Scripture – Jeremiah 12:5 If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses
In April of 1967 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr delivered a sermon in which he was critical of the war in Viet Nam. It was not a popular sermon. The very next day 168 newspapers across the United States contained editorials denouncing him. African-American churches began to distance themselves from him and polling showed that only 9% of the public agreed with him. His popularity dropped precipitously. In our reading for today we are confronted by God's response to Jeremiah's lament. On Monday we read God's call for Jeremiah to go where God told him to go and say what God told him to say. But these were often critical words. For instance, we read chapter 5 of Jeremiah, '...Their houses are full of treachery; Therefore they have become great and rich, they have grown fat and sleek. they know no bounds in deeds of wickedness; They judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless,...They do not defend the rights of the needy. We can see how challenging his words could be. And in today's reading Jeremiah laments the public blowback he receives for speaking boldly the words God has given him to say.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes (sarcastically), ' Let the Christian live like the rest of the world...let him model himself on the world's standards in every sphere of life.' Bonhoeffer continues in Discipleship, 'It is imperative for the Christian...to distinguish his life from the life of the world.' Eugene Peterson makes the grand promise that by studying the life of Jeremiah and then joining in what God is doing in the world we would be our most human and alive. But todays reading reveals that this risky new way of living does not promise immediate joy or happiness. A close look at Jeremiah's experience reveals that the demanding steps of life with Christ can also be painful. ' Every one of us needs to be stretched to live at our best, awakened out of dull moral habits, shaken out of petty and trivial busywork, Peterson writes. And that sounds good. We want our lives to mean something. We do not want to be left living lives that are diminished from their full potential. Being confronted with how we have been shaped by the violence, cruelty and greed of the world is troubling. To see how despite our best efforts we reflect a broken world and its destructive systems is painful. Revealing the violence, cruelty and injustice that a society has accepted or even benefited from is rarely appreciated.
Richard Rohr describes the liberating honesty of Jesus as telling 'those who think they are free that they are in fact enslaved.' God calls Jeremiah to this same kind of life, a life that cares deeply, both about neighbor and about God's vision for creation. Jeremiah's life is swept up in compassion for those whose lives are diminished by cruelty and injustice and in passion toward those who have been shaped and diminished by the idols of distraction, indulgence, force and profit. The good news as Jeremiah, Rohr, Bonhoeffer and Peterson have expressed it, is that we are not left enslaved to life defined by these petty pursuits. We are free. We are free to live into the identity God created us to be. We are free from social pressures and labels and mob mentality. We are free to offer our lives to one another, and to devote our lives to love and service. This is the race we can choose to run.
Prayer – We are grateful Lord for your mercy and grace. We are thankful that you do not shape us through wrath or punishment, but instead with love. But we must ask your forgiveness for the times and ways that we have accepted your love and resisted its power to stretch and change us. We ask forgiveness for celebrating your forgiveness but not practiced mercy. We ask your forgiveness for celebrating the gentleness of your son Jesus, but we continue as a society to justify force. Love us into a courageous practice of love and mercy and forgiveness. Love us into being the peacemakers you have created us to be.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.