Archive for the ‘Jeremiah 2’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 9, Year C (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Gideon

Image in the Public Domain

Sin and Its Consequences

JULY 4, 2021


Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236


Judges 6:11-24 or Jeremiah 2:4-13

Psalm 89:1-4, 24-33

Romans 1:16-32

Luke 7:36-50


Sin, or rebellion against God, leads to consequences.  To “miss the mark,” literally, is to fail God and our fellow human beings spiritually and morally.  Consequences are inevitable.  Yet may we avoid the error of mistaking consequences of sin for God proverbially sending a thunderbolt one’s way.  May we not blame God when we should hold ourselves accountable.

We–collectively and individually–have moral and spiritual blind spots.  We learn many of them from other people and develop or find other blind spots independently.

The old Presbyterian Church in the United States (the “Southern Presbyterian Church”) summarized our collective quandary well in its Brief Statement of Belief (1962).  It read, in part:

Sin permeates and corrupts our entire being and burdens us more and more with fear, hostility, guilt, and misery.  Sin operates not only within individuals but also within society as a deceptive and oppressive power, so that men of good will are unconsciously and unwillingly involved in the sins of society.  Man cannot destroy the tyranny of sin in himself or in his world; his only hope is to be delivered from it by God.

As we (as in Judges) play our cycles of sin, consequences, repentance, and deliverance, we do not learn our collective and individual lessons.  If we did, we would not repeat the cycle.

The contrast between God and human beings is stark.  As we read in the Confession of 1967 (The United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.):

The reconciling act of God in Jesus Christ exposes the evil in men as sin in the sight of God.  In sin men claim mastery of their own lives, turn against God and their fellow men, and became exploiters and despoilers of the world.  They lose their humanity in futile striving and are left in rebellion, despair and isolation.

May we accept God’s offer to deliver us from the tyranny of sin in ourselves and in the world.  May we, by grace, repeat the cycle fewer times than we would otherwise.  And may we not be self-righteous.











Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 22, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Kingdoms of Judah and Israel

Above:  Map of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel

Image in the Public Domain

Apostasy and Idolatry

OCTOBER 1-3, 2020


The Collect:

Beloved God, from you come all things that are good.

Lead us by the inspiration of your Spirit to know those things that are right,

and by your merciful guidance, help us to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49


The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 2:14-22 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 2:23-37 (Friday)

Jeremiah 6:1-10 (Saturday)

Psalm 80:7-15 (All Days)

Colossians 2:16-23 (Thursday)

Philippians 2:14-18; 3:1-4a (Friday)

John 7:40-52 (Saturday)


Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

–Psalm 80:7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The reading for these three days overlap nicely, focusing on the themes of idolatry and apostasy.  To commit apostasy is to fall away from grace.  (Thus grace is not irresistible.  Strict Calvinism is therefore mistaken about that fifth of the TULIP formula.  I am also dubious of the Perseverance of the Saints, which relates to Irresistible Grace.)  An idol is anything which takes the place of God in one’s life.  Thus an idol might be a false deity, an activity, or even a sacred text.  Function in one’s life determines that thing’s status relative to idolatry.  Among the most popular idols is the Bible, which is supposed to function instead as an icon–through which people see God.  But, if one treats it as an idol, that is what it is for that person.

The lessons from Jeremiah condemn idolatry which has led to national apostasy, evident in ill-advised alliances with foreign, predatory empires.

What then do you gain by going to Egypt,

to drink the waters of the Nile?

or what do you gain by going to Assyria,

to drink the waters of the Euphrates?

Your wickedness will punish you,

and your apostasies will convict you.

Know and see that it is evil and bitter

for you to forsake the LORD your God;

the fear of me is not in you,

says the LORD GOD of hosts.

–Jeremiah 2:18-19, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

From the gloom of Jeremiah 2 and 6 we turn to the Pauline tradition, which emphasizes Christ crucified and resurrected.  St. Paul the Apostle rejects, among other things, Gnostic asceticism, a form of Jewish ritualism, and the practice of worshiping angels as methods as obtaining the spiritual upper hand.  Christ is sufficient, the ever-Jewish Paul tells us through the ages.

I understand the Apostle’s objection to Gnosticism, with its reliance on secret knowledge and belief that matter is evil.  If salvation comes from having secret knowledge, as Gnostics insisted, the death and resurrection of Jesus were pointless.  In fact, in Gnostic thought, he did not die because he was not even corporeal, for, in Gnosticism, he could not have had a body, a body being material and therefore evil.  Thus Gnosticism was not Christian.  The exclusion of Gnostic texts from the Bible was not, as some “documentaries” on the History Channel claim, a conspiracy of Church leaders to suppress truth and crush dissent.  No, it was a proper course of action.

As for rituals (especially Jewish ones), I approach the text from Colossians differently than do the authors of some of the commentaries I consulted.  A high proportion of these writers were Presbyterians with little use for ritual.  Their paragraphs screamed between the lines “This is why I am not a Papist!”  I, as an Episcopalian, know the value of ritual and of approaching it properly.  It should be an icon, not an idol, although it functions as the latter for many people.  But so does the Bible, and I do not heap scorn on that sacred anthology either.

