Thursday, September 27, 2007

Jeremiah 32 - Pent 18C

Sunday, September 30, 2007

18th Sunday After Pentecost

Year C

Jeremiah 32
Jeremiah Buys a Field
1 This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD in the tenth year of Zedekiah king of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar. 2 The army of the king of Babylon was then besieging Jerusalem, and Jeremiah the prophet was confined in the courtyard of the guard in the royal palace of Judah.
3 Now Zedekiah king of Judah had imprisoned him there, saying, "Why do you prophesy as you do? You say, 'This is what the LORD says: I am about to hand this city over to the king of Babylon, and he will capture it. 4 Zedekiah king of Judah will not escape out of the hands of the Babylonians but will certainly be handed over to the king of Babylon, and will speak with him face to face and see him with his own eyes. 5 He will take Zedekiah to Babylon, where he will remain until I deal with him, declares the LORD . If you fight against the Babylonians, you will not succeed.' "
6 Jeremiah said, "The word of the LORD came to me: 7 Hanamel son of Shallum your uncle is going to come to you and say, 'Buy my field at Anathoth, because as nearest relative it is your right and duty to buy it.'
8 "Then, just as the LORD had said, my cousin Hanamel came to me in the courtyard of the guard and said, 'Buy my field at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin. Since it is your right to redeem it and possess it, buy it for yourself.'
"I knew that this was the word of the LORD ; 9 so I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel and weighed out for him seventeen shekels of silver. 10 I signed and sealed the deed, had it witnessed, and weighed out the silver on the scales. 11 I took the deed of purchase-the sealed copy containing the terms and conditions, as well as the unsealed copy- 12 and I gave this deed to Baruch son of Neriah, the son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel and of the witnesses who had signed the deed and of all the Jews sitting in the courtyard of the guard.
13 "In their presence I gave Baruch these instructions: 14 'This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Take these documents, both the sealed and unsealed copies of the deed of purchase, and put them in a clay jar so they will last a long time. 15 For this is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Houses, fields and vineyards will again be bought in this land.'

It is passages like this that cause so many of the youth I was friends with in High School and College to take a pass on the Bible. Too many names, with a bunch of rhetoric, and weights and measures that mean nothing to today's world. And yet, with a closer look at this story it is like so many other stories I have seen lately.

Imagine if you will, that you are a person in South Florida, during hurricane season. When the first storm of the season hits a 4 on the scale, with near certainty that that same hurricane will come plowing through your part of the state. Then, at that moment you run out and buy three houses in your neighborhood, including buying one from a neighbor who had no intent on selling their home. Folks would of course find you to be a sincere mental patient. However, this is exactly what Jeremiah does in this passage. He goes out and buys up land, just as the invaders are outside the door and descending on Israel. What Jeremiah does is stake a claim for the future, taking himself out of the present fear and moving a people forward.

I think of several friends in seminary and others since, who have done similar kinds of things. The people who decided to move into the worst neighborhood they could find , rehabbing the house they bought, showing love to their neighbors, growing gardens in open spaces on their property and showing others how to do the same. Some even went so far as to do some guerrilla gardening - planting gardens in any open lot in the area. These friends knew the same truth that Jeremiah does, that renewal comes from hope. Something better is yet to come.

What hope is yet to come in your time of despair?
-When your bank account is down to nothing
-When your marriage is falling apart
-When your friends and family are dying off all around you
-When promises made are left empty and betrayed
-When your friends turn enemy
-When the shape of your faith is dented by some devastating moment
-When your house is burned down
-When your job is ended and no jobs are in sight

As Christians we have a claim for hope, in this world, even before we begin to claim the hope that comes in Life Eternal. Do not think that waiting for the future of life eternal is the only hope to be had. Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly, today, tomorrow and forever. The challenge comes in the call to Christian action. To reach out and give someone else hope when there is nothing to be found in your own heart. This is Jeremiah, Jesus, and so many of the hope to others, when they have none themselves. In doing so, they are able to find greater hope than they could have imagined for themselves. This is the mystery of Christian service, that giving is the greatest way to receive, as long as the gift is freely and cheerfully given.


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