Confessions of a Reluctant Prophet
Christ the King- Narrative Lectionary 1
November 25, 2018
Grace, Mankato, MN
Jeremiah 1.4-10; 7.1-11
I’ve been leading a Bible Study called, “Making Sense of Scripture.” It is written by David Lose and published by Augsburg Fortress. Though we do study the Bible, the series involves learning about the Bible so that we are able to study it better. So far, we’ve learned that the Bible is a collection of stories—confessions, really—about experiences people had about God. These confessions are so powerful they had to tell them and write them down.
We’ve learned the Bible is more like a scrapbook than a novel, full of many different kinds of writing and that it expresses truth in a way than we are used to thinking about it. We’ve learned that it’s the Word of God in three different ways: The Bible as the Word of God is the medium by which the Word of God is proclaimed, pointing to Jesus the Word of God made flesh. We’ve learned that eventually community of faith gathered these confessional stories—while leaving some others out—and we’ve learned four general ways to read the Bible. It’s been an awesome study.
I think about this because I wonder why the Jewish people—as well as Christians—would hang on to a story like we read today in Jeremiah, especially Jeremiah’s blunt words about temple worship. Why would the people want to be reminded of a time when they weren’t exactly at their best? The Assyrian threat we read about last week in Isaiah has been superseded by a bigger one: the Babylonians. The Babylonians are knocking on the door and, as the book goes on, will eventually prevail. They will destroy the temple and take almost everyone into exile to Babylon. Jeremiah seems to say it’s their fault for forsaking the covenant they made with the Lord. And he says that not even the temple can save them.
I don’t know why the story of Jeremiah made the final cut into both Hebrew and Christian scripture, but I’m guessing that this experience of God was so powerful and so important it couldn’t be ignored. One reason I love the Bible is that it is so honest about the human condition, almost brutally so at times. The people looked back at this time and recognized that they had goofed up—again—and they wanted future generations to learn from their mistakes. They’d not kept up their end of the covenant and were experiencing the consequences of their actions. They recognized that God’s prophet was indeed among them, bringing a word from God to them. It was a word they didn’t want to hear, but nonetheless needed.
I think they held on to this painful story to be reminded about what is important to God. They needed to remember how it to be in relationship with God and with each other, especially the most vulnerable them. They retold this story because they knew themselves too well, that they would allow some things to be more important than their relationship to God and they’d forget how to treat each other. They realized how easy it is to take God for granted and presume that God would always be there. They realized that the relationship they have with God is purely through God’s grace and is to be treated with care.
Perhaps most importantly, they needed to remember that however much they messed up, God cares so deeply about them, about their relationship to God and to each other that God is willing to say the things to them that they need to hear, no matter how difficult, because God wants them back. We in the Christian tradition see the same dynamic in Jesus Christ who isn’t afraid to tell us how to be the kind of people that God desires us to be, so much so that he died on a cross to make that possible. Listen to the stories of other peoples’ experiences of God and then, tell your own of God’s experiences to love you back, so that you, too, might become that people God desires. Amen.