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Lenten Devotions from Fourth Presbyterian Church

Wednesday, October 30, 2019           

Today’s Scripture Reading | Jeremiah 14:7–10, 19–22

Although our iniquities testify against us, act, O Lord, for your name’s sake; our apostasies indeed are many, and we have sinned against you. O hope of Israel, its savior in time of trouble, why should you be like a stranger in the land, like a traveler turning aside for the night? Why should you be like someone confused, like a mighty warrior who cannot give help? Yet you, O Lord, are in the midst of us, and we are called by your name; do not forsake us!

Thus says the Lord concerning this people: Truly they have loved to wander, they have not restrained their feet; therefore the Lord does not accept them, now he will remember their iniquity and punish their sins. Have you completely rejected Judah? Does your heart loathe Zion? Why have you struck us down so that there is no healing for us? We look for peace, but find no good; for a time of healing, but there is terror instead. We acknowledge our wickedness, O Lord, the iniquity of our ancestors, for we have sinned against you. Do not spurn us, for your name’s sake; do not dishonor your glorious throne; remember and do not break your covenant with us. Can any idols of the nations bring rain? Or can the heavens give showers? Is it not you, O Lord our God? We set our hope on you, for it is you who do all this. (NRSV)

Reflection
Have you ever wronged a person and known it? And as a result, experienced their distancing from you? It is not a good experience. You just desperately want the other person to come by your side, to take you by the arm, and to say, "It’s okay. I forgive you. I’m here, by your side."

It seems that the people of Judah—speaking through Jeremiah’s voice—were clamoring to know that God had not abandoned them forever, even though they had wronged God. They wanted to know that everything was okay, that God would still be on their side. Always and forever.

The words of God, spoken through the voice of Jeremiah, were harsh words. Jeremiah was a pretty harsh but also honest prophet and he called a sin a sin. The people had wandered far from God, and what finally got their attention was a drought. And because they viewed God as a God who pronounced various disasters or misfortunes as punishments for bad behavior, they started clamoring to be forgiven, hoping that if they were forgiven, rain would come and all would be right with their world again. God would be at their side.

We no longer believe that God hands out punishments of natural disasters for our individual or collective bad behavior. But there are certainly natural consequences for our wayward behavior: in the large scope of things, climate change; in our individual lives, broken relationships and distancing. It’s all very uncomfortable and we clamor. “Please tell us or please tell me it’s all okay.” Maybe a better clamoring would be, “God, please show us how to turn our lives toward you and then give us the courage to take those corrective steps. Instead of clamoring that you come by our side, help us come by your side.”

Prayer
God, help me follow the course you have set for me, to seek your will as I make the decisions of my life. When I fall far away from you, help me bear the burden of my sin, and take steps to get back on the path you have set for me, and help me to remember always that you welcome me back on that path with open arms. Amen.

Written by Judith L. Watt, Associate Pastor for Pastoral Care

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