Posts Tagged 'Jeremiah'

For Oct. 20, 2013: Proper 24, Year C

The Reading            Jeremiah 31:27-34

In this Sunday’s reading, from the closing chapters called the Book of Consolation, Jeremiah prophesies a new covenant, not written in stone but written on hearts because it is no longer between God and the nation as a whole but between God and each one of us.

The Response            Psalm 119:97-104

“I do not shrink from your judgments, because you yourself have taught me.”

The Epistle            2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

This Sunday’s second reading counsels the young church leader to continue in belief that is founded on faith in Jesus and to persist in proclaiming the message “with the utmost patience in teaching”. Those with “itching ears” can as well be those who insist on biblical literalism as those who never open the book.

The Gospel            Luke 18:1-8

“‘And will not God grant justice to his chosen ones who cry to him day and night?’”

 

Further thoughts

This Sunday’s readings deliver mixed messages, comforting even as they make us squirm.

The last several weeks’ readings from the book of Jeremiah have cemented for us his reputation as “the weeping prophet”. This Sunday’s closing reading begins with a promise to repeople, as plentifully as wheat in a field, the lands of Israel and Judah that were deserted in the exile. In addition, in place of the covenant with the entire nation—which required good-faith performance on both sides, with the result that, when the leaders led badly, the whole operation went off the rails—the Lord is instituting a new covenant with each individual, written on each heart. Great news… except that I can no longer legitimately blame the government or my dysfunctional family or my lousy job for my failures to love God and all those around me: it’s now all on me.

Could that be too much? The selection from Psalm 119 praises the individual relationship with God, perhaps to the point of preening or the pride that goeth before a fall. Salvation is individual, but its means are communal, and its ends are also: notice how much of the hard work recommended in 2 Timothy is work in community.

The parable of the widow and the crooked judge is a tidy little package with its moral right there in the first line. Parables rarely work that way. With respect to God and others, I am surely the Widow Nobody, with no more right to salvation or others’ intervention than God and they give me, and therefore the onus is on me to express what I need and to keep expressing it. But I am also the crooked judge, well-bribed by the baubles of the world or my own sense of entitlement to ignore the expressed needs of those around me, and the onus is on me to reject the goodies in favor of listening and responding to the cries of all the other Widow Nobodies. And thus may the Son of Man find faith on earth.

For Oct. 6, 2013: Proper 22, Year C

The Reading            Lamentations 1:1-6

The book of Lamentations paints a vivid picture of the disaster foretold by Jeremiah: Jerusalem is conquered, the Temple is in ruins, and most of her people are in forced exile. Each detail reinforces the image of Jerusalem as an abandoned woman suffering grievously but justifiably: because she persistently broke the covenants, God has revoked God’s protection and promises.

The Response            Lamentations 3:19-26

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end.”

The Epistle            2 Timothy 1:1-14

Textual evidence suggests that the letters to Timothy were written in the apostle Paul’s name but some time after his death. The writer commends his addressee for carrying forward the faith of his grandmother and mother, at the same time exhorting him to hold fast to it and not to be ashamed either of the testimony to that faith or of suffering for it.

The Gospel            Luke 17:5-10

“‘Do you thank the slave for doing what he was commanded?’”

Further thoughts

This Sunday’s readings speak of loss, hope, and steadfastness.

The reading from Lamentations depicts Jerusalem friendless and deserted. Through the patriarchs and prophets God had promised Israel self-rule as a leader of nations, protection from her enemies, numberless sons and daughters who would never face exile, and a descendant of David always on the throne—if Jerusalem kept the covenants. She did not do her part. As a result she is now a client state at the whim of the Babylonian empire, her former allies have gone over to the other side, those few of her children who have not been marched away at gunpoint are in hiding, and the throne of David stands empty. Worse, the temple is desecrated and ruined, so there is no longer any place to perform the sacrifices and make the prayers that the Law commands.

