Sunday, September 29, 2013
Jeremiah 32: 1-15, OT page 736 The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the tenth year of King Zedekiah of Judah, which was the eighteenth year of Nebuchadrezzar. At that time the army of the king of Babylon was besieging Jerusalem, and the prophet Jeremiah was confined in the court of the guard that was in the palace of the king of Judah, where Zedekiah of Judah had confined him. Zedekiah had said, “Why do you prophesy and say: Thus says the Lord: I am going to give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall take it; King Zedekiah of Judah shall not escape out of the hands of the Chaldeans, but shall surely be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and shall speak with him face to face and see him eye to eye; and he shall take Zedekiah to Babylon, and there he shall remain until I attend to him, says the Lord; though you fight against the Chaldeans, you shall not succeed?” Jeremiah said, The word of the Lord came to me: Hanamel son of your uncle Shallum is going to come to you and say, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth, for the right of redemption by purchase is yours.” Then my cousin Hanamel came to me in the court of the guard, in accordance with the word of the Lord, and said to me, “Buy my field that is at Anathoth in the land of Benjamin, for the right of possession and redemption is yours; buy it for yourself.” Then I knew that this was the word of the Lord. And I bought the field at Anathoth from my cousin Hanamel, and weighed out the money to him, seventeen shekels of silver, I signed the deed, sealed it, got witnesses, and weighed the money on scales. Then I took the sealed deed of purchase containing the terms and conditions and the open copy; and I gave the deed of purchase to Baruch son of Neriah son of Mahseiah, in the presence of my cousin Hanamel, in the presence of the witnesses who signed the deed of purchase, and in the presence of all the Judeans who were sitting in the court of the guard. In their presence I charged Baruch, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. For thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land. Sermon We are approaching the time of year when the air conditioners go off and the heat comes on. And maybe we’re not there yet, but already I’m dreading this change. There’s something about the heat that takes the moisture out of a house, and without that moisture my nostrils dry out and my nose will just start bleeding out of nowhere. Of course, these nose bleeds always come at the most inopportune times – when I’m already late for an appointment, when I am standing behind the pulpit, or sitting at my desk in the second grade, nose bleeding, and everyone looking at me as my name slowly morphs into “Joe the nose picker.” When I got home that afternoon I wasn’t all that worried whether or not the name had stuck, as I had decided that the only reasonable thing to do at that point would be to sell our house so that I’d be able to go to a new school. However, my parents didn’t see it that way. A nose bleed didn’t, in their minds, warrant a real estate transaction where we would essentially pull up our roots and put down new ones somewhere else. That process, is a big deal signaling a big step in anyone’s life, and generally people take such a step seriously. In the Atlanta news recently, the story of two churches who were wrestling with the decision to pull up roots caught my attention. The Georgia Dome, where the Atlanta Falcons football team play their games, is due to be replaced by a new stadium nearby the existing dome, but in order to begin building its replacement, first the land must be purchased. Two churches were standing in the way until just a couple days ago, first Friendship Baptist sold for 19.5 million dollars, and on Tuesday night Mt. Vernon Baptist Church agreed to sell its building and property in a congregational meeting for 14.5 million dollars. 116 members of the congregation voted to sell the property, 16 voted not to, and I imagine that you can see the wisdom on both sides, but if you find it easier to relate to the 116 members who voted to sell the church property you may have a hard time understanding why, in our second scripture lesson, Jeremiah wants to buy. The nation of Israel is not just in bad shape, it is in the middle of being invaded. King Zedekiah is frustrated because Jeremiah won’t stop talking about how this invasion is going to end badly, with King Zedekiah’s eventual arrest and displacement in Babylon. Some, like King Zedekiah, aren’t ready to quit fighting, but at this point any wise person is either already gone or is making plans to get out. Jeremiah’s cousin is one of the wise ones, and he is getting desperate to unload his ancestral property so that he can get out of town with a little money in his pocket. Jeremiah buys, and maybe you’re thinking that if he’s interested in buying a piece of property that has become a battle ground and will be flattened until there’s nothing left, then there’s a nice piece of property out on Monsanto Road that he might be interested in as well. But don’t be mistaken, Jeremiah isn’t foolish – he is the Lord’s prophet and he is not in this moment showing us an example of how to make money, in this moment he is showing us an example of God’s unwillingness to pull up roots. Whereas I was ready to move on after my embarrassing incident with a nose bleed, God is not willing to go anywhere, even in the midst of war. God is not one to move after getting God’s feelings hurt at school, God is not about running away when things get dangerous, nor is God about deserting the people in their time of greatest trial – no