Jeremiah had a ringside seat in the arena of this reform. It is hardly conceivable, though, that he remained a spectator. He was not the sort of person to stand on the sidelines. He helped. He participated in the reform with his preaching. We have fragments of his sermons.
“You’ve solicited many lover-gods, like a streetwalking whore chasing after other gods” (Jer 3:2). The people had abandoned the God who loved and called them into being and had given themselves in reckless prodigality to every god and goddess they met. Moral pollution works the same way as environmental pollution. The waste products are careless living work insidiously into the soil of thought and the streams of language, poisoning every part of society.
Jeremiah pleaded with them: “Plow your unplowed fields” (Jer 4:3). Superstition and idolatry form a tough crust that makes us insensitive and unreceptive to the word that God speaks in mercy and salvation. Ploughing is a metaphor for the repentance that prepares the ground of our heart to receive what God has for us.”
Jeremiah was scathing and sarcastic: “And you, what do you think you’re up to? Dressing up in party clothes, … putting on lipstick and rouge and mascara! Your primping goes for nothing” (Jer 4:30).
Through it, all Jeremiah conveyed hope: “Ho stand at the crossroads and look around. Ask for directions to the old road, the tried-and-true road. then take it. Discover the right route for your souls” (Jer 6:16). There are old paths, well-trodden and clearly marked, that lead to goodness and to God. The Scriptures–in this case the Deuteronomy scroll–map the roads. If we ignore them, we stumble over obstacles. Jeremiah’s preaching was tireless in insisting on the plain, obvious truth: that God is among us, that we can and must live in faithful love with him.”
There is wonderful prayer from Eugene Peterson, to pray at the start of today. It is based upon Psalm 126:6
“those that go out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
carrying their sheaves.”
Prayer: Let the rain of your Spirit fall on the dry soil of my heart, O God. Bring to blossom the seeds which have been dormant in my desert body. Restore, revive, replenish so that I may be a harvest field of “shouts of joy” for Jesus’ sake. Amen
“God wills our happiness. He blesses. There is no question about that. He also graciously describes the kind of life that is able to receive and live out the blessings that he wills. He does not say, “I want you to be happy, but how to be happy is your business to discover by trail and error the best you can. Good luck!” Not at all. He gives a precise description.
The Poor in spirit: We empty ourselves of pride so we can be filled with God’s spirit.
Those who mourn: We share the sufferings of others rather than avoid them.
The meek: We hone our passions to a skilled gentleness.
Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness: We reject the appetites of a consumer society and cultivate deep personal relationships with God and others.
The merciful: We refuse to react to the wrongs and troubles in the world by condemning and blaming, but instead we involve ourselves in compassionate serving.
The pure in heart: We don’t allow ourselves to be distracted and dissipated in gossip and trivia, but we center ourselves in God.
The Peacemakers: We decide to look at others, whatever their position, whoever they are, not as rivals to beat out but as brothers and sisters to love into wholeness.
The persecuted: We reject the comfortable conformism of fitting into whatever the majority is doing, and we take instead the nonconforming narrow way of living out the difficult truths requiring love and grace.”
Today I’ve been re-reading a few chapters of Eugene Peterson’s‘Five Smooth Stones for Pastoral Work’ (which by the way he describes as: Prayer-Directing, Story-making, Pain-sharing, Nay-saying, and Community-building). In the introduction Eugene gives the following wonderful description of the importance of Pastoral Ministry:
Pastoral work takes Dame Religion by the hand and drags her into the everyday world, introducing her to friends, neighbors, and associates. Religion left to herself is shy, retiring, and private; or she is decorative and proud– a prima donna. But she is not personal and she is not ordinary. The pastor insists on taking her where she must mix with the crowd.
When pastoral work is slighted, religion tends, among some, to become gaudy with ceremonial, among others to get cubbyholed as a private emotion. In either case she still does many things well: her theology can be profound, her meditations mystic, her moral counsels wise, her liturgies splendid. But until she is dragged into the common round she is not alive with Good News nor does she have a chance to put her ideas and beliefs to use, testing them out in actual life-situations.
Pastoral work is the aspect of Christian ministry which specalizes in the ordinary … It is the ministry in mufti.”
As many of you will be aware, sadly, Eugene Peterson passed away this week. His books have had a massive influence on me! I will deeply miss his provocation to live as authentic pilgrims passing through this life. This morning I was reading a sermon from his book ‘As Kingfishers Catch Fire‘ and just couldn’t resist quoting the opening. This is Eugene Peterson pastoring and shaping people’s spiritual imagination:
“An ongoing concern I have as your pastor is the unfortunate separation of scripture from prayer; or prayer from Scripture, that is all too common in the Christian way.
The tradition of which we are part doesn’t separate them. Scripture is the Word of God understood, comprehended, honoured. Prayer is the Word of God assimilated, absorbed, lived. Scripture without prayer has no soul; prayer without Scripture has no substance. What I hope to develop in our congregation is a fusion of the two: Scripture-prayer or prayer-scripture. What is the use of knowing Scripture if you aren’t living it? What is the use of praying if you don’t know to whom you are praying?
Worship is the fusion of Scripture and prayer. Our purpose in gathering each Lord’s Day is to prepare us to live what we hear, to get what we hear with our ears into our feet as we follow Jesus”
Eugene Peterson destroying the overly simplified definitions of love and leads us to an life of immersion in acts of love. Just brilliant!
“Love is the most context-specific act in the entire spectrum of human behavior. There is no other single human act more dependent on and immersed in immediate context. A dictionary is worthless in understanding and practising love. Acts of love cannot be canned and then used off the shelf. Every act of love requires creative and personal giving, responding, and serving appropriate to–context specific to – – both the person doing the loving and the person being loved. “
The following our probably some of the best words I’ve read on friendship with God. Don’t read them too fast!
“Friendship is not a way of accomplishing something but a way of being with another in which we become more authentically ourselves.
As we get a feel for the qualities of friendship, I think this also is important: Abraham’s life seems curiously empty of accomplishment. with the exception of his intercession for Sodom, he doesn’t seem to have asked his friend God for anything. His relation to God was not mercantile, not utilitarian. He wasn’t taking pains to stay on good terms with God so he might get a good inheritance. His alter building doesn’t seem to have been an insurance policy against disaster. His alters were spontaneous acts of friendship and gratitude, expressions of respect. “