June 22, 2015

Jeremiah 12-14
You are right, O God, and you set things right.  I can’t argue with that. But I do have some questions: Why do bad people have it so good?  Why do con artists make it big?  You planted them and they put down roots. They flourished and produced fruit.  They talk as if they’re old friends with you, but they couldn’t care less about you.
Meanwhile, you know me inside and out. You don’t let me get by with a thing!  Make them pay for the way they live, pay with their lives, like sheep marked for slaughter.  How long do we have to put up with this—
“So, Jeremiah, if you’re worn out in this footrace with men, what makes you think you can race against horses? And if you can’t keep your wits during times of calm, what’s going to happen when troubles break loose like the Jordan in flood?  Those closest to you, your own brothers and cousins, are working against you.  They’re out to get you. They’ll stop at nothing. Don’t trust them, especially when they’re smiling....

“The barbarians will invade, swarm over hills and plains. The judgment sword of God will take its toll from one end of the land to the other. Nothing living will be safe. They will plant wheat and reap weeds. Nothing they do will work out.  They will look at their meager crops and wring their hands.  All this the result of God’s fierce anger!”...

God told me, “Go and buy yourself some linen shorts. Put them on and keep them on. Don’t even take them off to wash them.” So I bought the shorts as God directed and put them on.  Then God told me, “Take the shorts that you bought and go straight to Perath and hide them there in a crack in the rock.” So I did what God told me and hid them at Perath.
Next, after quite a long time, God told me, “Go back to Perath and get the linen shorts I told you to hide there.” So I went back to Perath and dug them out of the place where I had hidden them. The shorts by then had rotted and were worthless.

God explained, “This is the way I am going to ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem—a wicked bunch of people who won’t obey me, who do only what they want to do, who chase after all kinds of no-gods and worship them. They’re going to turn out as rotten as these old shorts. Just as shorts clothe and protect, so I kept the whole family of Israel under my care”—God’s Decree—“so that everyone could see they were my people, a people I could show off to the world and be proud of. But they refused to do a thing I said...

Then I said, Listen. Listen carefully: Don’t stay stuck in your ways! It’s God’s Message we’re dealing with here.  Let your lives glow bright before God before he turns out the lights, Before you trip and fall on the dark mountain paths.  The light you always took for granted will go out and the world will turn black.  If you people won’t listen,  I’ll go off by myself and weep over you, weep because of your stubborn arrogance, bitter, bitter tears, rivers of tears from my eyes, because God’s sheep will end up in exile...

Do I hear you saying, “What’s going on here? Why me?” The answer’s simple: You’re guilty, hugely guilty. Your guilt has your life endangered,your guilt has you writhing in pain...You have it coming to you. I’ve measured it out precisely.It’s because you forgot me and embraced the Big Lie, that so-called god Baal....O Jerusalem, what a sordid life! Is there any hope for you!”

God’s Message that came to Jeremiah regarding the drought:
“Judah weeps, her cities mourn. The people fall to the ground, moaning, while sounds of Jerusalem’s sobs rise up, up. The rich people sent their servants for water.  They went to the cisterns, but the cisterns were dry.  They came back with empty buckets, wringing their hands, shaking their heads.  All the farm work has stopped. Not a drop of rain has fallen. The farmers don’t know what to do. They wring their hands, they shake their heads. Even the doe abandons her fawn in the field because there is no grass—Eyes glazed over, on her last legs, nothing but skin and bones.”

We know we’re guilty. We’ve lived bad lives— but do something, God. Do it for your sake! Time and time again we’ve betrayed you. ..Why are you acting like a tourist, taking in the sights, here today and gone tomorrow?  Why do you just stand there and stare, like someone who doesn’t know what to do in a crisis? But God, you are, in fact, here, here with us! You know who we are—you named us! Don’t leave us in the lurch.

Then God said of these people:
“Since they loved to wander this way and that, never giving a thought to where they were going, I will now have nothing more to do with them— except to note their guilt and punish their sins.”

God said to me, “Don’t pray that everything will turn out all right for this people. When they skip their meals in order to pray, I won’t listen to a thing they say. When they redouble their prayers, bringing all kinds of offerings from their herds and crops, I’ll not accept them. I’m finishing them off with war and famine and disease.”

I said, “But Master, God! Their preachers have been telling them that everything is going to be all right—no war and no famine—that there’s nothing to worry about.”

Then God said, “These preachers are liars, and they use my name to cover their lies. I never sent them, I never commanded them, and I don’t talk with them. The sermons they’ve been handing out are sheer illusion, tissues of lies, whistlings in the dark. “So this is my verdict on them: All the preachers who preach using my name as their text, preachers I never sent in the first place, preachers who say, ‘War and famine will never come here’—these preachers will die in war and by starvation. And the people to whom they’ve been preaching will end up as corpses, victims of war and starvation, thrown out in the streets of Jerusalem unburied—no funerals for them or their wives or their children! I’ll make sure they get the full brunt of all their evil.
“And you, Jeremiah, will say this to them: “‘My eyes pour out tears. Day and night, the tears never quit.  My dear, dear people are battered and bruised, hopelessly and cruelly wounded. I walk out into the fields, shocked by the killing fields strewn with corpses, I walk into the city, shocked by the sight of starving bodies. And I watch the preachers and priests going about their business as if nothing’s happened!’”...

God, have you said your final No to Judah? Can you simply not stand Zion any longer?...We admit, O God, how badly we’ve lived, and our ancestors, how bad they were.  We’ve sinned, they’ve sinned, we’ve all sinned against you!  Your reputation is at stake! Don’t quit on us!  Don’t walk out and abandon your glorious Temple!
Remember your covenant. Don’t break faith with us!  Can the no-gods of the godless nations cause rain? Can the sky water the earth by itself? You’re the one, O God, who does this. So you’re the one for whom we wait. You made it all, you do it all.

As the spectacular dimensions of the story of Jesus slowly (or suddenly) dawn on us, we could easily become enthusiastic spectators, and then let it go at that--become admirers of Jesus, generous with our oohs and ahs, and in our better moments, inspired to imitate him.  

It is Luke’s task to prevent that, to prevent us from becoming mere spectators to Jesus...Luke continues his narration with hardly a break...writing in the same style, using the same vocabulary.  The story of Jesus doesn’t end with Jesus.  It continues in the lives of those who believe in him....Luke makes it clear that these Christians he wrote about were no more spectators of Jesus than Jesus was a spectator of God--they are in on the action of God.  God acting in them.  God living in them.  Which also means, of course, in us. 

Acts 1:1-1:14
Dear Theophilus, in the first volume of this book I wrote on everything that Jesus began to do and teach until the day he said good-bye to the apostles.... After his death, he presented himself alive to them in many different setting over a period of 40 days.  In face-to-face meetings, he talked to them about things concerning the Kingdom of God.  As they met and ate meals together, he told them that they were on no account to leave Jerusalem but must “wait for what the Father promised; the promise you heard from me.  John baptized in water, you will be baptized in the Holy Spirit.  And soon.

When they were together for the last time Jesus told them, “You don’t get to know the time.  Timing is the father’s business.  What you’ll get is the Holy Spirit.  And when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will be able to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all over judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world.”  These were his last words.

So they left the mountain called Olives and returned to Jerusalem.  It was a little over a half a mile.  They went up to the upper room the had been using as a meeting place.  Peter, John, James, Andrew, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James-son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, Judas-son of James.  They agreed they were in this for good, completely together in prayer, the women included.  Also Jesus’ mother, Mary, and his brothers.