If we’re committed to the welfare of this country, to the people around us, to the people exiled from us in prisons, in detention centers—if we find our welfare in their welfare, how do we make sense of the contradictions? The contradiction that to be for the welfare of prisoners involves being against the welfare of the society that builds prisons, a way of life that depends on incarceration. What does it mean for us to be committed to peace, here, in this place where God has put us, when sinister violences hold it all together?
Repentance is how we say yes to God’s vision for our lives—to let go of all the ways we try to be something we are not, to release our grip on visions for life that aren’t good for us, visions that aren’t good for our neighbors, and instead entrust ourselves into God’s care, to trust that God will remake us and our world with the goodness we need. Jeremiah’s prophecy about the potter’s house is a word of judgment, a call to say no to what causes destruction in our lives and in our communities, in order to say yes to God’s goodness, to say yes to God’s grace.
There’s a tree in my backyard, actually a neighbor’s yard, but it’s branches reach above our house, a canopy of leaves over our backyard. A month ago there was a tree guy doing work on it, cutting away a dead branch that stretched toward our house. I asked him how old he thought the tree was. At least 150 years, he said. I stared at it from my backyard office for the rest of the day, thinking about what it’s seen. In it’s early years, it would have watched as Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation set enslaved people free, free from their Southern masters. Maybe the tree was planted in celebration of that liberation. An oak tree bearing witness to the end of slavery.
Our faith is a way of life. Worship is a way of life. To amend our ways, Jeremiah says, has everything to do with how we welcome God into our lives. “Let me dwell with you in this place,” God says. It’s a request, a plea from God—because God wants to be with us. But the thing with God is that when God shows up, God brings friends, people, neighbors and foreigners, all God’s loved ones. If we don’t welcome the foreigner and orphan, then we’ve communicated very clearly that we don’t really want God.
The Jeremiah writes a letter, a prophesy, to his people in exile, deported to Babylon, living among their enemies—a letter as guidance on how to survive. “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles… ‘Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce’ ” (Jeremiah […]
Today is “Reign of Christ” Sunday, a fact that feels both timely and unsettling. This Sunday comes around every year, one moment in the cycle of time Christians inhabit, before we circle back into Advent once again. But this year, today, the world looks different. This is neither the first nor the last time preachers […]
Jeremiah, chapter 32, verse 2: “At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard.” The people are in captivity. Jeremiah is under arrest. There is no hope. On the horizon, as far as the eye can see into the […]