Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Buckle Your Seatbelts…

I'm posting this on behalf of Abby, who's internet access might be a bit flaky this week. Enjoy! - Jeremy

This week’s Lectionary Texts are Jeremiah 1:4-10, Luke 13:10-17, and Hebrews 12:18-29.

As we come to the end of what I am unofficially terming “The Summer of the Prophets,” our travels are slowing down and more of us are remaining in one place for longer stretches as we get back to our school year routines (a pattern that seems to hold true even for those of us whose lives are no longer dictated by the academic calendar as students or parents of students or teachers!). The Lectionary follows suit, whether by plan or by chance. Rather than jumping to a new prophet every couple of weeks as we have all summer (a couple weeks with Elijah, a couple with Elisha, two with Amos, two with Hosea, two with Isaiah), our next NINE Sundays of Old Testament lessons will remain with one prophet: good old Jeremiah (or young Jeremiah, when we meet him this week).

Jeremiah, we will find, can be a tough prophet to sit with for one week, let alone nine. His book is amazing, his prophecy words we need to hear; but Jeremiah’s prophecy contains words that are not always easy to hear. One of my favorite authors, Kathleen Norris, speaks well in her book The Cloister Walk of her difficulty in hearing the book of Jeremiah read continuously in its entirely over the course of several weeks of morning worship at a monastery:

“One day, not long after we’d begun to read Jeremiah, and it was dawning on us that we had a long, rough road ahead, a monk said to me he was glad to be reading Jeremiah in the morning, and not at evening prayer, when there are likely to be more guests. ‘The monks can take it,’ he said, ‘but most people have no idea what’s in the Bible, and they come unglued.’ Coming unglued came to seem the point of listening to Jeremiah. Hearing Jeremiah’s words every morning, I soon felt challenged to reflect on the upheavals in my own society, and in my life. A prophet’s task is to reveal the fault lines hidden beneath the comfortable surface of the worlds we invent for ourselves, the little lies and delusions of control and security that get us through the day. And Jeremiah does this better than anyone.” (Kathleen Norris, The Cloister Walk. New York: Penguin Books, 1996, p. 34)

Coming unglued…that doesn’t sound pleasant. But sometimes, it seems, the glue of our old ways, molds, plans, and perceptions needs to be loosened before a new call can unfold. Our first encounter with Jeremiah this week gives us a window into the sacred moment of call where Jeremiah’s life as he knew it began to come unglued so that God, through him, could address the needs of a world that is crumbling. Jeremiah’s life is given a new calling, a commission that will bring both judgment and hope not just to Jeremiah’s own people, but to the nations of the world.

Our Gospel and Epistle texts dovetail with this unsettling theme of coming unglued for the sake of new possibility. When Jesus heals a woman who has been bent over for 18 years, not only do the paralyzed bones of her body come unglued from their crippled state when they hear the call of Jesus’ voice, but the Temple authorities come unglued as this Rabbi issues a call that breaks all their carefully planned rules and ideas of propriety. Likewise, the letter to the Hebrews reminds us that we no longer operate under the tangibles of the Old Covenant and its regulations, but in the realm of a Spirit who is creating a New Covenant in ways that are often unpredictable and untamed. As Eugene Peterson’s The Message puts the last verse of the reading, “God is not an indifferent bystander. [God’s] actively cleaning house, torching all that needs to burn, and won’t quit until it’s all cleansed. God himself is Fire!”

Friends, if we are going to spend 9 weeks not just with Jeremiah but with this sort of God, we’d best buckle our seatbelts…for who knows where such a God’s call will take us?

May peace be with you on this unsettling journey,


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