God is a God of constant presence, and this real estate transaction isn’t about money but truth, hope, and love. However, all that is hard to understand in a world where it seems as though everything is about money. Too often people die before they realize that there’s more to life than that – take our first scripture lesson for example. In our first scripture lesson there was a rich man and a poor man. The rich man knew that there was this poor man who lived outside his gate, but did he care for this poor man’s sores or his empty stomach? Certainly wealth, the accumulation and preservation of it, guided him through his decisions on earth, so what point would there be in reaching out to a poor man outside his gate – how would caring for that poor man help him to achieve his financial goals? It wouldn’t, but we are all foolish to believe that the financial goals that we adopt and work towards mean anything to God – for God is not nearly as interested in the accumulation of wealth as God is in caring for the poor and the afflicted. Vikki Johnston, one of the members of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church who voted against the sale of their church property, spoke to news cameras after the congregational meeting and said, “It is appalling for the city to consider desecrating the sacred ground of two historic black churches to build a stadium facility for a second rate football team.” It is appalling, but it should not be surprising. What matters more to a city than revenue? The spiritual wellbeing of her people? Not even the physical wellbeing of her people compares to our nations concern for collecting income – but know that God’s ways are not their ways. God is determined to be near, regardless of the cost, going so far as to take human form, walk and live among us, and even to face the cross as though he were a common criminal – going this far when it would have been so easy to just pull up roots. God’s concern with us is not rooted in financial gain – no – by purchasing this field the prophet Jeremiah shows us a God who is determined to prove that there is always a reason to hope for a time of rebuilding, even when there is destruction all around. And while God’s ways are not the ways of the world, God’s ways may be your ways. This is the season of stewardship. To take on the discipline of stewardship is to begin the process of modeling the ways of God – retraining yourself to know that there are more important things in this world than the accumulation of riches. It’s not necessarily a wise financial investment to give away 10% of your income. It’s not a wise investment to give away any percent of your income, but God calls you to do so because wise investments are not what truly matter. The pledge card you will receive during this stewardship season is an invitation – it is an invitation to live as a follower of Jesus Christ – who is the greatest sign that God will never pickup roots and leave you. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Sunday, September 22, 2013
Jeremiah 8: 18 – 9: 1, OT page 709 My joy is gone, grief is upon me, my heart is sick. Hark, the cry of my poor people from far and wide in the land: “Is the Lord not in Zion? Is her King not in her? “Why have they provoked me to anger with their images, with their foreign idols?” “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” For the hurt of my poor people I am hurt, I mourn, and dismay has taken hold of me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my poor people not been restored? O that my head were a spring of water, and my eyes a fountain of tears, so that I might weep day and night for the slain of my poor people! Sermon It’s not always easy to tell how seriously to take an injury, so I can understand why Diane Mesick waited to see a doctor after stepping off a curb the wrong way. Unfortunately, the pain just wouldn’t go away. So, even though it didn’t make sense that a step off a curb would cause any real problem, Diane was worried, and she went to the doctor to find that she had broken two bones in her foot. And it’s a good thing she went to consult her doctor, for when she consulted her husband, he told her “to walk it off.” Ray’s advice reminds me of a comedian I heard recently on TV – he was talking about his father’s reluctance to take his children to the doctor – what he would do instead when they were sick was to prescribe Robitussin – and he would prescribe Robitussin for absolutely anything. “Say you have a headache son, take some Robitussin,” he would say. “Got the flu, Robitussin.” “Sinus problems, Robitussin.” “Broken arm – pour a little Robitussin on it.” Now I’m no doctor, but I have a feeling that’s not going to cut it. The patient’s suffering is going to continue, healing is unlikely, so when the people of Israel are wounded, God wants them to have the advice of a real doctor. Our 2nd scripture lesson describes God’s frustration with the authorities in the land who should be helping the people to understand why they were invaded by a foreign army, why the city of Jerusalem was sacked, and what steps they must take to keep such a horrible punishment from being inflicted upon them again. God is clear in the book of Jeremiah – because of the people’s sin this army from the north has come down, but God’s representatives are not so clear. Essentially the only explanation or advice given to the people to help them understand what has happened and to prevent the same thing from happening again, is to walk it off or pour a little Robitussin on it. Because of the lack of understanding of Israel’s leaders, their inability to prescribe proper treatment, here in Jeremiah the Lord is getting