June 20, 2015

Jeremiah 6-8
“Run for your lives, children of Benjamin! Get out of Jerusalem, and now!...I have likened my dear daughter Zion to a lovely meadow.  Well, now ‘shepherds’ from the north have discovered her and brought in their flocks of soldiers. They’ve pitched camp all around her, and plan where they’ll ‘graze.’And then, ‘Prepare to attack! The fight is on!...

God-of-the-Angel-Armies gave the orders: “Chop down her trees. Build a siege ramp against Jerusalem,  A city full of brutality,  bursting with violence....You’re in deep trouble, Jerusalem. You’ve pushed me to the limit.  You’re on the brink of being wiped out, being turned into a ghost town.”...“Time’s up! Harvest the grapes for judgment.  Salvage what’s left of Israel.  Go back over the vines. Pick them clean, every last grape.

“I’ve got something to say. Is anybody listening? I’ve a warning to post. Will anyone notice?  It’s hopeless! Their ears are stuffed with wax— deaf as a post, blind as a bat. It’s hopeless! They’ve tuned out God.  They don’t want to hear from me. But I’m bursting with the wrath of God. I can’t hold it in much longer....

“Everyone’s after the dishonest dollar, little people and big people alike.  Prophets and priests and everyone in between twist words and doctor truth.  My people are broken—shattered!—and they put on Band-Aids, saying, ‘It’s not so bad. You’ll be just fine.‘  But things are not ‘just fine’!  Do you suppose they are embarrassed over this outrage?  No, they have no shame. They don’t even know how to blush. There’s no hope for them. They’ve hit bottom and there’s no getting up.  As far as I’m concerned, they’re finished.”...        

God’s Message yet again: “Go stand at the crossroads and look around.  Ask for directions to the old road,  The tried-and-true road. Then take it.  Discover the right route for your souls. But they said, ‘Nothing doing. We aren’t going that way.’ I even provided watchmen for them to warn them, to set off the alarm. But the people said, ‘It’s a false alarm.  It doesn’t concern us.’  And so I’m calling in the nations as witnesses: ‘Watch, witnesses, what happens to them!’  And, ‘Pay attention, Earth! Don’t miss these bulletins.’  I’m visiting catastrophe on this people, the end result of the games they’ve been playing with me.  They’ve ignored everything I’ve said, had nothing but contempt for my teaching....Your burnt sacrifices in worship give me no pleasure. Your religious rituals mean nothing to me.”

So listen to this. Here’s God’s verdict on your way of life:  “Watch out! I’m putting roadblocks and barriers on the road you’re taking.  They’ll send you sprawling, parents and children, neighbors and friends—and that will be the end of the lot of you.”...

“Dear Daughter Zion: Dress in black.  Blacken your face with ashes.  Weep most bitterly, as for an only child. The countdown has begun . . .six, five, four, three . . .   

God gave me this task: “I have made you the examiner of my people, to examine and weigh their lives.  They’re a thickheaded, hard-nosed bunch, rotten to the core, the lot of them.  Refining fires are cranked up to white heat, but the core stays a lump, unchanged. It’s useless to keep trying any longer.  Nothing can refine evil out of them.  Men will give up and call them ‘slag,‘ thrown on the slag heap by me, their God.”

The Message from God to Jeremiah: “Stand in the gate of God’s Temple and preach this Message.
“Say, ‘Listen, all you people of Judah who come through these gates to worship God. God-of-the-Angel-Armies, Israel’s God, has this to say to you:

 “‘Clean up your act—the way you live, the things you do—so I can make my home with you in this place. Don’t for a minute believe the lies being spoken here—“This is God’s Temple, God’s Temple, God’s Temple!” Total nonsense! Only if you clean up your act (the way you live, the things you do), only if you do a total spring cleaning on the way you live and treat your neighbors, only if you quit exploiting the street people and orphans and widows, no longer taking advantage of innocent people on this very site and no longer destroying your souls by using this Temple as a front for other gods—only then will I move into your neighborhood. Only then will this country I gave your ancestors be my permanent home, my Temple.

 “‘Get smart! Your leaders are handing you a pack of lies, and you’re swallowing them! Use your heads! Do you think you can rob and murder, have sex with the neighborhood wives, tell lies nonstop, worship the local gods, and buy every novel religious commodity on the market—and then march into this Temple, set apart for my worship, and say, “We’re safe!” thinking that the place itself gives you a license to go on with all this outrageous sacrilege? A cave full of criminals! Do you think you can turn this Temple, set apart for my worship, into something like that? Well, think again. I’ve got eyes in my head. I can see what’s going on.’” God’s Decree!...

 “And you, Jeremiah, don’t waste your time praying for this people. Don’t offer to make petitions or intercessions. Don’t bother me with them. I’m not listening. Can’t you see what they’re doing in all the villages of Judah and in the Jerusalem streets? Why, they’ve got the children gathering wood while the fathers build fires and the mothers make bread to be offered to ‘the Queen of Heaven’! And as if that weren’t bad enough, they go around pouring out libations to any other gods they come across, just to hurt me. “But is it me they’re hurting?” God’s Decree! “Aren’t they just hurting themselves? Exposing themselves shamefully? Making themselves ridiculous?

“Here’s what the Master God has to say:... 
‘Go ahead! Put your burnt offerings with all your other sacrificial offerings and make a good meal for yourselves. I sure don’t want them! When I delivered your ancestors out of Egypt, I never said anything to them about wanting burnt offerings and sacrifices as such. But I did say this, commanded this: “Obey me. Do what I say and I will be your God and you will be my people. Live the way I tell you. Do what I command so that your lives will go well.”

