First Thoughts on the Lectionary: January 5, 2014

Jeremiah 31:7-14
31:7 For thus says the LORD: Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob, and raise shouts for the chief of the nations; proclaim, give praise, and say, “Save, O LORD, your people, the remnant of Israel.”

31:8 See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north, and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, those with child and those in labor, together; a great company, they shall return here.

31:9 With weeping they shall come, and with consolations I will lead them back, I will let them walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which they shall not stumble; for I have become a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.

31:10 Hear the word of the LORD, O nations, and declare it in the coastlands far away; say, “He who scattered Israel will gather him, and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.”

31:11 For the LORD has ransomed Jacob, and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.

31:12 They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again.

31:13 Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy, I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.

31:14 I will give the priests their fill of fatness, and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty, says the LORD.

Jerimiah’s words are a wonderful promise, a vision, of reuniting extended families, reestablishing cultural and religious traditions, and returning to being rooted in ancient homelands.

Jeremiah is writing about the end of the Babylonian captivity. The Priests and leaders of Judea, the Jewish intelligentsia, had been taken by king Nebuchadnezzar to serve in his court. The captivity lasted over half a century. Jeremiah’s vision, or promise, is to the “remnant,” the second or third generation after the captivity; that they could return to the homeland of their ancestors.

But the vision of Jerimiah runs counter to the current historical reality of our world. The story of our day is the disruption of cultures, families, and religions. It is a story of world wide displaced peoples.

How odd that in our political actions, which are usually taken for economic reasons, we don’t calculate the tremendous cost to world civilization of this disruption of families and destruction of cultures, traditions and religions.

This is not God’s vision of how people should live. God’s vision is that of Jerimiah, a return to the homeland.

They shall come and sing aloud on the height of Zion, and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD, over the grain, the wine, and the oil, and over the young of the flock and the herd; their life shall become like a watered garden, and they shall never languish again.

Someone once coined the image of the United States as a “melting pot.” This is a violent image: one of burning away all unique cultural, religious, personal identity.

This is not God’s vision of how people should live.

Can we think boldly about reversing this current historical reality? What would it take in order for us to say to the displaced people of our world:

“With weeping (you) shall come, and with consolations I will lead (you) back, I will let (you) walk by brooks of water, in a straight path in which (you) shall not stumble.

I believe the place to start is with our own families. Our culture prizes independence and personal achievement without considering the cost of disrupting communities and families. How absurd it is that a company can reassign someone to a different office in a different part of the country, or world. How odd it is that we send our children off to colleges in different parts of the country where they often meet their life partners and we are left with families that have to fly across the country once a year to be united.

Is this God’s vision of how we should live?

Is it really possible to change all of this? What would it take?

I think a little faith.

Jeremiah has promised a return to the homeland, and Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, has promised us the power to change the world.

Ephesians 1:3-14
blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing…

In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will…

In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit.

I think we need to believe in the power of God and the Holy Spirit, to use us to change the world. We need to believe in ourselves and challenge our fellow Christians and ask them to challenge us.

Do you believe?

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About Newell Hendricks

I have lived a good life. Maybe a counterculture life, maybe a normal life. I have written operas, built houses, been involved with cross-cultural education between Latin America and the U.S, and hardly ever had a job I have helped raise two wonderful children with my amazing wife. It's been a good ride. And I go to church. I've just finished a book of stories from my life, I am still connected to an organization in Nicaragua that promotes sister relationships between communities, faith communities, or schoold, and to the extent that my cancer doesn't pull me down, am attempting to share some of what I have learned, or at least tried out. Welcome, and let's share.
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One Response to First Thoughts on the Lectionary: January 5, 2014

  1. Pingback: 1/5/2014 Gladness for Sorrow | ForeWords

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