Formed, Known, and Consecrated – Br. James Koester

Br. James Koester,

Jeremiah 1: 4-10

I find this passage from the prophet Jeremiah to be deeply consoling. We live in an age, and a culture where what goes in front of, or after your name is crucial. It matters hugely if you can add Dr., The Reverend, or Brother, in front of your name. It is equally import if you can add PhD, M.Div., or SSJE after your name. Success and happiness hang on titles and initials. People spend their lives, and enormous amounts of capital, chasing after a sense of self-worth believed to be found in them. And into this culture Jeremiah speaks a word of truth, and a promise of hope.

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…

Clearly Jeremiah here was reflecting on his own sense of vocation and call. What is significant is that he roots the seeds of that vocation, not in titles or initials gained after years of training, but in a relationship. Jeremiah roots his vocation not in what he has done, but simply who he is, someone formed, known, and consecrated by God while still in his mother’s womb.

Jeremiah reminds us that God doesn’t look at us and love us for what we have done, or achieved, but that we simply are. It is enough for God that I am. Shed of all titles, initials, and achievements; shed even of all talents, skills, and accomplishments, I have still been formed, known, and consecrated by God to be something no one else can be.

Shed of everything, except his existence, Jeremiah was formed, known, and consecrated to be a prophet to the nations, equipped by God to do God’s work. And that is good news.

The great temptation, even sin, of our age, is to find our worth only through what we have accomplished. The great gift, even grace we find in Jeremiah, is that our real worth lies in having been made in the image and likeness of God. It is in that image and likeness of God, clothed with Christ in baptism, that lies our true worth.

One of the great graces of retreat, indeed one of the wonderful gifts of prayer, is to discover that our true worth lies not in titles, initials, or achievements. In times of retreat, and occasions of prayer we discover for ourselves that we have been formed, known, and consecrated by God. In the womb of retreat and prayer, shed of everything except our existence, and knowing ourselves to be made in God’s image, and clothed in Christ’s likeness, we discover again God reaching out and touching our mouths saying, now I have put my words in your mouth.[2] This is truly good news, full of hope and promise for a life fully lived, in this credential mad world.


[1] Jeremiah 1: 4, 5

[2] Jeremiah 1: 9b

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