Monday, July 02, 2012

Hard Hope

Sophia by paynehollow
Sophia, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.
Excerpts from a sermon from Pastor Cindy, from July 1, 2012. The Scriptural reading was from Jeremiah 32:1-15

There would have been a mad scramble there at the end, as the realization of certain defeat came to the people of Israel. As the rumble of the war horses came ever closer, as food became ever scarcer, as the death count rose ever higher.

There would have been a mad scramble: bury or hide what you cannot sell, sell what you can, turn it into something that you can use later, into something that you can sew into the hem of your garment, to trade, to bribe, to buy safe passage for you and your children.

Any of us who have read much of history know about this mad scramble, the desperate last minute scramble of the Russian Jews, the desperate last minute scramble of the Polish gypsies, the desperate last minute scramble of the Rwandan Tutsis, the desperate last minute scramble of the Sudanese Christians, and even as I speak, of those who are fleeing Syria.

And in order to fully understand the bold hopefulness of this morning’s story, we’ve got to be able to at least try to imagine this desperate scramble. Because it is in the midst of this chaos, in the midst of this suffering and pain and utter hopelessness, that Jeremiah hears and acts upon the life-giving, hope-giving Word of God.

Let us be clear: It’s not that Jeremiah was not affected by the chaos at hand; it’s not that Jeremiah was not caught up in his people’s pain.

O that my head were waters and my eyes a fountain of tears that I might cry day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people, he had cried.

It’s not that Jeremiah was uncaring, or naïve, or oblivious. He had, in fact, been imprisoned because of his relentless warnings of doom and gloom. Hope did not come easily for Jeremiah.

His was a reluctant hope, a troubled hope. He knew the score. He could read the times more than most. But he knew that beyond the score, beneath the times there was an underlying reality shaped and sustained by an unrelentingly faithful God.

And so in the midst of the mad scramble, we see that Jeremiah is buying a piece of land, proclaiming hope, proclaiming promise, proclaiming future: For thus says the Lord of hosts, God of Israel, “again houses and fields and vineyards shall be bought in this land.” The story is not over. Thus sayeth the Lord. The story is not over.

We live in a culture where hope has been cheapened, lessened, taken over by Hallmark card sayings and cheery hospital bedside assurances. But what Jeremiah acts out here is what we might call hard hope; hoping not on the basis of a naïve denial of the facts at hand, but in spite of the facts at hand.

Hoping not on the ability of one’s people’s or oneself to somehow pull through, to somehow make good, but on the basis of God’s ability to create something brand new out of the shambles, on the basis of God’s promises and desires for God’s people...

...Jeremiah must have felt a bit absurd as he brought in the witnesses, as he signed the papers, as he sealed the earthen jars. And yet, as the other ears in that room were straining for the sound of the approaching horses, Jeremiah’s ears were attuned to the voice of God, proclaiming a different way, a different ending, a different beginning to the story.

On the other hand, says Brueggemann, hope is subversive, for it limits the grandiose pretension of the present, daring to announce that the present to which we have all made commitments is now called into question.

Hope calls the present into question...

This week, some of us will make choices about where we will pour out our time and energy and love. Those choices will not make sense to the majority. We will love people who will not love us back, we will forgive people who will turn around and do the very same thing to us all over again, we will give second and third and fourth and fifteenth chances to people who somehow manage to blow it every time. Why? Because we want to participate in that world where love matters more than pride, more than self-preservation, more than anything.

It’s not that we don’t know the score. It’s not that we can’t read the times. But as are bearers of that hard hope, as bearers of that eyes wide open hope, with Jeremiah we know that the story is not over, that God is not finished with God’s people, that God is bringing in something brand new, out of all the scramble, out of all the rubble of this world, bringing in something brand new...


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