Saturday, March 31, 2018

A Mesage of Hope: Jeremiah chapter 31

My first ever backsplash featured TBone, puppy dog

Sermon thoughts.... 3/18/2018

Jeremiah 31:31-34 The Message (MSG) Eugene Peterson 31-32 “That’s right. The time is coming when I will make a brand-new covenant with Israel and Judah. It won’t be a repeat of the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took their hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant even though I did my part as their Master.” God’s Decree.
33-34 “This is the brand-new covenant that I will make with Israel when the time comes. I will put my law within them—write it on their hearts!—and be their God. And they will be my people. They will no longer go around setting up schools to teach each other about God. They’ll know me firsthand, the dull and the bright, the smart and the slow. I’ll wipe the slate clean for each of them. I’ll forget they ever sinned!” God’s Decree.

What does it mean for God to place his laws upon your heart. Does it help to see moments to apologize. When was the last time you said you were sorry?
At work I have ample opportunities to inform students that they are messing up. There are ways that work and ways that make the situation worse. When it goes the wrong way, trouble can take place.
Recently a student said, “Don’t talk to me that way. I’m not a child.”  The moment of silence between us was beneficial because I chose not to exert my power, I just said, “OK.”  I think that stunned the student and the class moved on. There are other moments when I wonder why I became a teacher.

God chose Jeremiah and Jeremiah hesitantly chose God and then often wondered why he kept being in the vocation of prophet. The people did not want to hear about how their behaviors would determine their future. The people in exile did not want to hear that God wanted them to settle down and live lives. They wanted a God to smite their enemy and let them go back home. Those still in Jerusalem desired to smite the Babylonians with the help of Egypt; not to to be told to focus on living a daily life that matched their worship experience on the Sabbath.

The people for the most part were ignoring Jeremiah, and choosing to listen to the false prophets. Most people shunned Jeremiah. Most stood by when he was arrested and thrown into a cistern where a slow death awaited him.

Daunting is defined as “seeming difficult to deal with in anticipation; intimidating.”  It steals gumption and delays progress. Jeremiah would receive God message and think, “really, again. They are sick of the message. Can I just watch the basketball tournament and drink an Irish ale.”
At one point God responds to Jeremiah

Jeremiah 12:5 The Message (MSG) Eugene Peterson “So, Jeremiah, if you’re worn out in this footrace with men, what makes you think you can race against horses."

Jeremiah kept sharing the message.  Jeremiah did not have to run with horses by himself.  While most did not listen and respond accordingly to the message he conveyed, he did have friends. When commanded by God to the challenge of putting the prophesy on paper, a friend wrote as Jeremiah spoke. Then the same friend wrote it a second time when the first copy was destroyed. Another friend saved his life by pulling him out of the muck. And a potter reminded him of how God takes ruined vessels and reshapes them into beautiful and functional art. Jeremiah tells us to keep our mind open to messages.

Messages surround us and can surprise us from where they emerge. While watching the Marvel series Jessica Jones the other night, a character states that he was not kicked out of college. He was placed on academic probation; thus he chose to leave. He left and eventually regained his life. So, maybe I can say the same about my first college experience.  I did not fail, I chose to leave that college so that I could regain some clarity on how to live my life. It’s worth a try to see things in new light.

Friends support us when we need help. Sometimes they help to guide us into daunting situations. Is it irrational for Margaret and me to take on commissions that stretch us from what is comfortable just because the client trusts our creative abilities? Place a descending dove into a pendant. Create a large backsplash and send it to CA. Create a rainbow background around a word.

Jeremiah reminds us to live in hope during daunting times. The Babylonians are on the door step. Jerusalem is under under siege. Jeremiah is out of the muck and back in prison. He has a cousin who likely  believes Jeremiah is irrational.  So he asks Jeremiah if he wants to buy some farmland outside the city. A place that is inaccessible due both to imprisonment and to the enemy’s army. Jeremiah says sure. It matches the new message of hope. Look people, we have a future with God. A God who decrees a new covenant. I’m buying farm land because I have hope in God giving us a future beyond these daunting times.

Jeremiah provides the Lord’s decree “Love and forgiveness are yours. All of you; the rich and poor. Your sins are erased. I walk with you on the streets of your towns. Don’t listen to those who say you must study me to know me. I will know each and everyone of you firsthand.  I have touched your heart.”

How intimate is the God you live with. A distant and judgmental master. Or a somewhat local God who resides on Holy Ground and is hopefully a forgiving God.  Or a God walking by your side but is a mystery you cannot hear.  Or this God speaking through Jeremiah who touches us at our core, on our heart, and creates a seed of hope within us, unless we chose to not search within our heart.

"If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life's search for love and wisdom." Rumi

The message of Jeremiah is to have hope in daunting times. Times when all we can do is act out of hope. When we lose a loved one. When a friend is suffering. A disaster strikes your town. When a country is dividing. When you lack the faith in your own talents.

A friend asks for my help at the school, a place where I have had no desire for upward mobility for 21 years. I laugh, but dammit a seed is watered within my core. So I seek out sound advice from anyone who will tell me it is a bad idea. So I turn to my wife, and Margaret does not think I’m nuts for considering the co-lead teacher position. Chatting before a concert, a friend tells me to go for it. The next morning at a diner, a breakfast conversation with a second friend leads to more nonsense that includes praise for my abilities. I begin to wonder if anyone really knows me.

On Sunday I find the story of Jeremiah buying his cousin’s field in the next chapter in Eugene Peterson’s book. Pastor G’s message is not on board with my hope to be guided away from applying by God. Clearly applying for the job is irrational. Why is it so hard for anyone else to see the truth.
 So I apply for the job and by the end of the interview I am seeing this as an act of hope.  Accepting the job may seem as irrational to friends at the school, who were surprised, but I need to tell them it is sign of the hope emerging from working with our new principal. I want to support her. To build hope.

In subsaharan Africa there lives a bird with black feathers, but its name refers to what happens when the light of creation shines upon their iridescent feathers. These birds, Green Woodhoopoes, live in family groups centered around a tree. This tree has one nesting cavity in which one female will lay eggs. The rest of the community raises the young as their own. Life is daunting for these birds, which are surrounded by predators. One out of three will die each year. But the beautiful, the brightest, and the most foolish stick together. The hope of survival depends upon a community.

Our lives are filled with daunting moments often when trying to help and support those who we care for, and in these challenging moments, mistakes will happen. We can say we are sorry and hope for forgiveness. Lord knows we all need to practice accepting forgiveness.

God’s covenant clearly tells us to seek love and forgiveness that is given to us; and that covenant only got stronger and freer as Jesus walked toward the cross.