The Prophet Jeremiah is important for us right now because Jeremiah’s life and ministry is a biblical story of navigating an uncertain future.
As we begin this journey, I want to give you five pillars to have in mind as we make our way through Jeremiah.
Jeremiah is called by God.
Jeremiah is called to this task by God. The same God who led Israel out of Egypt, who made David King, and who goes into exile with the people called Jeremiah to this moment for the sake of his people. “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”
The implication being: Do not say I am too young. Do not say you can’t. Do not say you won’t. God is sending you, and God speaks that you might guide the nation of Israel through this terrible crisis.
Jeremiah loves his people enough to tell them the truth about their sin and God’s judgment.
The second thing is this: Jeremiah says many hard and harsh things, but he speaks them because Jeremiah loves his people. Also, see #1. Jeremiah loves his people so much that sometimes he would rather die than go say what God wants him to say. Sometimes because it hurts him to say these things and sometimes because he knows it will hurt them. Jeremiah is thought to be a priest in Jerusalem. He gives voice to God’s judgment because the people are breaking God’s commandments and ignoring the needs of the poor and vulnerable in society. Jeremiah’s love for his people mirror’s God’s love. This love believes the people can change their ways and avert the disaster which God threatens as divine punishment.
The world that you think you lost is gone and isn’t coming back.
The third thing to know is that Jeremiah makes evident that there is no going back to normal. Jeremiah’s lives through the northern kingdom being conquered. He sees his own king and his court deported to exile. He experiences firsthand how an entire nation is implicated by the sins of a country’s leaders and rulers. Long after the crisis has eased, the consequences remain. The loss is real. The scars remain.
Jeremiah, sometimes known as “the weeping prophet,” is hopeful.
The fourth thing to know is that Jeremiah is fundamentally a book about hope. Hope that is found by confronting and confessing sin. Hope that griefs, weeps, and cusses. Hope that doesn’t hide our wounds, but hope can heal them. Hope gives us courage when God calls us to do difficult things. Hope helps us to love people even when they fail us, betray us, and
Any hope worth having is rooted in partnership with God alone.
The fifth and final thing to know is connected to the fourth. The source of Jeremiah’s hope and as we will see our hope in our post-pandemic world is this: God invites us to partner with God to imagine a restored future, not by the world’s standards by God’s just, equitable, and grace-filled possibilities. Hope for the world as God intends it to be.
I hope you are beginning to see why I believe that Jeremiah’s calling for his moment is the church’s calling for our time.
However, as we turn a corner on the covid-19 pandemic, there is much work to do so I want to imagine Jeremiah’s five pillars for us in this moment as we imagine a restored future.
God has called us to this moment.
We must love each other enough to tell the truth about our complicity in the death and destruction around us. As well as our shared responsibility for the healing of the world.
The world that we think we lost is gone and isn’t coming back.
In a world of despair, we can bring hope, and we can be hope for each other.
Any hope worth having or sharing with the world must be rooted in partnership with the God we know in Jesus Christ.
Finally, As we step into the future, Jeremiah reminds us: God is watching (chapter 7). How will we respond to our calling for this moment? Will we share our hospitality? Whose needs will we put above our own comforts?
God is watching. We can turn the page of the pandemic, but God is watching it ravage the globe. We can continue to ignore the epidemic of gun violence, make excuses so-called lone wolves even when we know in our hearts that many lone wolves form white supremacist packs. We continue to make progress on poverty but we cannot ignore the needs of the stranger, the orphan, and the widow among us. Make no mistake: God is watching.
For people of faith, that should be a word of hope and a call to courage.