June 23, 2015

Jeremiah 15-17
Then God said to me: “Jeremiah, even if Moses and Samuel stood here and made their case, I wouldn’t feel a thing for this people. Get them out of here. Tell them to get lost! And if they ask you, ‘So where do we go?’ tell them God says, “‘If you’re assigned to die, go and die; if assigned to war, go and get killed; If assigned to starve, go starve; if assigned to exile, off to exile you go!’...

“Who do you think will feel sorry for you, Jerusalem?  Who do you think will waste tears on you? Who will bother to take the time to ask, ‘So, how are things going?’ “You left me, remember?” God’s Decree. “You turned your back and walked out....

Unlucky mother—that you had me as a son, given the unhappy job of indicting the whole country! I’ve never hurt or harmed a soul, and yet everyone is out to get me.  But, God knows, I’ve done everything I could to help them, prayed for them and against their enemies. I’ve always been on their side, trying to stave off disaster. God knows how I’ve tried!...

You know where I am, God! Remember what I’m doing here! Take my side against my detractors.  Don’t stand back while they ruin me.  Just look at the abuse I’m taking.  When your words showed up, I ate them— swallowed them whole. What a feast! What delight I took in being yours, O God, God-of-the-Angel-Armies!  I never joined the party crowd in their laughter and their fun.  Led by you, I went off by myself.  You’d filled me with indignation. Their sin had me seething. But why, why this chronic pain, this ever worsening wound and no healing in sight? You’re nothing, God, but a mirage, a lovely oasis in the distance—and then nothing!

This is how God answered me:
“Take back those words, and I’ll take you back. Then you’ll stand tall before me. Use words truly and well. Don’t stoop to cheap whining.   Then, but only then, you’ll speak for me.  Let your words change them.  Don’t change your words to suit them. I’ll turn you into a steel wall, a thick steel wall, impregnable.They’ll attack you but won’t put a dent in you because I’m at your side, defending and delivering.” “I’ll deliver you from the grip of the wicked. I’ll get you out of the clutch of the ruthless.”

God’s Message to me:
Jeremiah, don’t get married. Don’t raise a family here. I have signed the death warrant on all the children born in this country, the mothers who bear them and the fathers who beget them—an epidemic of death.... God continued: “Don’t enter a house where there’s mourning. Don’t go to the funeral. Don’t sympathize. I’ve quit caring about what happens to this people.”...  “No more loyal love on my part, no more compassion. The famous and obscure will die alike here, unlamented and unburied. No funerals will be conducted, no one will give them a second thought, no one will care, no one will say, ‘I’m sorry,’ no one will so much as offer a cup of tea, not even for the mother or father. “And if there happens to be a feast celebrated, don’t go there either to enjoy the festivities.”

God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel, says, “Watch this! I’m about to banish smiles and laughter from this place. No more brides and bridegrooms celebrating. And I’m doing it in your lifetime, before your very eyes.  When you tell this to the people and they ask, ‘Why is God talking this way, threatening us with all these calamities? We’re not criminals, after all. What have we done to our God to be treated like this?’ tell them this: ‘It’s because your ancestors left me, walked off and never looked back.... You can worship your precious no-gods there to your heart’s content. Rest assured, I won’t bother you anymore.’

“On the other hand, don’t miss this: The time is coming when no one will say any longer, ‘As sure as God lives, the God who delivered Israel from Egypt.’ What they’ll say is, ‘As sure as God lives, the God who brought Israel back from the land of the north, brought them back from all the places where he’d scattered them.’ That’s right, I’m going to bring them back to the land I first gave to their ancestors.

“Now, watch for what comes next: I’m going to assemble a bunch of fishermen.” God’s Decree! “They’ll go fishing for my people and pull them in for judgment. Then I’ll send out a party of hunters, and they’ll hunt them out in all the mountains, hills, and caves. I’m watching their every move. I haven’t lost track of a single one of them, neither them nor their sins. “They won’t get by with a thing.... 