frustrated. In the verses preceding our second scripture lesson, God’s frustration with the inadequate advice given to the people is made plain. To the religious authorities who should have helped the people to repent of their sins and to turn away from their wicked ways, the Lord says, “How can you say, “We are wise and the law of the Lord is with us,” when in fact the false pen of the scribes has made it a lie.” To those who, according to God, should have helped the people heal after the damage done to them, God declares that they “have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.” And in verse 22 of chapter 8, the passage we’ve just read, the Lord asks, “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then has the health of my people not been restored?” The Lord wants to know where the real doctor is – the doctor who will take the injury seriously – who will not gloss over the truth but will bravely diagnose and prescribe treatment with integrity so that the people can heal. In Israel there seems to be no such doctor, no one is brave enough to speak the truth. And maybe that’s because those who are in a position to speak know that the problem is not just an unwillingness to say what is hard to say, the greater problem is that even if there were a doctor to speak the truth chances are his or her voice would be ignored by the people who are masters at closing their ears to what they don’t want to hear, deluding themselves with instruction that is far too easy to do any good. I confess, that I am often an example of deluding myself with instruction that is far too easy to do any good. I haven’t seen a dentist in at least five years. But I have started chewing teeth whitening gum. I plan on seeing a dentist at some point, but I fear the truth – the truth that after five years of neglect my teeth are probably in bad shape, so rather than going to the dentist’s office to face the facts I go to the gas station’s gum rack where I don’t have to hear the truth – the truth - that I need to get back to flossing regularly, that I need a new toothbrush, that the gum I’ve been chewing doesn’t actually do anything. But that gum does do something – it makes me feel like I am doing something. It’s like the exercise bike in your basement that you can’t make yourself part with in the yard sale even though the only use it gets is as a drying rack for your clean clothes. It’s like my friend who wants to lose some weight so he started ordering a diet coke with his Big Mac Combo Meal at Macdonald’s. It’s like the self-help book on dealing with depression that you bought when what you really need is to see a counselor. It’s like the ring you bought her when what she really needs is an apology. It’s like a Band-Aid on a deep cut that won’t ever heal until you seek out the kind of help that will actually address the true severity of the wound. Considering the wounds of our community, the high school in need of renovation, the YMCA on the brink of closure, the horrors of domestic violence – our community needs to be dealing with some hard truths, grappling with a prescription severe enough to actually bring about real healing. Instead I fear that we will gravitate towards a quick and easy fix – a mega dump that promises to bring in enough money to solve all our problems. Where is the real doctor? “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there?” There is – but to get the help that he offers, first you must be ready to hear the truth. The truth that our prognosis is not just bad – it is worse than we ever dared to imagine. That we are not just sick, that there is not just a problem, for our position is pitiable. Too often have I heard justifying words from individuals trying to make a case for themselves before the seat of judgment. They tell me, “that they’re a pretty good person, they try to treat people right, and they try to be honest and good, so surely God will reward them for their efforts.” They fail to see how serious sin is. You don’t just need to floss a little bit more to make your soul bright and shiny – you can’t work out harder to get it off - the truth is that sin is a condition for which there is no self-help guide, no do-it yourself treatment, there’s nothing you can pick up from the gas station to make it any better. If you know that’s the truth – if you know that no matter how hard you’ve worked at it you don’t feel like you’ve made yourself pure – if you know that no matter how hard you’ve tried you’re still left wondering whether or not you’ve made God proud – if you know that there’s a sickness within you that you can’t heal yourself – then today know that you are in exactly the right place, for while too many in the world think that the church is a refuge of self-righteousness – a place for good, pure, and upright people, the truth is that the church is a hospital for sinners who throw themselves at the feet of the only one who can make them well. This past week an interview was published with Pope Francis, after his first 6th months as the head of the Roman Catholic Church. The interview was conducted by Antonio Spadaro, a member of the Jesuits, and he asked the pope point blank, “Who are you?” The Pope nodded and replied, “I do not know what might be the most fitting description…I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.” If the Pope is an example to us, he is not here an example of right behavior or blamelessness. He is an example to us here in his ability to face the truth of his condition. He has not concurred sin, but he witnesses to the one who has. There is a balm in Gilead – to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead – to heal the sin-sick soul. Thanks be to God. Amen.