“‘But do you think they listened? Not a word of it. They did just what they wanted to do, indulged any and every evil whim and got worse day by day. From the time your ancestors left the land of Egypt until now, I’ve supplied a steady stream of my servants the prophets, but do you think the people listened? Not once. Stubborn as mules and worse than their ancestors!’...

“The people of Judah have lived evil lives while I’ve stood by and watched.” God’s Decree. “In deliberate insult to me, they’ve set up their obscene god-images in the very Temple that was built to honor me. They’ve constructed Topheth altars for burning babies in prominent places all through the valley of Ben-hinnom, altars for burning their sons and daughters alive in the fire—a shocking perversion of all that I am and all I command....

 “Tell them this, God’s Message:
“‘Do people fall down and not get up? Or take the wrong road and then just keep going? So why does this people go backward, and just keep on going—backward!  They stubbornly hold on to their illusions, refuse to change direction. I listened carefully but heard not so much as a whisper.  No one expressed one word of regret.  Not a single “I’m sorry” did I hear.  They just kept at it, blindly and stupidly banging their heads against a brick wall.  Cranes know when it’s time to move south for winter.  And robins, warblers, and bluebirds know when it’s time to come back again. But my people? My people know nothing, not the first thing of God and his rule.
 
“‘How can you say, “We know the score.  We’re the proud owners of God’s revelation”?  Look where it’s gotten you—stuck in illusion.  Your religion experts have taken you for a ride!  Your know-it-alls will be unmasked,  caught and shown up for what they are. Look at them! They know everything but God’s Word. Do you call that “knowing”?...

So why are we sitting here, doing nothing?  Let’s get organized.  Let’s go to the big city and at least die fighting.  We’ve gotten God’s ultimatum:  We’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t—damned because of our sin against him.  We hoped things would turn out for the best, but it didn’t happen that way.  We were waiting around for healing—and terror showed up!....

I drown in grief.  I’m heartsick.  Oh, listen! Please listen! It’s the cry of my dear people reverberating through the country. Is God no longer in Zion?  Has the King gone away? Can you tell me why they flaunt their plaything-gods, their silly, imported no-gods before me?  The crops are in, the summer is over, but for us nothing’s changed.  We’re still waiting to be rescued.  For my dear broken people, I’m heartbroken. I weep, seized by grief....So why can’t something be done to heal and save my dear, dear people?

Luke 23 -  
Then they all took Jesus to Pilate and began to bring up charges against him that included undermining their law and order, forbidding taxes to be paid to Caesar, setting himself up as Messiah King.  When Pilate asked Jesus if such charges were true, Jesus replied with “those are your words, not mine.”  Pilate told those bringing charges that he found nothing wrong here and that Jesus seemed harmless to him.  But the leaders were vehement that he was stirring up unrest with his teachings, disturbing the peace...a dangerous man, endangering the peace.”  When Pilate heard this he concluded that Jesus, as a Galilean, properly came under the jurisdiction of Herod and passed the buck to him since he happened to be in Jerusalem .

Herod was delighted when Jesus showed up.  He had waited a long time to see him...He hoped to see him do something spectacular.  He peppered him with questions though Jesus did not answer him, not one word.  But the high priests and religious scholars were right there, saying their piece, strident and shrill in their accusations.  Mightily offended.  Herod turned on Jesus.  His soldiers joined in, taunting and jeering...That day Herod and Pilate became thick as thieves.  Always before they had kept their distance.

Then Pilate called in the high priests, rulers and the others and said....”I examined him in front of you and found there was nothing in your charge.  And neither did Herod, for he sent him back here with a clean bill of health.  It is clear that he’s done nothing wrong, let alone anything deserving death.  I’m going to warn him to watch his step and let him go.”  At that the crowd went wild calling for Pilate to kill him and give them Barabbas instead.  Pilate still wanted to let Jesus go and so spoke out again.  But the crowd kept shouting back...He tried a third time stating that he was going to warn him and let him go.  But the crowd kept at it, a shouting mob, demanding that he be crucified.  And finally they shouted him down.  Pilate caved and gave them what they wanted.

As they led him off, they made Simon, a man from Cyrene who happened to be coming in from the countryside, carry the cross behind Jesus.  A huge crowd followed along with women weeping and carrying on.  At one point Jesus turned to the women and said, “Daughter of Jerusalem, don’t cry for my.  Cry for yourselves and for your children.  The time is coming when they’ll say, ‘ Lucky the women who never conceived!  Lucky the womb that never gave birth.....

Jesus prayed, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”  Dividing up his clothes, they threw dice for them.  The people stood there staring at Jesus and the ringleaders made faces taunting, “He saved others.  Let’s see him save himself!  The Messiah of God---ha!  The Chosen---ha!”...Even one of the criminals hanging alongside cursed him: “Some Messiah you are!  Save yourself!  Save us!”  But the other one made him shut up...and asked that Jesus remember him when he enters his kingdom.  Jesus said, “Don’t worry, I will.  Today you will join me in paradise.”  By now it was noon.  The whole earth became dark for 3 hours and the temple curtain split right down the middle.  Jesus called loudly, “Father, I place my life in your hands!  Then he breathed his last.

When the captain saw what happened, he honored God.  “This man was innocent!  A good man and innocent.”  All who had come around as spectators to watch the show, when they saw what actually happened, were overcome with grief and headed home.  Those who know Jesus well, along with the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a respectful distance and kept vigil.  There was a man by the name of Joseph, a member of the Jewish High Council, a man of good heart and good character.  He had not gone along with the plan and actions of the council...He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.  Taking him down, he placed him in a tomb with the women who had been companions of Jesus following along.  Then they went back to prepare burial spices and perfumes.  They rested quietly on the Sabbath as commanded.