Lectionary (Year C) 18th Sunday after Pentecost
Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15 or Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16; Amos 6:1a, 4-7 or Psalm 146; 1 Timothy 6:6-19; Luke 16:19-31
The long predicted face-off between King Zedekiah of Judah (the southern kingdom of Israel) and King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon provides the “set-up” for readers of the scene in Jeremiah 32. King Zedekiah had imprisoned Jeremiah, presumably because the king believed Jeremiah was to blame for the siege upon Jerusalem. Zedekiah’s words betray this belief, “Why do you prophesy and say; Thus says the Lord: I am going to give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it”? (Jeremiah 32:3b NRSV)
In biblical times, people believed that a prophet was a seer who both saw and released the future into the world. While in Zedekiah’s custody, Jeremiah receives a word from the Lord saying he would receive a visit from a relative and have an opportunity to purchase some family land. Things happen accordingly and Jeremiah buys the land and puts the deed in an earthenware jar for safekeeping.
That Jeremiah’s actions are prophetic is evidenced in verse 15. “Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.” In short, the present siege did not portend their end as a people or nation. Israel would return to their land one day.
Jeremiah’s actions demonstrate a level of persistence, William Barclay highlights in his expositions on longsuffering in Ephesians 4. Longsuffering persists to the end and does not cave into despair in the midst of misfortune or suffering. Jeremiah’s prophetic action (buying land in the midst of a siege) signaled that there is something good on the other side of the trial.
Is there a perceived siege going on in our country now? What do we think when we watch the news and hear the clamor about taking back the country, concern about our economy and cries for some silver bullet to solve our woes? Is there someone in your congregation facing an economic siege? Now is the time to offer the hope that there is life on the other side of layoffs, grief, troubled relationships, and the traumas of life. It’s hard but healthy to focus on hope in troubled times.
Perhaps we could benefit from expressing Christian persistence coupled with the companion virtues of meekness, peace, agape, humility, and peace.
What does it mean to be persistent in mission for Christ when we’re at the height of success?
Under his leadership as pastor of Ginghamsburg Church, Michael Slaughter saw his congregation grow from less than 100 to nearly 5,000. Leaders met with an architect who had worked on the Disney World theme park to create a long-range plan for their 130 acres. A plan was made for a 3,000 seat sanctuary. But it was never built.
Despite all the apparent success of this church, Slaughter felt uneasy about the accepted measures of success of the mega church movement: membership, offerings and seating capacity. Through extended periods of discernment, Slaughter and the congregation adopted a different approach focused on ministry that matters, and mobilizing members for mission.
Since adopting their new focus the Ginghamsburg Church has built more than 150 schools, trained over 200 teachers, and created a sustainable agricultural program that is feeding nearly 80,000 people in Darfur, Sudan since 2005.
What hope can we offer the world?
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan “press on” has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race” – Calvin Coolidge
“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” – Winston Churchill
“We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.” – Maya Angelou
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” Oscar Wilde
“When you say a situation or a person is hopeless, you are slamming the door in the face of God.” – Charles L. Allen
If It Had Not Been for the Lord on My Side
On Eagle’s Wings
Be Still, My Soul
God Will Take Care of You
It Is Well with My Soul