Monday, September 9, 2013
Jeremiah 4: 11-28, OT page 702-703 At that time it will be said to the people and to Jerusalem: A hot wind came from me out of the bare heights in the desert toward my poor people, not to winnow or cleanse – a wind too strong for that. Now it is I who speak in judgment against them. Look! He comes up like clouds, his chariots like the whirlwind; his horses are swifter than eagles – woe to us, for we are ruined! O Jerusalem, wash your heart clean of wickedness so that you may be saved. How long shall your evil schemes lodge within you? For a voice declares from Dan and proclaims disaster from Mount Ephraim. Tell the nations, “Here they are!” Proclaim against Jerusalem, “Besiegers come from a distant land; they shout against the cities of Judah. They have closed in around her like watchers of a field, because she has rebelled against me, says the Lord. Your ways and your doings have brought this upon you. This is your doom; how bitter it is! It has reached your very heart. My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh, the walls of my heart! My heart is beating wildly; I cannot keep silent; for I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war. Disaster overtakes disaster, the whole land is laid waste. Suddenly my tents are destroyed, my curtains in a moment. How long must I see the standard, and hear the sound of the trumpet? For my people are foolish, they do not know me; they are stupid children, they have no understanding. They are skilled in doing evil, but do not know how to do good. I looked on the earth, and lo, it was waste and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. I looked on the mountains, and lo, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro. I looked, and lo, there was no one at all, and all the birds of the air had fled. I looked, and lo, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the Lord, before his fierce anger. For thus says the Lord: The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end. Because of this the earth shall mourn, and the heavens above grow black; for I have spoken, I have purposed; I have not relented nor will I turn back. Sermon The book of Jeremiah, like many books in the Bible, uses simile and metaphor to explain concepts that are unfamiliar using concepts that are. This approach works most of the time – for example, take last week’s scripture lesson on Jeremiah and the image of a leaky cistern that the prophet used to illustrate life lived independent from God – but this approach works only so long as you know what a cistern is. Jesus speaks of mustard seeds to explain how the Kingdom of God starts with something very small but becomes something very big, and this metaphor works to explain a new concept, the Kingdom of God, so long as you know about mustard seeds and have an understanding of how small they are. In our first scripture lesson for today Jesus speaks in parables explaining that he welcomes sinners just as a shepherd rejoices when he finds a lost sheep and just as a woman celebrates when she finds a lost coin – both parables serve a purpose, explaining why he welcomes sinners, but if you’re not a shepherd or you’ve never searched and searched for a lost coin you still might not understand what he means. Today’s lesson from the book of Jeremiah uses human relationships to describe God’s relationship to us, but the effectiveness of this metaphor, like all others, depends so much on the human relationships that you’ve experienced which every listener will use to understand. There’s a problem then, as not all human relationships model the kind of relationship that our scripture lesson seeks to help you understand. Last Thursday I was in Harris Foodland, just buying a couple items, and as I was paying I noticed what the man behind me in line was buying, some ground beef, chicken legs, corn on the cob. He began talking to the cashier, a nice looking lady in her early twenties, who told him that she had a headache. “Yea, I had a headache too, and for a long time,” the man said, “then I got a divorce and it went away.” Now does that human relationship illustrate God’s relationship with us? I hope not. But it goes to show that not all human relationships model the divine relationship, though sometimes people imagine that they do. The kind of human relationship that our passage from Jeremiah uses is that of a parent, maybe more specifically, a father, which is a metaphor whose strength is rooted in your experience with your father to some degree or another. Considering the level of judgment and destruction we have read today, the wind that sweeps through, not to winnow or cleans but to blow down, the chariots like a whirlwind, the voice that declares disaster, the land laid waste – is this God acting like a father? If your father was quick to fly off the hinges, to punish without explanation or provocation, than surely your experience shapes your reading of this passage. If God is like a father than we use the father that we know to understand God, and if your father was one who loved his children one minute and then lashed out at them in anger the next, that can shape your understanding of this passage in Jeremiah. Or maybe your experience causes you to imagine a God who, like a father, loved his children back in the beginning when they were newly created, but now that they have grown into disobedience he’s had enough. When they were innocent and cute, before they discovered the opposite sex and became so rebellious – if your father was like that then you might read this passage from Jeremiah and imagine that God used to love the people but just doesn’t love them anymore; that like a father who knew what to do with little ones but just can’t understand teenagers, God loved the people when they were beautiful and young but has nothing to do with them now that they’ve grown so bold and sinful. The metaphor is imperfect, because what you experienced influences your reading and can affect your understand of who God is, what God