With this series of lessons from Jeremiah, I have been reading Walter Brueggemann. I have been influenced by the way he combines serious exegesis of the text, a profound appreciation for the history of the people of Israel, and zingers for what it means for the Christian church today. They are texts of urgency -- and today, with the Episcopal Church crumbling around our ears, located, as we are in Brockton, on a corner of crumbling lives and drug deals and substandard housing, those texts of urgency scream with the timeliness of today's headlines.
Will we really take these texts seriously enough? Allow them to work in our souls and lives and hearts and minds ENOUGH to make a difference in this community? Will we, the Episcopal Church, be able to get out of the way enough to bring the light of Christ HERE?
Proper 24 C Oct. 21, 2007
Psalm 119:97-104 2 Timothy 3:14-4:5 Luke 18: 1-8
Once, when Jesus was asked by the Pharisees when the
Those words come just a few verses before today’s Gospel story in Luke. Chapters 16, 17 and 18 are full of stories and pithy sayings of Jesus about the
I wish this God stuff could be easy. I wish all we needed was a strapping preacher man with a nice wife and seven children, like in 7th Heaven. I wish everything could work out in the end like in Touched by an Angel. I wish, like in The Vicar of Dibley that all we needed was five cranky men on the parish council and the church would be full on Sunday without doing any work. I wish God would just take it easy, would kick back and leave us alone, would be a proper God like all those other gods, who just need a few rote sacrifices to be appeased, a god who is not much interested in how this world works but just wants us worship him, or them, by doing just what we are doing already, nothing too taxing, a god who looks like us so we can be who we are and still be in the image of God. I am afraid, however, that that kind of god is the god God rejected when God got into this covenant business with the human race. Way back, when the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, and were treated badly by Pharoah, so badly that they cried out to God and God heard them, God rejected being the god of the status quo, the god of the established order, the god of business as usual, the god of why don’t you Israelites just negotiate for a better labor contract and be still. When God heard the cries of the oppressed people of
It would be a heck of a lot easier if we didn’t have this covenant with God, if we just had rules to follow. But here God wants this relationship with us, a relationship built on that first promise to deliver the children of
Jeremiah emphasizes three ways God wants us. First, God wanted the torah here, on the heart. God did not want the rules of the law just to apply to what to do and not to do. God just didn’t want us on the Sabbath; God wanted us every day.
Second, God wanted everyone to have access to God. God was into radical democracy; every one, from least to greatest, oldest to youngest, privileged to destitute, could know God. God wants no experts. God wants you.
Third, every one was forgiven. The past was past, sins were behind us, we would no longer be haunted by what used to be. We would be free to focus on the present, on the future, on the hope for a better world.
Jesus is right in line with this new covenant of Jeremiah. The
The above image of the persistent widow asks, Have we as a nation become the unjust judge to a widowed world? Read more about the global implications of this passage.
Proper 23 C 10/14/2007
Psalm 66 2 Timothy 2:8-15 Luke 17:11-19
When I drive around a city like
In our Old Testament lesson, we are back in the land of the exiles. Jeremiah is again preaching to the exiles in
Ok, he says, there you are in that foreign city, that unrecognizable place, where you have been thrown into exile. But that is the very place where God wants you: where God wants you to settle down, to build homes and gardens, to have families and children, to live and prosper. Seek the welfare of that very city where you now live – not the city of your romantic, longed-for or nostalgic past. Seek the welfare of THIS city. Pray that God bless THIS city. For it is in the welfare of THIS city that you will find your welfare.
This is almost TOO-obvious a lesson for us, this tiny congregation in this great big building, feeding 100 hungry people a day, on a blighted corner of neglect, weeds and drug deals. The welfare of this city, of this city block even, is where we find our welfare.
The Hebrew word for welfare is shalom, a word used 397 times in the bible! It is translated into English in many ways, reflecting the complexity of how it is used in Hebrew. Shalom means peace, weal – as in “Commonweal” or “Commonwealth” – it means completeness, to cause to be at peace, to make peace, to be at rest, to be at ease, to be secure, or safe, or to prosper, to be whole, to be perfect, to be victorious. It is at the heart of the word “
To work toward that vision of God’s shalom in this place is to work toward nothing we have seen before. We’re not going to rebuild
When the city of
What a shocking story then Jesus tells. This is not just a story about how polite people say thank you. This is a story about God’s shalom, God’s wholeness, God’s health. About who is the citizen of God’s commonwealth. The only one truly whole is the one the other nine despised, the one marked by some as unclean forever. The one forever “other” than Jesus’ own people, the people of the covenant, the people who thought they were automatically assured of God’s grace.
The peace of God, then, is, amazingly, caught up in the peace of the other. Our welfare is inextricably tied up with the welfare of complete strangers. Our wholeness is wrapped up in the wholeness of our enemies. Our health is entwined with the health of people we consider “beneath us.” Our future will look nothing like our past, and this is where we plant our garden.