You can watch the video of Pastor Kris’ reflection, Beloved, Love: Dream Anew, HERE.
Today we have the pleasure of getting to know a very, very persistent God. From the very beginning, God has been adapting, and re-adapting the ways through which the Divine reaches out to humankind. To us. To me. To you. A Living Presence who intimately longs for us.
In our very human we-don’t-quite-get-it selves, God has repeatedly shifted to meet us where we are. Generation after generation accounts have been told of God’s frustration, God’s longing, and God’s loving persistence.
- From the very beginning, God walks in our midst in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:8)—looking for us; but like Eve and Adam, we run and hide.
- Ever since, God has pursued us in dreams and visions; even sending angels and messengers to seek us out. The Good News is God is Ever Present… always… always… and yet the power and noise of greed, sin, and evil overwhelm that headline with ongoing news of death and destruction.
- Thus, God gets creative and comes up with new ideas for how to get through to us. Do you remember a little project called the 10 commandments? Here God thinks, “Maybe… just maybe… Holy Words chiseled into heavy stone tablets will imprint the Message onto human lives.” Thus, we have the story of Moses working with God to chip and chisel. These things take time. But humanity is too impatient. Before God’s job is done, the people despair. They turn to a golden calf and declared it holy.
I can just see God’s facepalm as God says to Moses ““I look at this people—oh! what a stubborn, hard-headed people!” (Exodus 32: 9, The Message).
A conversation between God and Moses ensues. It is heated. What is amazing in the exchange is that God listens. Eventually, a new commitment between the Divine and human emerges, God forgives God’s people (once again) and new tablets are carved.
- But there is a catch. There is a catch in that “dialogue requires listening on both sides,” God’s and This morning, many biblical books after Moses, God and God’s prophets keep showing up and keep speaking, but the people are just not listening.
So… God reasons, “Let’s try another prophet.” And so we get Jeremiah in Judah, just before 605 B.C.E. An invasion by the Babylonian empire is looming. “The book of Jeremiah is about trauma, disaster, and survival… (as) the (small) nation-state of Judah experienced turmoil from within and without.” The relationship between God and the political and religious powers is fraying, but God is still trying to figure out how to get through to the people. Tablets were so old school. Maybe something new? “A scroll. That’s it! A scroll. Maybe this time, with this new-fangled technology maybe the people will hear my Word.”
The Rabbi Nahum Ward-Lev notes, “The Bible conceived of the covenant with God as a contract between a ruler and his subjects, a contractual arrangement that was familiar to the people of the time. The covenant served as an accessible metaphor that expressed God’s committed love for the world and the responsibility that God’s love placed upon human beings to care for God’s world.”
Unfortunately, all too often the human response to God is something akin to book burning, or blocking people on social media. In Jeremiah’s day it was the political elite sitting in their bunker, a winter palace, cutting and burning the scroll of Holy Hope that had the power to change the world.
Doesn’t it make you wonder what God said, that was SO BAD? What was written on the scroll that was so incriminating?
We can easily find out, by turning back just one page in the story. There God says, “Can you not learn a lesson and obey my words? … I myself have spoken to you persistently, and you have not obeyed me. 15I have sent to you all my servants the prophets, sending them persistently, saying, ‘Turn now everyone of you from your evil way, and amend your doings… But you did not incline your ear or obey me” (Jeremiah 35: 13b-15, NRSV).
These are the words of pleading and justice God speaks to us—and we do not listen. Instead, humanity burns down the structures of loving interconnectedness, radical hospitality, and inclusive relationships. Literally and figuratively.
And as always, the Word keeps trying to reach us. Yes, our God is a God who rightly gets angry at the tragedies of the human condition. Yet this God also continues to long deeply for a mutual relationship.
I will take them by the hand.
I will write it on their hearts.
My justice. My love. My companionship (Micah 6:8).
Renewing and reimagining, God is eternally using whatever the Living Presence can grab onto to invite us… poke us… prod us… to embrace God’s extravagant Love deep inside in our very being.
The Holy is present.
Ward-Lev writes, “Jeremiah’s covenant, written on people’s hearts, was not a covenant that addressed isolated individuals. The prophet conceived that God placed God’s Torah inside all the people, writing it upon their hearts… (so) that collectively the people would perceive both the cords of loving relationship that bound them to God and to all creation and they would also perceive the responsibilities that emerge from that relationship.”
I will take them by the hand…
During the pandemic, our hands have taken on new realities. Handwashing, 20 seconds, to keep ourselves and others well. The hands of the doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, medical staff, and others, caring for those who are gravely ill. The hands of researchers, developing a vaccine. Even in simple things – a thumbs up on Zoom, hands held in prayer, a wave… God is present.
I will write it on their hearts…
Looking at the physical space in which I sit this morning in church, and all the empty chairs as I am here by myself, I can’t help but think about the empty chairs which will be the reality for many of us on Thanksgiving. There are the family and friends who have died since we last gathered. Then there are the family and friends who will be eating with us not around the dining room table, but via Zoom. The love of neighbor which leads us to physically distance for now… is written on our hearts.
In our hands, our hearts, I can imagine God still creating in 2020, moving past stone tablets, scrolls, even sacred books, on to livestreaming, friending us on social media, or sending a notice that God has scheduled a Zoom meeting.
So, login. God never sets up a waiting room. There isn’t a password. Just an ongoing, persistent invitation to say “yes” to a deeply intimate relationship with the Divine. Turning again to Ward-Lev I leave you with these words, “We are all a part of the great unfolding journey of creation, a journey in and toward love… May our walking—our wondering, our venturing out, our risking, our engaging, our dialoging, our attentive caring, our envisioning/imagining, our organizing, and our loving—singularly and together, add our life force to the great stream that is at work this very moment to bring forth a more universally flourishing and delight-filled world.”
Reflection on Jeremiah 36:1-8, 21-23, 27-28; 31:31-34 offered November 22, 2020
 Nahum Ward-Lev, The Liberating Path of the Hebrew Prophets: Then and Now (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis books, 2019), 34.
 Kathleen M. O’Connor, Women’s Bible Commentary: Revised and Updated, ed. Carol A. Newsom, Sharon H. Ringe, and Jacqueline E. Lapsley (Louisville, Ky: Westminster John Knox Press, 2012), 267-8.
 Nahum Ward-Lev, The Liberating Path of the Hebrew Prophets: Then and Now (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis books, 2019), 199.
 Nahum Ward-Lev, The Liberating Path of the Hebrew Prophets: Then and Now (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis books, 2019), 202.
 Nahum Ward-Lev, The Liberating Path of the Hebrew Prophets: Then and Now (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis books, 2019), 204.