This week’s readings take God’s love and saving power from the individual and community level to the global and cosmic. God’s desire is to restore, to create anew all of creation. The kicker is that we are called to be a part of that desire and plan.
The reading from the book of the prophet Jeremiah comes from its very beginning, and it follows a typical pattern of God’s call. God points out a task and communicates with the one he has chosen to be his agent; that person then offers excuses, and God promises to be with him and gives a sign. Just because the pattern is the same doesn’t mean that every call is identical. In Jeremiah’s case there is a larger historical reality that determines the nature of his calling. When God says, “I appoint you over nations and over kingdoms,” his words indicate that Jeremiah’s mission occurs at a significant historical moment. Judah was increasingly threatened by the growing power of the Babylonian Empire, and during Jeremiah’s times the exile to Babylon of the ruling and elite classes occurred. In fact, Jeremiah himself was carried there, against his will. What followed was the invasion and destruction of Jerusalem. God’s message to God’s people, delivered through Jeremiah was not only a warning of the judgment and destruction to come-it was also a promise of rebuilding and restoration, of new life to come through faithful following of God’s ways.
The letter to the Hebrews, near its conclusion, also presents God’s promise of a new kingdom, this time in light of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The comparison in this passage is between historical, “touchable” reality of Mount Sinai as experienced by Moses and the “unshakable” kingdom of Mount Zion, the “city of the living God,” that believers in and followers of Jesus have come to through the “sprinkling of his blood,” that “speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” Receiving this kingdom requires a response from us-giving thanks, offering “an acceptable worship with reverence and awe.”
God’s desire to free all of creation from bondage to the powers of this broken world (the power of the denier, the satan) is expressed in Jesus’ healing of the crippled woman on the Sabbath in Luke’s gospel. Jesus relates the suffering of this woman for eighteen years with all the work of satan in the world: it stands in direct conflict with God’s purpose of salvation, extending from the covenant with Abraham to the present of Jesus’ ministry and its promise of fulfillment. Isn’t, then, the Lord’s Day, the Sabbath, the most appropriate time for her-and for all of us-to be set free and give thanks for that freedom? The crowd in the synagogue that day understood what Jesus was saying, and “was rejoicing at all the wonderful things he was doing.”
Thoughts For Connecting Lessons To Living
1.) Each of these three lessons, in its own way, reminds us of God’s intimate knowledge of our lives and his presence with us even when we don’t know it. Each lesson also tells us that God’s presence calls for a response from us-reverence and awe, worship, rejoicing, and speaking his words of justice and hope to the world. Two things then, for me, emerge as requirements: focused attention to God in worship and, emerging from that, taking my experience of God out into the world in my daily life. The world is transformed, not by programs, but by the loving witness of one relationship at a time.
2.) What does the Sabbath mean to you? How is it related to the rest of your life?