Jeremiah 2: 4-13; Psalm 81:1, 10-16; Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16, Luke 14: 1-6 7-14
In the name of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
There is much practical teaching and guidance for ‘right living’ in today’s readings, a reminder of our being in relation with one another. And that is set against a backdrop of reality which reflects a universal forgetting of God. In the words of the psalm we hear
I am the LORD your God
But my people did not listen to my voice;
So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts, to follow their own counsels.
O that my people would listen to me, that they would walk in my ways!
The psalm picks up the struggle that is articulated by Jeremiah. Jeremiah is speaking at a time of division. Israel the northern Kingdom and Judah the southern kingdom are divided (Labour and Liberal). Josiah the Judean king sought to initiate changes that would again create an orientation to God. He (Josiah) died in battle and Babylon captures Jerusalem. Into this turmoil Jeremiah speaks and into this turmoil he gives voice to the word of God. The voice of the prophet is a call to remember God and the question he puts to the ‘house of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel is a question that echoes in each and every age: What wrong did our culture find in God that we turned from God and sought after worthless things?
‘My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water. ’Why do we look to the distractions of the world and no longer seek an orientation to the Divine?
Through the voice of Jeremiah, we have the Divine background that results in such a line of questioning.
1. God has identified for us a path of freedom and a path through the wilderness of life
2. We have received an abundance - a plentiful land – filled with good things.
3.And our response to God’s abundance - you defiled my land.... and sought things that are of little value.
This backdrop leads to the question in verse 11: Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for something that does not profit.
The turmoil in Jeremiah’s world is paralleled in our world and the questions spoken through the prophet are therefore asked of us.
Paul in his letter to the Hebrews is addressing those who have sought a different way, and that gives us some hope and light. However, when we hear his opening words we can only be reminded of how far we have strayed. ‘Let mutual love continue. 2 Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.’
The divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah ring with more familiarity than the place from which we join with the Hebrews in saying ‘with confidence, "The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?"’ and that disparity is all the more evident when we read the following verse: 7 Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Paul is encouraging his readers to imitate the faith that he and the other leaders of the church have demonstrated.
As our election continues to illustrate, we no longer have leaders whose faith we would want to imitate! And if, as they say, we get the government we deserve, then we should look to ourselves in the light of all that is revealed to us.
The divisions evidenced in the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah are even more evidenced in the modern world, a world that is so much more complex. And the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon, an outcome of such divisions is equally evidenced in terms of a fall from grace
‘for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.’
The Divisions of the modern world have multiplied: the gap between Rich and Poor, between fed and hungry, between free and oppressed and the ever widening gap between secular and religious. Our political landscape is adversarial. Both Liberal and Labour have a similar ‘talent’ pool to govern, yet they are fully engaged against each other, rather than together seeking a way forward, and sobering is the contemplation that this is a process that reflects the people.
If we stay with Paul, and perhaps iconic of staying with St Paul’s then we find hope. Our hope is in the world-changing activity that comes out of the simple commitment to ‘Let mutual love continue’. We glimpse it here - it is what draws us to worship Sunday by Sunday. We’ve not perfected it but we have glimpsed it and seek to grasp it.
8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
Hope is eternal – and can be grasped in every moment.
15 Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Love the Lord your God 16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Love your neighbour as yourself...... Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
And in today’s gospel we see a parable of orientation, of finding our place in relation to the place of others. The parable is easily understood, and yet amazingly difficult to imitate. It begins with a shared meal, not a dinner party of invited friends, rather a meal ‘at the house of a leader of the Pharisees.’ And it ends with a call to give, to give without any expectation of reward. This beginning and ending frame today’s gospel, and might well frame our lives if we seek a reorientation that will heal the divisions of our world. The same beginning and ending framed the extract from Paul’s letter to the Hebrews:‘Let mutual love continue.16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.’
The first reading is a call to us to
:12 Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the LORD’,
and the gospel finishes with
‘And you will be blessed’,
whether Labour or Liberal.....
‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.’
"The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can anyone do to me?"
The Lord be with you