June 25, 2015

Jeremiah 18-20
God told Jeremiah, “Up on your feet! Go to the potter’s house. When you get there, I’ll tell you what I have to say.”

So I went to the potter’s house, and sure enough, the potter was there, working away at his wheel. Whenever the pot the potter was working on turned out badly, as sometimes happens when you are working with clay, the potter would simply start over and use the same clay to make another pot.

Then God’s Message came to me: “Can’t I do just as this potter does, people of Israel?” God’s Decree! “Watch this potter. In the same way that this potter works his clay, I work on you, people of Israel. At any moment I may decide to pull up a people or a country by the roots and get rid of them. But if they repent of their wicked lives, I will think twice and start over with them. At another time I might decide to plant a people or country, but if they don’t cooperate and won’t listen to me, I will think again and give up on the plans I had for them....

God’s Message:
“Ask around. Survey the godless nations.  Has anyone heard the likes of this? Virgin Israel has become a slut! Does snow disappear from the Lebanon peaks? Do alpine streams run dry? But my people have left me to worship the Big Lie.  They’ve gotten off the track, the old, well-worn trail, and now bushwhack through underbrush in a tangle of roots and vines....I’ll scatter my people before their enemies, like autumn leaves in a high wind.  On their day of doom, they’ll stare at my back as I walk away, catching not so much as a glimpse of my face.”

Some of the people said, “Come on, let’s cook up a plot against Jeremiah. We’ll still have the priests to teach us the law, wise counselors to give us advice, and prophets to tell us what God has to say. Come on, let’s discredit him so we don’t have to put up with him any longer.”

And I said to God: “God, listen to me!  Just listen to what my enemies are saying. Should I get paid evil for good? That’s what they’re doing. They’ve made plans to kill me!  Remember all the times I stood up for them before you, speaking up for them, trying to soften your anger? But enough!....you know all this, God. You know they’re determined to kill me. Don’t whitewash their crimes,  don’t overlook a single sin!  Round the bunch of them up before you. Strike while the iron of your anger is hot!”

God said to me, “Go, buy a clay pot. Then get a few leaders from the people and a few of the leading priests and go out to the Valley of Ben-hinnom, just outside the Potsherd Gate, and preach there what I tell you.

“Say, ‘Listen to God’s Word, you kings of Judah and people of Jerusalem!...  I’m about to bring doom crashing down on this place. Oh, and will ears ever ring! Doom—because they’ve walked off and left me,... Doom—because they have massacred innocent people. Doom—because they’ve built altars to that no-god Baal, and burned their own children alive in the fire as offerings to Baal, an atrocity I never ordered, never so much as hinted at!  “‘And so it’s payday, and soon’—

 “Say all this, and then smash the pot in front of the men who have come with you. Then say, ‘This is what God-of-the-Angel-Armies says: I’ll smash this people and this city like a man who smashes a clay pot into so many pieces it can never be put together again... 

Then Jeremiah left Topheth, where God had sent him to preach the sermon, and took his stand in the court of God’s Temple and said to the people, “This is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies to you: ‘Warning! Danger! I’m bringing down on this city and all the surrounding towns the doom that I have pronounced. They’re set in their ways and won’t budge. They refuse to do a thing I say.’”

The priest Pashur son of Immer was the senior priest in God’s Temple. He heard Jeremiah preach this sermon. He whipped Jeremiah the prophet and put him in the stocks at the Upper Benjamin Gate of God’s Temple. The next day Pashur came and let him go. Jeremiah told him, “God has a new name for you: not Pashur but Danger-Everywhere, because God says, ‘You’re a danger to yourself and everyone around you.... What’s more, I’m turning all of Judah over to the king of Babylon to do whatever he likes with them—haul them off into exile, kill them at whim. Everything worth anything in this city, property and possessions along with everything in the royal treasury—I’m handing it all over to the enemy.... 

You pushed me into this, God, and I let you do it. You were too much for me. And now I’m a public joke. They all poke fun at me.  Every time I open my mouth I’m shouting, “Murder!” or “Rape!”  And all I get for my God-warnings are insults and contempt.  But if I say, “Forget it!  No more God-Messages from me!” The words are fire in my belly, a burning in my bones. I’m worn out trying to hold it in. I can’t do it any longer! Then I hear whispering behind my back: “There goes old ‘Danger-Everywhere.’ Shut him up! Report him!” Old friends watch, hoping I’ll fall flat on my face: “One misstep and we’ll have him. We’ll get rid of him for good!”

But God, a most fierce warrior, is at my side. Those who are after me will be sent sprawling—Slapstick buffoons falling all over themselves, a spectacle of humiliation no one will ever forget.  Oh, God-of-the-Angel-Armies, no one fools you. You see through everyone, everything.  I want to see you pay them back for what they’ve done.  I rest my case with you.
 Sing to God! All praise to God! He saves the weak from the grip of the wicked.

Curse the day I was born!  The day my mother bore me— a curse on it, I say! And curse the man who delivered the news to my father: “You’ve got a new baby—a boy baby!”  (How happy it made him.).... He should have killed me before I was born, with that womb as my tomb, My mother pregnant for the rest of her life with a baby dead in her womb. Why, oh why, did I ever leave that womb?  Life’s been nothing but trouble and tears, and what’s coming is more of the same.

Acts 2:11-2:47 -

That’s when Peter stood up and; backed by the other eleven, spoke out with bold urgency; “Fellow Jews, all of you who are visiting Jerusalem, listen carefully and get this story straight....This is what the prophet Joel announced would happen... 

Fellow Israelites, listen carefully to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man thoroughly accredited by God to you---the miracles and wonders and signs that God did through him are common knowledge--this Jesus, following the deliberate and well-thought-out plan of God, was betrayed by men who took the law into their own hands, and was handed over to you.  And you pinned him to a cross and killed him.  But God united untied the death ropes and raised him up.  Death was no match for him.  David said it all:...

Dear friends, let me be completely frank with you.  Our ancestor David is dead and buried--his tomb is  in plain sight today.  But being also a prophet and knowing the God had solemnly sworn that a descendant of this would rule his kingdom, seeing far ahead, he talked of the resurrection of the Messiah...This Jesus God raised up.  And every one of us here is a witness to it.  Then, raised to the heights at the right hand of God and receiving the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father, he poured out the Holy Spirit he had just received.  That is what you see and hear... All Israel, then, know this.  There is no longer room for doubt--God made him Master and Messiah, this Jesus whom you killed on a cross.  

Cut to the quick, those who were there listening asked Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers!  Brothers! So now what do we do?”   Peter said, “Change your life.  Turn to God and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, so your sins are forgiven.  Receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.  The promise is targeted to you and your children, but also to all who are far away---whomever, in fact, our Master God invites.”  

Peter went on in this vein for a long time, urging them over and over.  “Get out while you can; get out of this sick and stupid culture!” 

That day about 3,000 took him at his word and were baptized and were signed up.  They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal and the prayers.

Everyone around was in awe---all those signs done through the apostles!  And all the believers lived in a wonderful harmony, holding everything in common.  They sold whatever they owned and pooled their resources so that each person’s need was met.  They followed a daily discipline of worship in the Temple followed by meals at home, every meal a celebration, exuberant and joyful, as they praised God.  People in general liked what they saw.  Every day their numbers grew as God added those who were saved.