does, and why God acts the way that God does. If your father never punished you and always let you do whatever you wanted than this passage from Jeremiah must sound so foreign as to not make any sense. If your father walked out and never came back than you may imagine that if God is like a father than he’s about to be gone for good. And if your father punished you indiscriminately and without reason than you must be even more careful as this God is not punishing out of rage but out of love. As though you father’s didn’t have enough to worry about already, you have also to contend with the reality that when your children pray to their Father in Heaven they will wonder about how God is either like you or not like you. Unfortunately, it is for good reason that maternal images for God have been popular through history, as too often fathers fall short and potentially leave children with a false understanding of who God is. Some fathers have disciplined out of anger and not out of love, and so some children have trouble holding God’s love in one hand and God’s justice in the other. Some fathers loved what they thought was beautiful about their children but failed to love who they really were, and many such children grow up imagining that if God is like a father then should I disappoint him than surely he’ll just walk away. But that is not the God that you should see here in scripture. No – this God calls you to see what is wrong, demands that you do something about it, for this God loves you too much to not lead you back to the paths of righteousness. Will he leave your side, will he forsake you, will his love ever end? If you find it easy to believe that he will than I call you to a new model for what a father should be. Here in the book of Jeremiah is a father who has purposed, who will not relent, nor will he turn back – and in doing so God is not just talking about this punishment that is going to happen, God is talking about where he will be while this punishment happens and after it is through. The Lord has a purpose for you that God will not abandon. The Lord will not relent. Nor will God turn back from you ever. The table that is set before you is proof of that. When he came to life in human form, he came not to condemn the world, but to save it. This purpose was nothing new, as our God has been about such saving work from the very beginning. And rather than abandon what he has purposed, rather than relent, rather than turn away, even as we were all turning our back from him and calling for his death, God offered you his body and his blood that you might know exactly what a father’s love should be. If such love does not describe the love that your father had for you, than come to this table and know the love of your father in heaven. We all accept the love that we are used to receiving, some accept the love that they think they deserve, but I call you to this table to come and know what love truly is. Amen.
Sunday, September 1, 2013
Jeremiah 2: 4-13, OT page 699 Hear the word of the Lord, O House of Jacob, and all the families of the house of Israel. Thus says the Lord: What wrong did your ancestors find in me that they went far from me, and went after worthless things, and became worthless themselves? They did not say, “Where is the Lord who brought us up from the land of Egypt, who led us in the wilderness, in a land of deserts and pits, in a land of drought and deep darkness, in a land that no one passes through, where no one lives?” I brought you into a plentiful land to eat its fruits and its good things. But when you entered you defiled my land and made my heritage an abomination. The priests did not say, “Where is the Lord?” Those who handle the law did not know me; the rulers transgressed against me; the prophets prophesied by Baal, and went after things that do not profit. Therefore once more I accuse you, says the Lord, and I accuse your children’s children. Cross the coasts of Cyprus and look, send to Kedar and examine with care; see if there has ever been such a thing. 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. Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the Lord, 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. Sermon Our reading here from Jeremiah brings to us a remarkable metaphor. God’s people have forsaken the fountain of living water in favor of cisterns they dug out for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water. A cistern, as you can tell just from reading this passage, is supposed to hold water, so a cracked cistern fails to fulfill its purpose. Many old homes here in Columbia have one – they are different from wells in that they don’t fill up with water from some spring; the purpose of a cistern is to hold the water that is put into it. You could divert your gutters into a cistern so that the rain from your roof all flowed into this holding tank. You wouldn’t need the water in a season of abundant rain, but if the excess water from your roof flowed down into a cistern it would be there in a time of drought for you to drink or bathe with, unless of course your cistern was cracked. A cracked cistern reminds me of my first car. It had a transmission fluid leak, which was no big deal so long as I remembered to pour extra transmission fluid into it, but if I forgot, because of the leak, there would be no fluid in the transmission to help me shift into reverse. Even then, I might still be OK, so long as I remembered to never pull into a parking space that I could only get out of by going in reverse, so I got into the habit of pulling through in a parking lot and I managed just fine. And even when I forgot to refill the transmission fluid and needed to back out of a parking space, even then I had it under control as I could just put the car in neutral, push it out of the parking space, then shift into drive and be on my way. I wanted to be self-reliant, I wanted to have this thing figured out on my own, I didn’t want to waste my time getting it fixed – I had things to do, and by no means did I