Monday, June 23, 2014
Jeremiah 20: 7-13, OT page 722 O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed; You have overpowered me, and you have prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me. For whenever I speak, I must cry out, I must shout, “Violence and destruction!” For the word of the Lord has become for me a reproach and derision all day long. If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” then within me there is something like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot. For I hear many whispering: “Terror is all around! Denounce him! Let us denounce him!” All my close friends are watching for me to stumble. “Perhaps he can be enticed, and we can prevail against him, and take our revenge on him.” But the Lord is with me like a dread warrior; therefore my persecutors will stumble, and they will not prevail. They will be greatly shamed, for they will not succeed. Their eternal dishonor will never be forgotten. O Lord of hosts, you test the righteous, you see the heart and the mind; let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause. Sing to the Lord; praise the Lord! For he has delivered the life of the needy from the hands of evildoers. Sermon Sometimes it’s true that the less you know about something the better it seems. That was the case with our first house. It’s not like we hadn’t seen our first house before we bought it. In fact we had been inside each room at least four times before signing the paper work, and after the previous owners moved out, at our realtor’s suggestion we had the house professionally cleaned before moving any of our furniture and possessions in, but that first time we were in the house as owners, in that moment it all looked different. I remember noticing a cloth left by the baseboard. I assumed the cleaning ladies had left it there by mistake, so I picked it right up – only to uncover a decomposing rat. So we worked on the house for a few weeks before moving in. I tiled the kitchen, we painted the walls, had the floors refinished, but despite all that work I remember our first night in our first house because Sara cried, and I wanted to, but I figured someone had to not be crying so I put the walls up and tried to hold it together. Now that’s called buyer’s remorse, when you regret buying something the minute you own it, whereas you wanted it so bad you could taste it before you signed your name on the dotted line. And buyer’s remorse doesn’t only affect homeowners, a similar thing happens to most Christians. The church you’ve joined is just perfect, until you peel back a layer or two and see that this church has issues just like the last one, only they’re different issues. The pastor is just right, until he disappoints you. And Vacation Bible School – well it’s one thing if you’re down in Fellowship Hall helping those kids make butter or sandals or necklaces, but it’s something different all together if Ms. Susie asked you to play the part of Moses and it’s your job to tell a group of cute little boys and girls about how God sent the Angel of Death to kill the first born of every Egyptian family. So rather than see anyone enter into something without having a good idea of what they were really getting into, Paul tries to be upfront. He was thinking of those new families who had just joined the church, their new baby girl who needed to be baptized, and mindful of their smiles on that Sunday morning when their sweet little girl’s head would be sprinkled with water, their tears, how they would all have on their Sunday bests, he writes in his letter to the church in Rome, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” Consider Jesus for a moment. I’ve seen some paintings of him with the blue eyes and the blond hair, maybe a tear in his eye, maybe a child in his lap, or maybe he’s rescuing a sweet little lamb from a briar patch – and that’s all fine, but don’t you dare forget that this man was so honest with people that he told those Pharisees they were like white washed tombs, pretty on the outside but corpses on the inside, that he went to the Temple, not to sit quietly and reverently, but to topple the tables of the money changers who set up shop outside his father’s house, and then remember what he told that crowd of people who were ready to stone a woman caught in adultery, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” – do you think that’s what they wanted to hear? It’s not. He’s like that friend of yours who isn’t polite enough to know when he should lie. Jesus was so honest with everyone, so brutally honest, that they wanted to kill him, and so they did. And if you’ve been baptized into Christ you’ve been baptized into his death. If you’re here because you’re ready to follow him be sure you know where he leads, and that’s important to get clear about because there are plenty of Christians in this world who are convinced that being a Christian means for men to keep their hair cut short and keep tattoos off their arms, for women to have dainty little laughs at picnics and nice long skirts – but don’t forget who this Jesus really is. He was the one who stood up for truth while the polite people were holding together a corrupt society built on lies and deceit – he was the one who stood up and spoke, and if you are serious about following him be sure you know where he leads because people who speak truth in a society built on lies end up silenced. They crucified my Lord. And they want to do the same thing to Jeremiah. In the beginning the idea of doing what God asked seemed easy enough, but now that he’s in it he’s ready to get out. ““O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; for whenever I speak I must cry out, “Violence and destruction!”” He wouldn’t go along with the crowd by calling long working hours without adequate compensation good business – he kept calling it abuse. He stood in the marketplace where a few people were making a lot of money, and rather than stand by politely as it happened he stood with the poor and cried out about injustice. Then he went to the palace and watched the others kneel to kiss the king’s ring and cheer him on saying, “Long live the King!” They gathered around him and told him just what he wanted to hear, but Jeremiah was there and he couldn’t keep his mouth shut. He cried out, “Destruction is on the way. And it’s your ways and your doings that have brought this upon you. This is your doom; how bitter it is! It has reached your very heart.” It can wear you out being that honest. The truth becomes a burden to bear, a weight around your neck, a voice inside your head, and for just a little relief you let it out – you say what you need to say because keeping it in is “something like a burning fire shut up in my bones.” The problem is once you speak out, then you hear the whispering. Can you believe he just said that? I wish someone would tape his mouth closed? Be sure not to invite him back next year. He made plenty of enemies, but you would think that his friends would stand by him, only Jeremiah cries out, “All my close friends are watching for me to stumble.” He’s had enough. Only he can’t quit. He’s a prophet and there’s no way out. His eyes are opened to the truth and there’s no going back. He’s stuck, and maybe you know what that feels like, but in your moment of deepest frustration did you give voice to your pain or did you try to hold it together? I remember that first night in our first house, and I do remember wanting to be the one who held it all together – so I put up those walls, I didn’t shed a tear, and I tried to go to sleep as though I knew everything was going to be alright and as though stoic indifference was a quality that every wife was looking for in her husband. It’s not. And it’s not a quality that God is looking for in Christians either. If only I had been brave enough to say that I wanted to go back to our apartment too. If only I had been bold enough to tell her that I was afraid. If only I had been faithful enough to let go and trust that God would hold us together, but I kept all that in and the point is that Jeremiah lets it out and I should have too. Because you will not be confident in every decision that you make. You will not be completely satisfied with your life, your job, your church, yourself, or your God 100% of the time. You will look back with regret, with remorse, on some decisions that you can’t take back – and when that happens you must trust God enough to cry out in truth, you must give voice to the fears of your heart, because you don’t have to be happy all the time but if you want to make it down this road that Christ is leading us on you do have to bear your soul as well as your cross. Don’t pretend that it’s fine if you’re sure that it’s not. And if you can’t see any way that it’s all going to turn out alright, then cry out to the only one who has the power to do something about it. “O Lord of hosts, you test the righteous, you see the heart and the mind; let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause.” Amen.