Hello friends! Thank you for another lovely time together reading the Bible live. After every session I'm quick to share with McKinsie how much I love our group and how proud I am to see how you each are developing confidence in your Biblical literacy, growing in your faith, and asking tough questions about what you're reading. Yesterday was no exception to that. I truly am proud of you, and it gets me more and more excited each time we meet to see your own pride shine. Keep it up - you're all doing great work.
Today's reading is sooooo good. Jeremiah 7 - 9 just has so much good to it. Sure, it has the doom and gloom you must expect from a prophetic book, but it also has messages of hope, messages for us today, and strong theology about our own free will and responsibility of the divine. As usual, I'll share my thoughts below on that, but I'm always eager to hear your thoughts and questions too!
Scripture to Read
Questions to Consider
What does this teach me about God?
What does this teach me about humanity?
What does this teach me about the relationship between human sin and God's punishments?
What does this reveal to me about the role of the prophet?
- My Thoughts -
As mentioned above I found these readings to be crazy profound. But, none of my thoughts are cohesive so I'm going to share as briefly as possible the parts that stuck out to me and why they did.
The opening bit - dang. Jeremiah 5: 3b - 7. This really stuck out to me because of how the evangelical faith has found a new home among the Q-Anon crowd bringing a dangerous and extremely flawed nationalistic theology to the spotlight. I know it's been awhile so this isn't super relevant but at the riot at the capital on the 6th of January there were a number of signs being held up saying things like "Jesus Saves" or "In God we Trust" or other things like that. All true messages, yes, amen, I'm with you....but in what context? Jeremiah 5: 3b - 7 (in my opinion) speaks very powerfully to this. (emphasis and word changes my own for effect) "You might chant "In God we trust" and "Jesus Saves" But I will be merciful only if you stop your evil thoughts and deeds and start treating each other with justice; only if you stop exploiting foreigners, orphans, and widows; only if you stop your murdering; (5 people dead, including police officers) and only if you stop harming yourselves by worshiping idols." (Jeremiah 5: 3b - 6) America has an absolutely terrifying nationalist theology present and this lent we should repent for that.
One of my favorite hymns is "Balm in Gilead" because it offers such a special depth to the love and compassion that God has for people. it shows that God hurts when we hurt one another, that God actually weeps at our injustice. While this song has a special place in the hearts of people of color, I think it applies to all of us too. You might not have caught it but the words to this hymn are found in Jeremiah 8: 21 - 22 "I hurt with the hurt of my people. I mourn and am overcome with grief. Is there no medicine in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why is there no healing for the wounds of my people?" I really, really like this as someone who supports and can reconcile the work of science and medicine with still believing in God and God's agency to work through people. In some traditions people pray to God for their healing and let God decide what to happen, or even with COVID some people say "I won't wear a mask because God's in control" but here in Jeremiah it shows evidence that God expects us to put in the work. Is there no medicine in gilead? Is there no doctors there? The fine line between doing our will and doing God's will is tough, and can only be discerned through prayer and meditation on the scripture. So keep it up with what you're doing. And stay masked up, keep your distance, and wash your hands ;)
This section ends with Jeremiah (and the people, presumably) weeping for Jerusalem. That seems a little delayed, doesn't it? Well, I guess that's not as uncommon as I had previously though. A recent AP Reuters article I was reading talked about a woman who lost her mother to COVID last December but still has not "mourned" her yet because the pace of life is going too quickly for her to process it yet. She expects to at some point but has not yet. This does not make her (or you for that matter) a sociopath, it makes you a person that experiences "delayed grief" (https://beyond.life/help-centre/grief-loss-bereavement/what-is-delayed-grief/) Jeremiah acts as a pastor here for the first time so far as he instructs the people to give yourself space to mourn, to weep, to grieve the loss of Jerusalem. He says to them "you might have forgotten how to cry because life is scary and hopeless but remember what tears feel like" and the people finally give in to their stages of grief. Healing can now begin. There is a lot to grieve from 2020. Of course there are the million lives lost to COVID, but there's also many beloved traditions that we had to "bury" as well. (singing, concerts, social venues, hugging, parties, etc.) Have you given yourself the space to grieve those yet? Is life moving too quickly to do so? We are here for you if you need us. We're honored to come alongside you.
Our prayer today is inspired by hymn 170 in our United Methodist Hymnal - O How I Love Jesus. I trust that this is a favorite of many of yours! I invite you to hum, sing, or recite the words as you make them your own.
1. There is a name I love to hear,
I love to sing its worth;
it sounds like music in my ear,
the sweetest name on earth.
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
O how I love Jesus,
because he first loved me!
2. It tells me of a Savior's love,
who died to set me free;
it tells me of his precious blood,
the sinner's perfect plea.
3. It tells of one whose loving heart
can feel my deepest woe;
who in each sorrow bears a part
that none can bear below.