This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on September 25th, 2016.
At first glance, this scene in Jeremiah seems ridiculous. Jeremiah is buying plots in his hometown of Anathoth in the middle of a Babylonian siege that will ultimately lead to the exile of King Zedekiah and the Israelite people. Remember, Jeremiah is in prison and has been labeled a traitor to his people because he told everyone to lay down arms and surrender in the middle of the siege. According to the law of the land, traitorous behavior like this warrants a prison cell.
Looking deeper into the story, this ridiculous moment unfolds a larger vision for God’s people. Yes, they will be conquered and exiled, driven away from their geographical identity as the Israelite nation. The old covenant will no longer exist. However, Jeremiah is proclaiming a new covenant to come, a time when the Israelite nation will become stronger in their faith and identity as God’s people. They will soon worship God outside of their institutional walls for the temple will be destroyed, but they will learn to worship their God no matter where they are living. The reshaping of identity is beginning in the fiery blaze of the conquering Babylonian army. The end of one nation is leading to a new beginning of a new nation that will emerge from the fire.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on September 18th, 2016.
The lament alone is why Jeremiah has been nicknamed the “Weeping Prophet.” Chapter eight is a prophetic poem is the source of the well-known spiritual There is a Balm in Gilead. The “balm” is healing medicine mentioned briefly in Genesis when a caravan of Ishmaelite’s traveling from Gilead to Egypt with a gum-like substance used to close and bind wounds (Gen 37:25). The rhetorical question “Is there a balm in Gilead?” is used to explore the depth of a spiritual and moral crisis in the Israelite community.
The mixture of God’s anguish and the grieving community in Jerusalem are interwoven in a lyrical mourning of the terror to come. In the face of demoralization and suffering, this lament has stood the test of time because these words touch the deepest parts of all humanity. The humanity of Jeremiah is evident through his own grief and depression. Jeremiah is lamenting for the community and for the God of his people. He is holding the tension between God’s anger and sadness and the profound loss of that Israel is and will continue to experience.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on September 11th, 2016.
When reading the word “desert,” our minds quickly imagine sandy landscapes and a scorching sun. This passage paints imagery of the burning winds of the desert that blow fiercely from the bare heights stinging all in its path. The text creates vivid descriptions of a desert that can be creatively explored. This could be a frozen, barren wasteland with stinging, icy winds that burn like the scorching sun upon the skin. Most likely the imagery comes from a middle eastern desert storm, a dry, dust bowl where sand covers the sun leaving the land in utter darkness. No creatures can be found for even the birds have fled, flying south. Nothing will grow, and nothing will live in the waste and void. Jeremiah is returning the listener to Genesis chapter one where the earth was formless and empty. This Hebrew phrase is only seen in Jeremiah 4:23 and Genesis 1:2.
This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on September 4th, 2016.
A familiar passage for both preacher and congregant. The temptation is to preach what the average worship attendee has heard in familiar hymns, “You are the potter/I am the clay.” Remember this word from the Lord is not an individualized message rather it is a warning to the entire community. This passage is often used as a private prayer of devotion to God, but the initial word from Jeremiah was to the whole of Israel. Moving the congregant from privatizing the passage engages the congregation to partner together as a community of discernment in challenging seasons. A popular contemporary practice focuses worship on the relationship between the individual Christian and God. However, this passage along with worship on Sunday mornings are communal offerings of praise and petitions to God as a whole body of faith.
The metaphor of clay is not limited to one person or even one nation. The clay is an artistic allegory for God’s will and purpose in the world. The image of a potter and his clay reveals a hidden truth like an abstract piece of art. Pablo Picasso once said, “Art is a lie that helps us see the truth.” The Potter and his malleable clay are a cause for theological pause. The preacher must be willing to wrestle with the difficulties of this passage, asking hard the questions. Does God change God’s mind? Does God cause evil in the world? These are hard questions for the congregation to wrestle with as well.