Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Pentecost 10C

Jeremiah 23:23-29

23Am I a God near by, says the Lord, and not a God far off? 24Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them? says the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? says the Lord. 25I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, "I have dreamed, I have dreamed!" 26How long? Will the hearts of the prophets ever turn back—those who prophesy lies, and who prophesy the deceit of their own heart? 27They plan to make my people forget my name by their dreams that they tell one another, just as their ancestors forgot my name for Baal. 28Let the prophet who has a dream tell the dream, but let the one who has my word speak my word faithfully. What has straw in common with wheat? says the Lord. 29Is not my word like fire, says the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?

The Church's year of grace has reached the Tenth Sunday after the Feast of Pentecost! "Ordinary" or arranged, lined-out, ordered time will continue three more months until Reign of Christ / Christ the King Sunday that celebrates the sovereignty of the risen and crucified Jesus Christ. Then we'll enter a new year with the first Sunday of Advent.

Our Old Testament/Hebrew Bible reading today is from the prophet Jeremiah. A very quick overview of OT structure and content:

Torah, sometimes called the five books of Moses, not because Moses wrote them, but because Moses is a central character and their general trajectory reflects his leadership: Genesis – Exodus – Leviticus – Numbers – Deuteronomy.

Prophets, with the "former prophets" of historical bent: Joshua; Judges; 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel; 1 Kings, 2 Kings. "Major or Writing Prophets" 1, 2, and 3 Isaiah; Ezekiel; Jeremiah; Book of the Twelve, sometimes called "Minor Prophets" because of their length, not because of lack of importance.

Writings, a truly miscellaneous collection that doesn't always have the same canonical content everywhere. Writings include the vital to the church Psalms; plus Job, Proverbs, Chronicles, Esther, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, Song of Songs; Ecclesiastes. I've probably omitted a few.

Jeremiah

Jeremiah was a priest from the Benjaminite tradition. Bud remembered what other famous biblical figure came from the tribe of Benjamin—Saul/Paul of Tarsus!

Jeremiah is very very much within the classical tradition of Hebrew/Israelite prophecy that brings us a Word from the Lord. Scripture distinguishes between prophet or nabi, who speaks truth to power, lining out alternatives (the reigning monarch most characteristically being that power), and seer or roeh, who peers into the future and predicts what will happen. Later in the history of Israel both roles became somewhat conflated.

As he responds to "Is there a Word from the Lord," Jeremiah is The Classic Prophet. Jeremiah also is very much within the covenantal tradition of Deuteronomy with its care for the least of these, society's marginalized, caring for the neighbor, the stranger, the immigrant, the sojourner. Jeremiah is another example of someone who had memorized and internalized scripture so he could quote and live that Word of Life.

This is Luke's lectionary year. We've seen Luke's Jesus has the same political, cultural, religious, social, and economic emphases as Deuteronomy and Jeremiah.

Chapter 22 immediately before today's very short reading is one of the most famous from Jeremiah as he addresses the wicked king sons of Josiah, who was one of the only good kings of Israel. Known as The Boy King because he assumed leadership at the age of 8, in a highly exemplary way Josiah helped take care of powerless widows, orphans, strangers, sojourners. In short, Josiah literally did justice and righteousness as God calls every one of us created in the divine image to do.

Jeremiah 22 also reminds us Israeli's God is not only God of liberation (redemption} from bondage and slavery with the subsequent gift of a Promised Land; God also is One who gathers the people together and enacts homecoming (restoration) from exile.

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