t you?
Once you have the job, the questions don’t stop. Am I doing a good job? Am I doing the right things? Does my boss like me? What was that look supposed to mean?
When you go home after a stressful day at work, the questions don’t stop. Things aren’t going the way I thought they would, am I on the right track in life? Look at that achiever, ugh, am I really a good person? (Facebook makes this worse!) My house is a mess, am I lazy? I’m not doing what that person is doing, am I missing out on something important? Are my parents proud of me? Am I doing the right things for my kids? Does my girlfriend really like me, or is she about to break up with me?
When you stop outside on a starry night…or right before you close your eyes after a stressful work day and a stressful evening at home….and you pray….and you think about God, the questions don’t stop. Am I enough, God? Am I doing enough, God? Does my boss like me? Am I on the right track….the track to life with you?
God has a job to do. God’s on a mission – to rescue and restore the world from sin and death. To renew the world so that it might be as God intended it to be. God could do it alone. But God doesn’t want to. God wants partners in this work of restoring the creation. God wants a people to work with him, so guess what? God has openings. God’s hiring!
So God hired Abraham and created a nation of partners from his descendants. He called them Israel. They were hired. And then, God gave them their employee handbook (well, it’s a lot more than that!). It was called torah, or instruction, or law. God said, if you follow this, everything will be great. If you don’t, well, you’re not going to like what happens. The people agreed to the covenant with God, they signed off on the employee handbook, but they couldn’t do it. They ignored widows and orphans, as we ignore the poor. People murdered their brothers and sisters, as we do. They still stole, and betrayed spouses, and coveted what other people and other nations had, as we do. They worshiped not only other gods, but the gods of power, wealth, and status, just like us. Jeremiah was sent by God at a time when the people of Israel/Judah were surrounded by the Babylonians. Their city was about to be destroyed, and God said through Jeremiah that it was because God’s people didn’t keep the covenant.
Implicitly we believe there is no such thing as a free lunch. We believe in the dignity of work, of achievement, of living and doing things the right way. We believe that if you can’t do the job, you don’t deserve to keep collecting a paycheck. Accountability is a good thing between us. Truth about our failings is a good thing. We need it, because honestly we’re not on the right track, we’re not doing the right things most of the time. But for God….that’s the old covenant. God just doesn’t want to let anyone go. God hates firing people. Humans love it, but God hates it. Because if God’s mission is a business, it’s a family business. So God, as usual, took matters into his own hands. God declared, through Jeremiah and others, that there will be a new covenant.
Listen to all the promises God makes through Jeremiah: The days are surely coming (and the day came in Christ), when I will make a new covenant
It will not be like the old covenant….I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts
I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
…they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest…
…for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.
The questions can stop. When it comes to God’s relationship with us, God leaves nothing to us! God will make it happen. It’s not like the old covenant, a covenant we break every hour of every day. It’s a new covenant that God fulfills in total. And God did it, by showing up himself in Jesus Christ. There’s nothing left to guess, or wonder, or worry about. After all we’ve done, after all we’ve left undone, God has not given up on us. God is our God, and we are God’s people, your sin is forgiven, and forgotten. That’s the Reformation gospel!
So hear the good news: If you’ve been here all your life and are just now figuring out why, you’re hired! If this is your first day, welcome, you’re hired! If you’ve failed…at work, in a relationship, in being the person you want to be, you’re hired. If you can’t get a credit card if you tried, or if you give half the church budget, you’re hired. If you just got out of jail, rehab, class, or the hospital, you’re hired. If you are sick, if people call you “disabled,” if you’re old, young, married, divorced, single, or somewhere in between, you’re hired. If you need a prayer, if you’re not sure you believe all this stuff, God claims, loves, hires…you. God doesn’t love who you used to be, or who you might become. God loves the you you are right now.
Whether you like it or not. This is not something you get to decide. God loves us too much to leave it all up to us. You’re hired, from the moment you enter this world. God signed the contact with his own precious blood. God hires you publicly in these baptismal waters. God claims you, God names you, God gives you your uniform – the cross on your forehead, your white baptismal robe (baptism is the only ordination). You can’t quit, even though you may try. You can’t be fired.
That’s the law on your heart. Total love which lights a fire in our hearts to go do the work God hired us for! Oh yeah, did I give you the job description? Live among God’s people and love them, hear the Word of God and share in the Lord’s Supper, proclaim the good news of God in Jesus Christ through word and deed, serve all people, following the example of Jesus, and strive for justice and peace in all the earth. Those are our five baptismal promises, by the way.
Oh, and by the way, that’s what it means to be a Lutheran! Lutherans are those people who know they can’t be fired no matter how much they deserve it! You can’t get rid of us! We’re gonna keep throwing potluck suppers and lovin’ people until Jesus comes back! And more than that… We’re going to keep doing God’s work with our hands. Cleaning up cemeteries. Feeding the hungry. Clothing the needy. Sending shoeboxes to kids who need joy and hope this Christmas. Teaching our kids. Teaching our adults. Making/forming new disciples of Jesus, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Loving people we know really don’t deserve it. Saying hi to people we don’t know. Naming the name of God in normal conversations. That’s what it means to be a Lutheran. That’s what we offer the rest of the Church, that’s what we offer the world, that’s the new covenant God makes with us in Jesus Christ, which we celebrate this Reformation Sunday. Amen.