Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Thought for Thursday 14 May 2015

“Thus says The Lord, ‘Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from The Lord.  They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes.  They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.” 

Blessed are those who trust in The Lord, whose trust is The Lord.  They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream.  It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit’.”  Jeremiah 17:5-8 NRSV

The threat of exile was hanging over Judah as the Babylonian Empire grew stronger.  Judah was so desperate to protect itself from the imminent threat that they had made an alliance with Egypt for help rather than turn to The Lord (ironic, huh?).  The result?  Egypt’s promise of help fell through, and Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed. 

More than the destruction of the homeland, however, we witness in the exile of both the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and the Southern Kingdom (Judah) a loss of identity.  Through the worst of times The Lord preserved remnants of His Covenant, determined to maintain an inheritance of the promise made to Abraham long ago.  Yet the splintered nation, by its actions and determination to “trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength”, fell in pieces until the whole was no more.  They were so blinded by their own ambitions, their own desires, their own fears that they were unable to “see when relief [might] come”. 

How this lesson can be useful to the Church today is in understanding that the deterioration of the divided kingdoms did not happen overnight.  It was over a period of years the nation became increasingly dependent on its own resources, its own devices to face the growing threats.  Even as the threats grew and the prophets preached in both kingdoms, the people were so overwhelmed with paranoia (and maybe even with the arrogance of their status as “chosen” people) that they refused to believe the prophets who were sent to them by The Lord to call them back to Him.

It is a frightening thing to consider how easily (and virtually without notice) such cultural conditioning can reach such a fevered pitch that The Lord becomes incidental to our lives and our living that we cannot be bothered to worship together, to pray together, to work and serve together – for whatever reason, whatever excuse – with hardly no notice.  Has the Church in America become so arrogant in some sense of salvation entitlement that we refuse to believe we cannot also fall?  Have we become so dependent on “mere mortals” and “mere flesh” that we have convinced ourselves that no one (no One?) can or will save us besides ourselves and our own resources; perhaps some “magic pill” that will solve all our problems with no effort on our part?

Even for Judah at its worst, however, The Lord still reached out and offered protection and blessing to those “whose trust IS The Lord”.  No fear, no failure.  Yet the people of The Lord needed to be hit over the head with a skillet before they would finally wake up.  They had to be hurt before they could be helped.  By then it was too late, and all they had placed their trust in was gone – including their identity as The Lord’s “chosen”.

Pray that the Church, the “ekklesia”, the congregation of the faithful will soon awaken before the deterioration we are witnessing before our eyes becomes total destruction.

Lord, have mercy!


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