The Reflectionary – Week of November 24, 2019

Advent 1

Text: Jeremiah 33:14-18

“‘The days are coming,’ declares the Lord, ‘when I will fulfill the good promise I made to the people of Israel and Judah.

“‘In those days and at that time
I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line;
he will do what is just and right in the land.
In those days Judah will be saved
and Jerusalem will live in safety.
This is the name by which it will be called:
The Lord Our Righteous Savior.’

For this is what the Lord says: ‘David will never fail to have a man to sit on the throne of Israel, nor will the Levitical priests ever fail to have a man to stand before me continually to offer burnt offerings, to burn grain offerings and to present sacrifices.’”

Reflection

This text for the first Sunday of Advent is short and sweet. In it, the prophet Jeremiah speaks these hope-filled words of God – words of promise that God’s people do, in fact, have a future. As Christians, we read these words as ones that anticipate the coming of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh. As Christians, we have the gift of hindsight. But Jeremiah? Jeremiah writes these words in the midst of what looked like an impossible situation.

The previous chapter sets the scene. In it, we learn that Jeremiah is being imprisoned by Zedekiah, who was the king of Judah, the southern kingdom. At the same time, the Babylonian Empire, the most powerful empire yet to be seen, was in the midst of laying siege on Jerusalem. Things were not looking good. Jeremiah knew what had happened to the northern kingdom of Israel when Assyria came in and took them captive, and the ten northern tribes had been essentially scattered to the winds. Jeremiah had been warning Zedekiah of Judah’s impending similar fate, which angered the king and consequently led to his captivity.

As Jeremiah was held in confinement, Judah’s fall was imminent. The people would be expelled from the land. They would be driven into exile.

And then a strange thing happens. A relative of Jeremiah comes to him with a proposition – to buy the field at Anathoth. God tells Jeremiah to do so. Jeremiah does. So what’s so strange about this transaction?

Remember, Jerusalem is currently besieged by the most powerful empire they’d yet seen. The city’s fall was all but inevitable at this point. Why in the world would Jeremiah invest in property that was about to be lain to waste? It would be like someone saying in the midst of the Syrian civil war, “I think I’d really like to invest in property in Aleppo.” Or maybe like someone else saying, “Gaza is where I’d like to buy land.” It just makes no sense given the current reality of violence and destruction in those regions.

But Jeremiah buys the field and takes the deed to the land and preserves it in a clay jar. Then he awaits the utter destruction of Jerusalem and of the kingdom of Judah at the hands of Babylon.

To buy the field is an act of complete trust and hope in God’s grace. It is to look squarely in the face that which seems to be the end of the world and to say, “God’s not done with us yet.” It is to see that the death that is surely coming is not the last word. And so, Jeremiah’s act of buying the field leads us into these words of hope in Jeremiah 33:14-18. The fall of Jerusalem and Judah is not, in fact, the end for God’s people!

This passage reminds us that God’s grace is always at work. It reminds us that God’s work is never finished. It reminds us that God is never, ever, done with God’s people. Even when it feels like there is no hope, like death is closing in, or like there is no escape from the darkness and brokenness we are experiencing, God gives life.

Jeremiah trusts so fully in this promise that he invests in land that is about to be destroyed. He sees life, even when faced with death. I don’t know about you, but I long to be able to see with Jeremiah’s eyes, and to trust with Jeremiah’s heart. I long to be able to have that kind of unreserved faith in the promises of God.

This season of Advent that we are entering into is a season where we look expectantly to the promises of God in Jesus Christ. I challenge you to look to those promises with the eyes and the heart of Jeremiah.

Ponder

o   What words, phrases, or images from the text speak to you? What thoughts or feelings do they evoke?
o   Where, in your life, have you or are you struggling to find hope?
o   Where have you witnessed God’s faithfulness in your life?
o   What words do you need to hear from God today?

Challenge

Acquaint yourself with the practice of the Ignatian Examen. You can find many resources online, but here is one simple one: https://jesuits.org/Assets/Publications/File/The_Daily_Examen.pdf Each day this week, consider these two questions before going to bed: When, today, did I feel most disconnected from God? When, today, did I feel most aware of God’s grace?

And/or

Think of someone in your life who might need some encouragement – someone who might need to be reminded of God’s promises. Write a card, give a phone call, take them out for coffee, go visit. Remind them that God has more for them.

Prayer

God, you are the one who speaks life in the midst of death. You are the one who brings light in the midst of darkness. You are the one who brings healing in the midst of brokenness. Speak life, and light, and healing into my life and into the lives of those around me. Help me to utterly trust in your promises through Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

-Cindy+

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