Yet the response, also from Lamentations, sings of hope: all these calamities have come to pass—but pass, they will: what endures is God’s love, for God honors God’s covenant even when we do not.

The epistle was written in times as trying in their way. Most authorities place the time of writing toward the end of the first century AD: Jerusalem is in the control of the Romans, the temple is once again destroyed, and Christianity is still illegal. Timothy faces hardship, humiliation, and even death in the service of Christ Jesus. But Jesus has abolished death—not that any of us will stop dying physically or cease to have reason to grieve, but the Holy Spirit in us will guard us and keep us in the way of love.

The gospel counsels steadfastness. The disciples demand more faith, and are doubtless disappointed in Jesus’ response. First, he tells them that the abundance it takes to command a big tree to pull up roots and place itself where no tree belongs—a showy act, but far from practical—isn’t one of faith. Then he gives them a less spectacular but more durable vision: the slave who sees to the master’s needs first, not to garner glory but simply because that is how the everyday things that most need doing (and most give blessing) get done.

For Sept. 29, 2013: Proper 21, Year C*

(There’s an asterisk on this post because St Alban’s isn’t using these lections for Sept. 29, 2013 – we’re using the lections for St Michael and All Angels instead – but I didn’t remember this until after I’d written up everything for Proper 21. It seemed a shame to waste the effort. Enjoy!)

The Reading            Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15

When the Israelites first occupied the land of promise, they parceled it out by families, and by law land for sale was offered first to one’s relatives, to keep it in the family. Jeremiah knows that he and his people face deportation to Babylon. One hesitates to buy land in such a case—but the point of the elaborate purchase process is God’s assurance that, someday, God’s people will buy and sell and live in the land once more.

The Response            Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16

“He shall say to the Lord, ‘You are my refuge and my stronghold, my God in whom I put my trust.”

The Epistle            1 Timothy 6:6-19

The first letter to Timothy continues with sage advice for a young pastor shepherding a new church, and for the rest of us. Today’s verses discuss the delicate matter of money. The author is not against money; he devotes attention to the good that we in the present age (that is, we in this world) can do for others with what we have.

The Gospel            Luke 16:19-31

“‘If they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

 

Further thoughts

A common theme in this Sunday’s readings—and perhaps throughout the Bible—is that it matters less what one has than what one does with what one has.

The thread is least obvious in the first reading. Jeremiah knows from God that his people are about to be overrun and exiled by the Babylonian empire, probably for a very long time. He is also under arrest in the court of Zedekiah, the puppet king that Babylon installed a decade earlier, for making predictions that the powerful don’t want to hear about the bad days to come. Jeremiah’s own future is grim. Then along comes Jeremiah’s cousin offering to sell a field. Jeremiah knows he himself may never even see the land, let alone enjoy it. But with members of the court as witnesses, he pays out a sum of money that could have made his own exile less painful and orders the deeds preserved: that is, he gives a sign that Israel indeed has a future, even if it isn’t his.

The connection between what one does is more obvious in the case of Jesus’ parable of the rich man, he of the feasts and costly purple clothes, and the ignored pauper Lazarus (whose name means ‘God is my help’ in Hebrew), with sores that made him ritually unclean. When both die and the rich man is in torment, he somehow thinks the pauper for whom he wouldn’t lift a finger or spend a dime in life should come to his rescue. Abraham is emphatic: God’s Word and the world around me should be quite enough to convince me to do all the good I can.

The first letter of Timothy addresses the issue more overtly. As the closing verses say, it isn’t that no one should be rich but that one should seek opportunities to do good with one’s wealth, and not seek to get richer at others’ expense. The oft-misquoted verse 10 is telling (emphases are mine): “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil…” It is, of course, the same with any other gift: even holiness, if I hoard it and muscle others out of the way for it to elevate myself above them, leads straight to the hell of the unbridgeable chasm.


Enter your email address to subscribe to St Alban's Lections and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2 other followers