The prophet Jeremiah is certainly an interesting fellow. He seems a little crazy, but he does care very deeply for his people, and for the God who loves them.
Jeremiah fusses and fumes, walks around naked at times, and even gets himself thrown into jail. He will try anything to get people’s attention, so that he might tell them about God’s call to faithfulness. He smashes a clay pot into smithereens to demonstrate to his people what God is gonna do to them just as soon as God gets around to it.
All Jeremiah’s antics don’t seem to work, though, and the Hebrew people are carted off to Babylon. Jeremiah follows along, to bring courage and hope.
The Hebrews are treated well in Babylon. In many ways, life is better there than it had been back in Israel. They now have tasty food, fashionable clothing, and enjoyable entertainment. Jeremiah struggles to speak God’s words to the Hebrews, who are living quite comfortably in Babylon.
But Jeremiah can sense that there is something rotten in the state of Babylon. The more thoughtful Hebrews also begin to wonder, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in this strange new land?”
All this may sound familiar. We’ve been enjoying the good life in this country. Many of us have seen our standard of living rise throughout our lifetimes. Even with this economic recession and high unemployment, most of us are doing fine.
There are also thoughtful “Jeremiahs” among us, who are asking, “How can we sing God’s song?” in the midst of our affluent lifestyles when many others are destitute and fearful. Do we need a whole new way of being faithful? Is the economy God’s way of calling this to our attention?
Anybody in the congregation sleeping? Try smashing a pot during the sermon. Use dried clay that has not been kiln-fired. That way there will be no (should be no) sharp flying shards.
Rev. Bryan Jackson
Psalm 51: 1-12
Try reading Psalm 51:1-12 in reverse, beginning with verse twelve. It reads just as well this way.
Interestingly, toward the middle, the writer associates being clean with snow and whiteness. A problem with dead white guy theology is that it tends to be white and dead. David wants to be clean again (understandably) after a roll in the hay with Bathsheba.
When (and how often) is guilt helpful? When Jesus roamed the hillside, doing his own theology, did he reflect on the house of David with shame? Hemingway probably had it right when he said, “We’re all bitched from the start.” That being the case, and having read this passage in reverse, it might be worth asking: Who is in need of forgiveness today?
Rev. Dr. Chris Ayers
"The Little Pest"
Indeed, I was born guilty, a sinner when my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:5)
Written by the Psalmist but it could have been penned by Augustine. I hope you and your congregation are not original sin fans.
I am the 3rd of four sons. My 2nd brother, Ken, who is three years older than me, told me when I was five years-old that there was “something seriously wrong with me.” How could a five-year old be so messed up? (Don’t answer that question.)
Little brother pests aside, doesn’t it seem a little ridiculous to speak of being a sinner upon conception? I mean, how much trouble can you get into in the womb?
What did the Psalmist do that made him feel like he was such a big sinner?
What have people in your church done that make them feel like big sinners?
Thanks to Augustine’s confessions (I’m sure he didn’t confess everything) we know St. Augustine had his unsaintly moments. We all do. Some more than others. But grace is grace, right.
Fortunately for us, Celtic spirituality reacted against original sin proclaimers. The first prominent British theologian was the Celtic Christian, Pelagius. Pelagius, in stark contrast to Augustine, believed God’s image is to be found in every person, male and female, and that the newborn, freshly come forth from God, contains the original, unsullied goodness of creation and humanity’s essential blessedness. Pelagius, also in contrast to Augustine who saw humanity’s sinful nature sexually transmitted from one generation to another, maintained that the sexual dimension of our being is God-given and good. Pelagius did not deny the presence and power of sin. He simply believed deeper than any wrong is us is the light of God. (J. Philip Newell, Listening For The Heartbeat Of God: A Celtic Spirituality, pp. 8-14)
This Sunday and this text provide an excellent opportunity for preachers to address how congregants feel about themselves. You may not preach a more important sermon. Deeper than any wrong in us is the light of God. Amen.