Lectionary Year B
January 5, 2003
Step VI - Contemporary Address
(JFC) Proclaiming truths from this text might help pew-sitters face a new year with
faith, hope and even some shinning brightly.
B. Describing the Audience
(JFC) This message gets preached in a very substantial congregation in a county seat
town on I 64 between Kentucky's State Capital and its largest city, Louisville. They are accustomed to outstanding preaching, excellent music and very good educational, ecumenical studies and outreach programs. The people are highly educated and leaders.
(JFC) A sermon entitled for this working draft, "Hope/Happiness in the New Year"
You ever been marooned on a deserted island or kidnapped or exiled or held hostage? The Wise Men encountered trouble and were troubled by what they heard and observed in Jerusalem. Jeremiah's contemporaries found similar tribulations, especially as exiled in Babylon and anticipating returning to and rebuilding their homeland. We, too, know hardships aplenty. We get lost in dislocations, separations, disorientations, even from God, from time to time. We know first hand the anxieties and consternation of Exile.
I. Today's Exile(s)(d)
A. Church is no longer the center of our society. The Wise Men followed a star. Imagine how many jokes they would have heard along the way in the overnight hang-outs, etc. They were definitely outside the norm. Few follow stars in any age. Do we? Yet, today's Old Testament Lesson calls us to recognize the misfortunes we suffer today. We weep, mourn, sorrow and grieve. Sometimes we realize it mostly at holiday times.
B. Church no longer influences peoples' decisions. Magnates of commerce, industry, politics/government, education, business, never listen to religious groups much any more. We are out of step with them = exiled from their (powerful) endeavors.
II. God's Calls
A. Jeremiah calls us to feel positive by using what's been termed, "emotive language" and "superlatives overdone which yet do serve to communicate the message." The Exile in Babylon was considered a (temporary) sojourn in a foreign land, e.g., see Psalm 137. The positive images Jeremiah gives us include God's personally involvement with us, God's promising to save us and God's calling us to celebrate, singing with gladness, etc.
B. God calls us to sing, to shine and to be satisfied. John Bright translates it (Anchor Bible), "They will come and rejoice on Zion's height and thrill (italics, mine, JFC) to Yahweh's bounty. . ." The Apostle Paul recommends singing when he faces the dilemma of speaking in tongues in I Corinthians 14. Jesus uses the metaphor of our being the world's light and He calls us to let our light shine rather than hiding it, huh?
III. Our Responses
A. We shall behave as God's chosen children, like God chooses us and all others on this earth as well. This world is full of "hands too strong" for us to wrestle alone; we need each other to work in tandem against evil, dishonesty, racism, etc. Commercialism and competition are strong contenders for peoples' loyalties these days, as in the past.
B. We shall consider God is over all creation and the created, especially being the God of all kinds of people, the blind, the lame, the older, the younger, Northern Israel (Ephraim) and Judah (Zion), etc., everyone, Christian, Jew, Muslim, Arab, Buddhists, others . . ? Sure, our differences scatter us yet, we might help God re-gather us by breaking down some of the barriers today's prejudices erect. We can cross those barriers with God's leading us to do so, Jesus' showing us how and God's Spirit's encouraging us to do so.
These times - they are difficult for believers. They were challenging for both Jeremiah and the Wise Men, too. If we want to travel the idealistic straight and narrow paths, the smooth terrain, through the watered gardens of life, we can with God's help and teaching.
Hymn Selection - "Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee" - some images in Jeremiah 31:7-14
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