I’ve not posted for some time. But, Jeremiah called me back again. I needed some time for meditation.
Once I start reading Jeremiah again, I was reminded how scripture continually calls us back. This morning, I needed to connect to human experiences much older than my own. I’m picking up my walk with Jeremiah with chapter six (6).
Who hasn’t felt madness listening to American politics? It doesn’t matter which party or ideology you ascribe to. The partisan nature of our political scene and the circus that money and media have made of public opinion and national feeling can leave anyone with this sense of grief. Jeremiah apparently felt that way, too.
To whom shall I speak and give warning, that they may hear? See, their ears are closed, they cannot listen. The word of the Lord is to them an object of scorn; they take no pleasure in it. But, I am full of the wrath of the Lord; I am weary holding it in. (vs 10-11a)
Most of us hold to our political perspectives with the same fervency Jeremiah did to God’s word and its clarity. There is a reason why religion and politics equally offend in today’s dominant norms of decency. Jeremiah’s religious language gives some of us a false sense of difference. Forget that this is the bible. Remember that Jesus hadn’t been born yet. Remember, prophets were mouthpieces for the covenant of God’s people with God. That is the contract that birthed their nation. Jeremiah is explicitly talking about his political point of view, which he sees in relief of God’s vision for reality.
For from the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy for unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace…[H]ear, o nation, and know O congregation, what will happen…(vs 13-14)
It struck me that the angst and helplessness we feel for the direction and politics of our nation, even communities, is ancient. It doesn’t matter if you see our foundation as the word of God, the Constitution, universal human rights, or Locke and Rousseau’s social contract. Who hasn’t grieved over the injustices and corruption they see? Who hasn’t felt the fear from signs of instability, irrational decisions, and the plight of those powerless to rise up and correct inequities? I hear this grief from both liberal and conservative. Each has their definition of injustice. Each has their definition of rationality. Each has their definition of inequity. Each has their scapegoat and theory of inequities.
As a Christian socialist and/or social democrat, I, too, fall on this spectrum. And, I see the folly of our partisan blame-games.
They are all stubbornly rebellious, going about with slanders…(vs 28a)
In response, Jeremiah offers a strangely prophetic counsel:
Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it an find rest for your souls.
What are those ancient ways? What, exactly, is this crossroads? My soul seems to know without argument or passion. Perhaps, a still small voice might say it this way:
It’s the humble way. Neither self-righteous nor divided, the good way is neither silent nor partisan. It is where justice entwines you and I in a common welfare. It is where peace is waged for the sake of the most vulnerable, among which are each others’ elderly parents and youngest children. It is where our trust merges in the form of a covenant, in which our wealth and welfare is not in competition, but where the only win is win-win.
I’m reminded of Community of Christ’s Doctrine and Covenants 163:4a-c:
God, the Eternal Creator, weeps for the poor, displaced, mistreated, and diseased of the world because of their unnecessary suffering. Such conditions are not God’s will. Open your ears to hear the pleading of mothers and fathers in all nations who desperately seek a future of hope for their children. Do not turn away from them. For in their welfare resides your welfare.
The earth, lovingly created as an environment for life to flourish, shudders in distress because creation’s natural and living systems are becoming exhausted from carrying the burden of human greed and conflict. Humankind must awaken from its illusion of independence and unrestrained consumption without lasting consequences.
Let the educational and community development endeavors of the church equip people of all ages to carry the ethics of Christ’s peace into all arenas of life. Prepare new generations of disciples to bring fresh vision to bear on the perplexing problems of poverty, disease, war, and environmental deterioration. Their contributions will be multiplied if their hearts are focused on God’s will for creation.