Second Week of Lent | David Dark

Psalm 70, 71
Jeremiah 4:9-10, 19-28
Romans 2:12-24
John 5:19-29

Given the push we often feel to make a positive and therefore winning impression in our workaday worlds, surrounded by signs, subtle and not-so-subtle, urging us to hurry up and matter, the discipline of looking hard at where we are, how we feel and what we’re doing apart from the visions of power, success and ease crafted and churned up by brand strategies can feel awfully counter-intuitive, deeply unwinning and grossly impractical. But in spite of the feelings of unsuccess that await us there, the Lenten season invites us into this very process of taking stock, of saying what we feel, not what we ought to say.

Among our texts for today are passages that might surprise us with their expressions of raw candor and honest confusion, but any thorough reader of scripture can agree that, contrary
to the way it’s often advertised, the Bible is more than a collection of sentences that fit well on a poster with a basket full of puppies. And even when we find such a verse, that which follows or immediately precedes it has a way of complicating the easy optimism we secured momentarily by quoting the Bible out of context. Anyone wishing to assert or imply that seeking first God’s kingdom and righteousness will increase one/s shot at an unproblematic life is advised to steer clear of the prophet Jeremiah.

God has a word for Jeremiah to broadcast. The inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem are urged to flee in view the arrival of their Babylonian conquerors, and Jeremiah is to wail and lament in sackcloth the better to note that their abominations, their sowing among thorns and their refusal to repent have not gone unnoticed. “The fierce anger of the Lord” is in effect, and their leaders “shall be astounded.” Jeremiah, however, isn’t one to passively harness an oracle: “Ah, Lord God, how utterly you have deceived this people…saying ‘It shall be well with you,’ even while the sword is at the throat” (4:9-10). Somehow, the prophet’s vocation isn’t simply to pass on the very bad news. His frustration and utter disillusionment with God’s own words is on the table. And if we take the whole of his testimony as scripture, his despair over God’s word is also God’s word. Jeremiah carries both, as it were, within his nervous system. May we live up to and somehow also bear this difficult and imaginative witness in our own beleaguered days.

DAVID DARK
Adjunct Instructor, School of Religion

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