1 The word of the Lord came to me, saying: 2 Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the Lord:
I remember the devotion of your youth,
your love as a bride,
how you followed me in the wilderness,
in a land not sown.
3 Israel was holy to the Lord,
the first fruits of his harvest.
All who ate of it were held guilty;
disaster came upon them,
says the Lord.
4 Hear the word of the Lord, O house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. 5 Thus says the Lord:
What wrong did your ancestors find in me
that they went far from me
and went after worthless things and became worthless themselves?
6 They did not say, "Where is the Lord,
who brought us up from the land of Egypt,
who led us in the wilderness,
in a land of deserts and pits,
in a land of drought and deep darkness,
in a land that no one passes through,
where no one lives?"
7 I brought you into a plentiful land
to eat its fruits and its good things.
But when you entered you defiled my land
and made my heritage an abomination.
8 The priests did not say, "Where is the Lord?"
Those who handle the law did not know me;
the rulers transgressed against me;
the prophets prophesied by Baal
and went after things that do not profit.
9 Therefore once more I accuse you,
says the Lord,
and I accuse your children's children.
10 Cross to the coasts of Cyprus and look;
send to Kedar and examine with care;
see if there has ever been such a thing.
11 Has a nation changed its gods,
even though they are no gods?
But my people have changed their glory
for something that does not profit.
12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this;
be shocked; be utterly desolate,
says the Lord,
13 for my people have committed two evils:
they have forsaken me,
the fountain of living water,
and dug out cisterns for themselves,
that can hold no water.
Last week the lectionary began six weeks of major prophet Jeremiah for the alternate first reading. Unless events derail me, I'll blog five weeks in a row of Jeremiah. The first week, Jeremiah 1:4-10, (I wrote about Isaiah) narrated youthful Jeremiah's famous call to uproot and to build; this week features his first words recorded in the book that carries his name.
From my blog two weeks ago, here's a little about Jeremiah.
This Week's Scripture
…is often considered a legal "oracle of judgment" with God's plea and indictment of Judah for overall faithlessness and especially idolatry. God recalls Israel's devotion through the wilderness wandering—in Brennan Manning's words, "in the desert Yahweh and Israel rendezvoused." God describes God's people back then as Holy to the Lord first fruits, the best of the harvest, splendid quality worthy to offer back to God.
God wonders what the ancestors could have found so despicable about God because they "went after worthless things and became worthless themselves." Scripture describes stuff in the category of the word for worthless as vapor, vain, vanity, mist, emptiness, "the nothing."
We are what we eat. Body of Christ, given for you, Amen?! Fresh greens from the backyard garden? We are what we worship! Worship the holy God of love, justice, mercy, and resurrection and become holy as God is holy!
Didn't I recently mention John Calvin's conviction that humans are idol-makers? The Ten Words of the Sinai Covenant begin with no gods other than the true God who brought us out of Egypt. Martin Luther begins his Small Catechism – traditional preparation for First Holy Communion – with the commandments. As Luther pointed out, we really only need one commandment, the first one, but the other nine clarify the first.
Neither the ancestors nor the religious leaders even asked, "Where is the Lord?" Not some miscellaneous random deity, but the real God Yahweh who rescued us from slavery to empire, led us through deserts, pits, drought, darkness, and desolation —(but! during those forty years God also fed us with water from the rock, manna from the sky), brought us into a good land of plenty and increase.
God still rescues us from misplaced allegiance to things, entities, and ideas that cannot save, objects that often deal death rather than offer life.
What idolatries relate to our current international, national, and local contexts? Small-g gods include consumerism; sports, politics (all sides); self, nation; success, church, family, technology. These all are good values, but not ultimate ones.
Water – Word – Water
One commentary observed that cisterns to hold water year round but especially during the dry warmer seasons were products of recent iron age technology, and logically, leaking containers can't hold water. We need water for life. Technology definitely occupies huge pieces of many lives, sometimes even makes inroads into hearts and affections. What are some contemporary parallels to leaky cisterns that don't hold water? Can't provide life?
God first spoke through Jeremiah to people of Jerusalem about to be exiled; later on God's people back in Jerusalem would have read this text written down or heard it being read in public. During those post-exilic years of reconstructing everything, the Pentateuch (first five books of the Hebrew Bible), other parts of our Hebrew Bible, and the book called Jeremiah all were assembled and codified. God still speaks via Jeremiah to us in the twenty-first century church and synagogue.
Just as the sacraments connect us with God's people in every place and every time – past, present, and future – scripture is a Word for everyone everywhere, all the time. We often talk about permeable, porous, or hard national-international borders. In God's world, borders between times and places all are permeable.
On the last day of the festival [Sukkot–feast of booths or tabernacles], the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, 'Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.'" John 7:37-38