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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Today’s Scripture Reading | Jeremiah 11:18–20

It was the Lord who made it known to me, and I knew; then you showed me their evil deeds. But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter. And I did not know it was against me that they devised schemes, saying, “Let us destroy the tree with its fruit, let us cut him off from the land of the living, so that his name will no longer be remembered!” But you, O Lord of hosts, who judge righteously, who try the heart and the mind, let me see your retribution upon them, for to you I have committed my cause. (NRSV)

Church tradition names Jeremiah the “weeping prophet.” In fact, gaze up at the Great East Window in the Fourth Church sanctuary on your next visit and look into the eyes of the prophet and you might just see heavy, laden eyes welling with tears.

Jeremiah’s entire book is full of tears—and for good reason. Jeremiah was forbidden to marry, forbidden to mourn or console, and forbidden to rejoice. He was plotted against by friend and foe alike. He was slandered by the people, falsely accused, unjustly imprisoned, beaten, and betrayed. If anyone had just cause to weep—and weep deeply—it was Jeremiah.

At one point, Jeremiah discovers a plot to assassinate him, and he is filled with terror. He feels rejected, vulnerable, alone. Jeremiah weaves a tapestry of sorrow and rage as he laments to God. He cries aloud to God, trusting that God will intercede and show retribution—in this case, revenge—toward Jeremiah’s enemies.

There is something liberating and honest about Jeremiah’s lament. He is backed into a corner, hands tied, and so he cries to the one who alone has the power to save him. He places his trust in God alone. But even a prophet is human. Jeremiah’s mortal mind and limitations get the best of him. He pleads to God for vengeance on those who wish him harm. It’s a sobering, candid human response. Who among us has not felt so attacked, vulnerable, or alone that we think ill toward our enemies? We become suffocated, trapped by our own mortal failings. God’s justice is not our own, and that’s difficult to accept. But if we do submit fully to trusting in God, we might find ourselves more fully alive—free from the fear and limitation of this earthly life.

And when we fail (and we will), God stands at the ready, listening to our cries and pain, drawing us in and saying, “Let it out. I’m here. I’ve got you.”

O God, your ways are not my ways—and that’s hard for me. Help me to trust in your love and justice that I might live more fully in you. Amen.

Written by Shawn Fiedler, Ministerial Associate for Worship

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