Questions and Reflections

Category: Jeremiah

A Reflection on Jeremiah 32

The First Reading is Jeremiah 32:1-2,6-15.

Jerusalem is under siege. The armies of Babylon have surrounded the city. The prophet Jeremiah is imprisoned by the King of Judah because Jeremiah keeps saying “Jerusalem is going to fall.” The king questions Jeremiah, and he responds with the story in our reading today. Jeremiah’s cousin needs to sell a piece of property. He comes to Jeremiah with an offer. Jeremiah, as a member of this extended family, has the opportunity to buy the land first. If he buys it, the land stays within the family. Jeremiah buys the property, and he goes into detail on how he legally makes the sale happen. The deeds are stored in a jar so that it will last a long time. In the middle of a war, with Babylon storming the gates, Jeremiah buys a piece of land. The Kingdom of Judah and all its laws about property rights are about to fall, yet Jeremiah buys a piece of land. Judah’s way of life is over and, yet, Jeremiah buys a piece of land. The future looks bleak but Jeremiah doesn’t let fear rule him. He knows the kingdom will fall but he trusts God’s promises more.

Jeremiah is not a beloved prophet. The kings of Judah do not like this man of God who says that the Kingdom is going to fall. But every promise of destruction is met by the promise of God’s future. Babylon might destroy God’s temple but they cannot destroy God’s promises to God’s people. The inhabitants will be sent into wile but God’s relationship with them will not end. God will go into Exile with the people. God will be with them, no matter what. And, as the wheels of time move and the world changes and grows, God will rework God’s people to bring them into a future where injustice, pain and tears are no more. And that’s why Jeremiah buys a piece of land. He’s doubling down on God’s promise even if he doesn’t see the promise fulfilled in his lifetime. 


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A Reflection on Jeremiah

The first reading is Jeremiah 1:4-10.

There are very few "kind" passages from the book of Jeremiah which is full of the words attributed to that prophet. He was only a "boy" when God called him to be a prophet, around the year 626 BCE (BC). This was a very chaotic time for the kingdom of Judah. War was everywhere. Political powers such as Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon battled for supremacy, installing puppet kings in Judah and throughout the area. By the year 605, Babylon defeated Egypt and Assyria in battle. Babylon was left as the supreme military and political authority in the Near East. In 597 BC, the first exile of leaders from Jerusalem took place. That was followed by a much larger exile 10 years later after Jerusalem rebelled against Babylonian authority. Jeremiah died the following year.

In such a violent and vicious time, it would be surprising to find may words of comfort from God's prophet. However, even in the first chapter, the ground for hope is laid. God comes to a little boy, appointing him as a prophet for Jerusalem and all the nations of the world. We tend to romanticize our view of children, viewing them as special, precious, and innocent. And they are. But in Jeremiah's time, childhood wasn't romanticized. Children had few legal rights, many died before the age of five, and they worked in the field as soon as they were able. Children were powerless and it's a child that God calls to bring God's word to kings. God promises to give Jeremiah the words he needs. Jeremiah will preach a word to all those in power and authority, showing them their shortcomings and bringing God's call for justice. God's word will pull injustice down and, in the same instant, plant the seeds for reconciliation, love, and hope. 

By the end of Jeremiah's life, his messages of doom were matched by his messages of hope. He would never live to see the restoration of Jerusalem but he would proclaim that God does not give up on God's people. God will come to all of us, in many different ways, to form us into the people God wants us to be. God's desire is for the end of fear, injustice, and hopelessness. That what's God begins in us through our relationship with Jesus Christ. And what God begins in us, we are called to do in all that we say and do. 


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A reflection on Jeremiah 11

Today's first reading is Jeremiah 11:18-20.

These three verses from Jeremiah need a little context. 

Jeremiah is a prophet operating around Jerusalem right before (and during) Jerusalem’s destruction by the Babylonians. He's watched as Babylon gets involved in Jerusalem's affairs. An empire with an army much larger (and better equipped) than what Jerusalem has, fear is tearing Jerusalem apart. Jeremiah is watching his society unravel before his eyes. He is given a job by God to spread a message about Babylon's advance and pleading with the people to turn to God and not try to defeat Babylon militarily. But no one truly listens. Jeremiah is arrested, tried, and almost killed. He's in prison when Jerusalem is captured by Babylon and eventually dies (we believe) in Egypt as a refugee. 

These verses from chapter 11 are the first of Jeremiah’s nine laments. God tells Jeremiah that others want to kill him. This makes Jeremiah sad and angry. He's upset that others aren't listening to him but he's also upset that God sent him on this mission. Jeremiah doesn’t want to share this negative message with his neighbors. He doesn't want to be the one living this kind of life. But God chose Jeremiah to speak the truth during a chaotic time so Jeremiah presses on. And he trusts that, in the end, God will set the world right.  

The verses end with Jeremiah asking God to destroy and punish his enemies. His sadness is matched by his anger towards those around him and God. Like many of us, Jeremiah can't fully separate sadness and anger. They're always together, with his sadness making him want to lash out at others. Faced by the impending war with Babylon, Jeremiah responds to his enemies in kind. He struggles, like all of us when we are in a crisis, to imagine a world bigger than what he is experiencing. Surrounded by violence, he imagines God’s promise in the language of violence. His language isn’t a model for us but his trust is. He trusts that God will make all things right but he struggles to imagine just how God’s hope, mercy, and love will look like when Jeremiah is caught up in the chaos around him.


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A reflection on Jeremiah 31

Today's First Reading is Jeremiah 31:31-34.

I learned something new this week about Jeremiah 31: this is the only Old Testament passage where the word "new" modifies the word covenant. But what exactly is new about this covenant is disputed. 

The book of Jeremiah is a hard text. Called to proclaim the coming destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah's ministry spanned 5 kingships prior to Babylon's take over of Jerusalem. Jeremiah's traditionally known as the author of Lamentations, a book full of sadness due to the loss of the city but hopeful that the community will survive. Jeremiah most likely spent the last years of his life in Egypt, away from those in Babylon but still trying to turn the people back to God. 

This first reading is about restoration. The new covenant God will bring is entirely earthy. Jerusalem will be rebuilt and the land of Israel will be repopulated. Throughout the Old Testament, land (and the promise of the land) is central to what God is doing. Restoration always has a very earthy feel. God isn't in the business of drawing the Chosen people away from the earth; God is busy restoring people to it. 

And the center of this restoration is grounded in God's promises. This new covenant isn't replacing the prior ones that we've heard this Lent (the promise to not destroy the world with a flood, the promise of the Ten Commandments, etc). This new covenant is fulfilling the eternal promises of God. God promises to walk with God's people, to get into the earthy lives we live, and help us grow into the people we are called to be. 

At the Lord's table, we hear words of a new covenant. When we share in Jesus' body and blood, we're reminded that God is active in our lives, nourishing us physically and spirituality, so that God's eternal promise is manifested in our lives. God's new covenant is rooted in forgiveness. Jeremiah vision of what the future will hold is still be actualized now. We're not there yet. But with God's love, grace, and Jesus' presence, we are transformed, reflecting tomorrow's future in our lives today. 


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