Blogging Towards Sunday, June 19, 2011
This passage from Jeremiah contains several verses (11-14) commonly quoted as a favorite by many readers and hearers of the Bible. It’s a radical affirmation that God doesn’t leave us, abandon us to the cruel contexts in which we may find ourselves. But rather God is present – even when it doesn’t seem to be so – working underneath what we see, behind the curtain, preparing, calling, healing, delivering all with a divine intention. Isn’t that the real challenge of faith? It’s not all that impossible to believe in a God that infinitely loves us, but it is difficult to believe and live that when life is in its most difficult, when it seems that there is no rhyme or reason for what happens, that there could not be a divine being behind it all, urging the universe towards peace, blessing and a future.
If life was only as straight forward as this picture of the future, as clearly indicated as the next highway exit. The scripture comes from the larger book of Jeremiah, a collection of oracles from the prophet Jeremiah spoken in the 6th century BCE when the nation and people of Israel were living in exile in Babylon. It was this ancient kingdom, in present day Iraq, that had become the world power at this point in history. They had conquered Israel and Judah, deporting the powerful, beautiful and important people to this distant capital in an effort of cultural and ethnic cleansing. In doing so they hoped to wipe out their culture, and religion, by making them into good Babylonians. It’s in this context of foreign domination, cultural destruction, despair, homesickness, fear and uncertainty that Jeremiah speaks these radical words, reminding the people that God has a hope and a future in store for them, even when according to appearances it doesn’t seem to be true.
Many theologians say that we too are living in a time of exile in a modern day Babylon [link]. We live in a world that seeks after and serves other gods, tempting us to new faith, different practices. Not just religious, but also economic, social, relational and communal. In the passage God speaks to the Israelites telling them that the pain, suffering and uncertainty that they face is not the end, nor the means to an end, but merely part of the journey. Babylon will fall. A future of freedom, blessing, communion with God and shalom peace is coming.
What word, image or phrase in this passage grabs your attention?
How does that word, image or phrase touch your life and what you’re living or wrestling with these days?
How do you hear the Spirit of God inviting you – or us as a church – to act, speak or be through this passage?