God, my strength, my stronghold, my safe retreat when trouble descends:...“Watch closely now. I’m going to teach these wrongheaded people.  Starting right now, I’m going to teach them  Who I am and what I do, teach them the meaning of my name, God—‘I Am.’”...

“Cursed is the strong one who depends on mere humans, who thinks he can make it on muscle alone and sets God aside as dead weight.  He’s like a tumbleweed on the prairie,  out of touch with the good earth. He lives rootless and aimless in a land where nothing grows.

“But blessed is the man who trusts me, God, the woman who sticks with God. They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers— Never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf, serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season.
“The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.  But I, God, search the heart and examine the mind.  I get to the heart of the human. I get to the root of things. I treat them as they really are, not as they pretend to be.” Like a cowbird that cheats by laying its eggs in another bird’s nest is the person who gets rich by cheating.  When the eggs hatch, the deceit is exposed. What a fool he’ll look like then!...
God, pick up the pieces. Put me back together again. You are my praise! Listen to how they talk about me: “So where’s this ‘Word of God’? We’d like to see something happen!” But it wasn’t my idea to call for Doomsday.  I never wanted trouble. You know what I’ve said. It’s all out in the open before you.  Don’t add to my troubles. Give me some relief! Let those who harass me be harassed, not me.  Let them be disgraced, not me.

God’s Message to me: “Go stand in the People’s Gate, the one used by Judah’s kings as they come and go, and then proceed in turn to all the gates of Jerusalem. Tell them, ‘Listen, you kings of Judah, listen to God’s Message—and all you people who go in and out of these gates, you listen!... Be careful, if you care about your lives, not to desecrate the Sabbath by turning it into just another workday, lugging stuff here and there. Don’t use the Sabbath to do business as usual. Keep the Sabbath day holy, as I commanded your ancestors. They never did it, as you know. They paid no attention to what I said and went about their own business, refusing to be guided or instructed by me. ‘But now, take seriously what I tell you. Quit desecrating the Sabbath by busily going about your own work, and keep the Sabbath day holy by not doing business as usual.... 

 “‘But if you won’t listen to me, won’t keep the Sabbath holy, won’t quit using the Sabbath for doing your own work, busily going in and out of the city gates on your self-important business, then I’ll burn the gates down. In fact, I’ll burn the whole city down, palaces and all, with a fire nobody will be able to put out!’”

Acts 1:15-2:13
During this time, Peter stood up in the company  -- there were about 120 of them in the room at that time--and said, “Friends, long ago the Holy Spirit spoke through David regarding Judas, who became the guide to those who arrested Jesus.  The Scripture had to be fulfilled, and now has been, Judas was one of us and had his assigned place in the ministry.  As you know, he too the evil bribe money and bought a farm.  There he came to a bad end...Everybody in Jerusalem knows this by now, they call the placeMurder Meadow.  It’s exactly what we find written in the Psalms....Judas must now be replaced.  The replacement must come from the company of men who stayed together with us from the time Jesus was baptized by John up to the day of his ascension, designated along with us as a witness to his resurrection.

They nominated two: Joseph Barsabbas, nicknamed Justus, and Mathias.  Then they prayed, “You, O God, know every one of us inside and out.  Make plain which one of these two men you choose to take the place in this ministry and leadership that Judas threw away in order to go his own way.”  They drew straws.  Mathias won and was counted in with the eleven apostles.  

When the Feast of Pentecost came, they were together in one place.  Without warning, there was a sound like a strong wind, gale force -- no one could tell where it came from.  It filled the whole building.  Then like a wildfire, the Holy Spirit spread through their ranks, and they started speaking in a number of different languages as the Spirit prompted them.

There were many Jews staying in Jerusalem just then, devout pilgrims from all over the world....they couldn’t for the life of them figure out what was going on ......”They’re speaking our language, describing God’s mighty works!”  Their heads were spinning; they couldn’t make head or tail of and of it.  They talked back and forth, confused:  “What’s going on here?”  Others joked, “They’re drunk on cheap wine.”