have any intention of asking for help – as you can tell I was just fine on my own. That is, until I parked in a garage at the top of a hill. I didn’t have any spare transmission fluid to put into the leaky car, so I put the car into neutral and started to push the car out of the garage, and the car started to move and then it started to really move. I ran around to the front of the car to try and slow down its progression. Then when I couldn’t, I got out of the way and watched the car careen down this hill of day lilies until it hit a big enough tree and came to a stop. Even in this moment, standing at the top of the hill looking down at my car, I tried to think of a way to get myself out of this situation. And only after coming up with nothing did I resort to asking for help. In our scripture lesson from Jeremiah, the Lord seems to be wondering why – why if I brought them up out of the Land of Egypt would they not trust me enough to ask for help? Why, if I brought them into the Promised Land would they turn away? If the priests were looking for me why didn’t they just call my name? If the prophets were struggling for something to say to the people, why did they choose something that does not profit when I am right here? Why – If I am the fountain of living water – would they dig for themselves cisterns, cisterns that cannot even hold water? That’s the same as me asking myself, “Why didn’t I just ask for someone to fix my leaking transmission?” Well – I simply had to be in a place where I absolutely had no other option but to call out for help. That is the moment that we fear of course – the moment when the quick fixes don’t fix. When, after trusting our own sense of direction we admit to ourselves that we are completely lost. When the car is at the bottom of the hill – only then do we call out for help – and only when the cracked cistern is dry do we remember the fountain of living water. It’s a tearful thing to do too. It’s humbling beyond measure, but it’s not just humbling, it’s humiliating – the world looks completely different when a person finally comes to the conclusion that this plan I’ve worked up all by myself that made me feel secure and in control is broken and if that car is going to get back on the road I am going to need some help. The help was there of course. The help would have been there long before if I had only called out. After calling on my parents, they not only arranged to have the car pulled up this hill, they also arranged to have the transmission fluid leak fixed. What was I so afraid of? Maybe you know. Or maybe you think you don’t, but if you have been trusting in a cistern rather than the fountain of living water you will find yourself in a similar situation soon enough. Satisfied with the behaviors you’ve developed to get by, burying down deep the unresolved issues will keep the relationship going but won’t bring about the kind of relationship that you want – you’ll be OK for a while of course, but sooner or later the moment will come when you’ll go to that cistern you’ve built, that you’ve put time into, and you’ll go to that cistern with thirst but you’ll walk away unsatisfied. Our society is right about there too. Our attention has been pouring in to television, money from our pocketbooks has been flowing right down in to the entertainment industry, we’ve been following its rules and have bought into the idea that we’re only as good as we look and we’ll be happiest the more people we have paying attention to us, but when we go down for a drink there’s nothing in that cracked cistern but Miley Cyrus – and if you’ve been surprised by her behavior I ask you, “what did you expect?” The cistern is cracked and it’s running dry. This world of ours built up around entertainment, our safety enforced by violence – sure, it may keep you and I satisfied for a while, but once the rain stops this cistern that we’ve built is going to keep leaking. Sooner or later it will be dry and we’ll finally be in just the position we need to be in. Finally – when there is no other option – we’ll cry out for help. Finally – in complete desperation, when there is nowhere else to turn we’ll confess that our ways are broken. Finally – thirsty and desperate for even just a drop – you’ll call out for the fountain of living water and you’ll wonder why you depended on that broken cistern for so long. In his book Mere Christianity CS Lewis wrote that we are all like children making mud pies in a back alley, refusing an invitation to the beach, because we’ve never been there and surely what we don’t know can’t be better than what we’ve grown used to. I don’t know what it is exactly that you’ve grown used to, but I do know this, that the Lord intends you to have something better. If your marriage has been barely tolerable and requires you to keep your true feeling buried under a pile of hurt and resentment, know that the Lord will lead you to something better if you are ready to give up the broken cistern you’ve grown used to. If your addiction is manageable, know that it isn’t really, and will soon enough lead you to emptiness and despair – but as soon as you find yourself there you need only to call – to call on the Lord who is the great deliverer. Shame will try to keep you from calling out for help, and maybe you’ll feel like a failure – as though perfection and self-reliance were ever qualities of God’s elect. While it’s easy to believe that you’re supposed to have everything figured out by now, the quality that stands in the way of happiness, salvation, sainthood, isn’t imperfection but denial. So let’s face facts - Your cistern leaks, but that’s not the problem, as you never needed it. Give up on your cracked and broken ways and come to the fount of living water. “For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” It is grace after all that saves us. If you are lost – call out – and be found. If you are blind – let the Lord open your eyes. It is grace, not your own strength, that has led you this far, and grace will lead you home. Amen.