Posts Tagged 'Jeremiah 1:4-10'

For Aug. 25, 2013: Proper 16, Year C

The Reading            Jeremiah 1:4-10

This week we begin reading from the book of Jeremiah, who prophesied in the seventh century before Christ. Unlike Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah, who came to prophecy from other lines of work, Jeremiah started prophesying as a young man. In today’s reading, the Lord calls Jeremiah. His immediate response echoes ours, far too often: “Who, me? I can’t do that!”

The Response            Psalm 71:1-6

“You are my hope, O Lord GOD, my confidence since I was young. I have been sustained by you ever since I was born.”

The Epistle            Hebrews 12:18-29

Today’s reading from the book of Hebrews contrasts the experiences of God’s people on Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. Where Moses’ mountain was too holy for mere mortals, the city of God welcomes all who respond to God’s call through the sacrifice of Jesus.

The Gospel            Luke 13:10-17

“‘Ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham…, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?’”


Further thoughts

As Jeremiah tells it, one day YHWH tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Son, go talk truth to power on Our behalf.” Jeremiah retorted, “Who, me? I’m just a kid.” His excuse might even have been literally true, but it is as likely that Jeremiah was old enough to foresee how much trouble this call would be: spending decades showing kings the hot water they were in with YHWH and being showered liberally with hot water in return.

The reading from Hebrews contrasts calls to two holy mountains. Mount Sinai, off in the wilderness, sounds like Mount Saint Helens in mid-eruption; Moses alone was called there to encounter the living YHWH on behalf of the Israelites, and even he trembled and did not presume to live there. Mount Zion, in contrast, is in—or is—the City of God, where angels and saints dwell and rejoice; reverence and awe are still in order, but, thanks to Jesus, the invitation is open to all. Though God’s mercy bends a longer arc through time and space even than God’s justice does, and God’s house is where our hearts find rest, the call can be hard to respond to: Am I really invited as I am, even if everyone else is better? Are the others really invited as they are, even if they don’t seem good enough? Aren’t there rules and rituals and standards to uphold?

In the gospels, Jesus consistently bends rules; he hangs out with riffraff and challenges authority, and in today’s reading he offends a leader by healing a woman on the sabbath. It is easy to condemn the leader for hardheartedness, but he’s only doing what most of us do: turning good expedients into ironclad prescriptions in a valiant but doomed attempt to insulate ourselves from screwing up and having to think too much. As Jesus reminds us elsewhere, though, all the law and the prophets hang on two principles:

1. Love God wholeheartedly.

2. Love everyone else as we should love ourselves.

Following these principles will not insulate us from screwing up any more than YHWH’s protection insulated Jeremiah from hot water—but as we unbind others’ hearts in love, we also unbind our own.

For Feb. 3, 2013: 4 Epiphany, Year C

The Reading            Jeremiah 1:4-10

Last week we heard from Nehemiah about the Law being read aloud in Jerusalem once the walls were rebuilt, and the people weeping to hear it. The book of Jeremiah takes us back two centuries: Jerusalem is about to be overrun and its walls and the Temple destroyed. The Lord calls Jeremiah to prophesy this. And what is Jeremiah’s immediate response? It is much like ours, much too often: “Not me!”

The Response            Psalm 71:1-6

The Epistle            1 Corinthians 13:1-13

For two Sundays, Paul has explained to the church at Corinth—a community squabbling like kindergartners about whose gifts outshine whose—that each and every one of us is God’s gifted child. In today’s justly famous reading, Paul reminds us of the greatest gift of all, the gift that requires only a willing and open heart.

The Gospel            Luke 4:21-30


Further thoughts

If the Christian year were a lifetime, the Epiphany season might be its adolescence. The hushed, rapt adoration of Christmas—sleeping babies, to paraphrase Dostoevsky, are all adorable in pretty much the same ways, and the Christ child is no exception—gives way to the realities of becoming (but not yet being) mature. The boundless optimism of the fresh start gives way to wariness and sometimes weariness in the gap between what I can dream and what I can actually do, on the one hand, and between my own aspirations and others’ intentions for me on the other. En route, conflict is inevitable, as any parent or any adolescent well knows.

Today’s readings land us squarely in that space, with Jeremiah talking back to God and Jesus getting blunt with the home crowd. In this context, the reading from 1 Corinthians—the familiar paean to love and the gifts that love brings with it that is read at weddings precisely because it is the ideal to which a marriage aspires—appears to be a digression. But one of the tasks of love that Paul cites is truth. Love that fears to speak a truth in love is not love, nor is it love that refuses to listen to a truth spoken in love. Hearing an unflattering truth can be painful, and such a truth from one’s own offspring can sound to a parent like arrant disrespect, but God the Father models for us that the next step when the truth doesn’t sink in as desired is not escalating to a fight.

Love that both speaks truth and speaks it in love and that listens in love, whatever the differences between us in age, race, orientation, experience, or viewpoint between us, is surely the most compelling witness of all—perhaps because it isn’t trying to be a witness but is simply being itself, honoring the other’s self as a beloved fellow child of God.

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