Apostasy, a theme from the Jeremiah readings, recurs in John 7.  Temple officials accuse some Temple policemen of it for refusing to arrest Jesus, who had impressed them.  These officials also accuse Nicodemus of the same offense.  I realize that much of the Gospel of John reflects late first-century C.E. Jewish Christian invective, for Jewish Christians had found themselves marginalized within Judaism.  Nevertheless, the stories in John 7:40-52 have the ring of truth, for fearful people in positions of power have attempted to retain it in many places and at numerous times.

Idols come in many varieties, shapes, sizes, and ages.  As I have written in this post, function in one’s life determines status relative to idolatry in that life.  Among the more common idols is attachment to the status quo ante, especially if one benefits from it.  Thus we become upset when God does something we do not expect.  This might threaten just our sense of order (hardly a minor issue), but also our identity (also a major consideration) and socio-economic-political or socio-economic standing (of which we tend to be quite protective).  But when was religion supposed to function as a defense against God?







Proper 17, Year C   9 comments

Christ Pantocrator Moody

Above:  Christ Pantocrator, Daphni, Greece

Duties to God and Each Other

The Sunday Closest to August 31

Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 28, 2022


The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 2:4-13 and Psalm 81:1, 10-16


Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 10:12-18 or Proverbs 25:6-7 and Psalm 112


Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

Luke 14:1, 7-14

The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

Prayer of Confession:

Prayer of Dedication:


Let mutual love continue.

–Hebrews 13:1, New Revised Standard Version

Thus I find my theme for this post.  That theme unites the assigned readings for Proper 17, Year C.  The rest of the Hebrews lection speaks of our obligations to God and each other.  These duties exist in the context of mutual love.

I am, among other things, intellectually honest.  The readings from Jeremiah 2, Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 10, and Psalm 81 speak of divine judgment for faithlessness among people for God has done much.  These lections do not seem loving.  And Psalm 112 sounds too much like Prosperity Theology for my comfort.  I can think of parts of both Testaments which contradict it.  If you, O reader, expect me to provide simple answers to these, I will disappoint you.  I could provide such answers, but I would do so insincerely and they would be useless.

I write these words during Advent 2012.  (I like to write ahead of schedule.)  During this time the words attributed to Hannah in 1 Samuel 2 and Mary in Luke 1 ring in my head.

The LORD makes poor and makes rich,

he brings low, he also exalts.

He raises up the poor from the dust;

he lifts up the needy from the ash heap,

to make them sit with princes

and inherit a seat of great honor.

–1 Samuel 2:7-8a, New Revised Standard Version


He has routed the proud and all their schemes;

he has brought down monarchs from their thrones,

and raised high the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and sent the rich empty away.

–Luke 1:51b-53, Revised English Bible

Those beloved passages are consistent with Jeremiah 2, Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 10, and Psalm 81.  Whether this reversal of fortune is good news depends on who one is.

The context for this reversal of fortune is faithlessness to God, who has done much for us.  It is polite to be grateful to one who delivers, is it not?  So attitudes occupy the heart of the matter.  And we cannot love God, whom we cannot see, unless we love people, whom we can see.  Our deeds will reveal our creeds.  That much I know for certain.  As for the rest, ask God.









Week of Proper 11: Thursday, Year 2   6 comments

Above:  A Football Stadium

Image in the Public Domain

The God-Shaped Hole

JULY 21, 2022


Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.


Jeremiah 2:1-13 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The word of the LORD came to me, saying,

Go proclaim to Jerusalem:  Thus says the LORD:

I accounted to your favor,

The devotion of your youth,

Your love as a bride–

How you followed Me in the wilderness,

In a land not sown.

Israel was holy to the LORD,

The first fruits of His harvest.

All who ate of it were held guilty;

Disaster befell them

–declares the LORD.

Hear the word of the LORD, O House of Jacob,

Every clan of the House of Israel!

Thus said the LORD:

What wrong did your fathers find in Me

That they abandoned Me

And went after delusion and were deluded?

They never asked themselves, Where is the LORD,

Who brought us up from the land of Egypt,

Who led us through the wilderness,

A land of deserts and pits,

A land of drought and darkness,

A land no man had traversed,

Where no human being had dwelt?”

I brought you to this country of farm land

To enjoy its fruit and its bounty;

But you came and defiled My land,

You made My possession abhorrent.

The priests never asked themselves, “Where is the LORD?”

The guardians of the Teaching ignored Me;

The rulers rebelled against Me,

And the prophets prophesied by Baal

And followed what can do no good.

Oh, I will go on accusing you

–declares the LORD–

And I will accuse your children’s children!

Just cross over to the isles of the Kittim and look,

Send to Kedar and observe carefully;

See if aught like this has ever happened:

Has any nation changed its gods

Even though they are no-gods?

But My people has exchanged its glory

For what can do no good.

Be appalled, O heavens, at this;

Be horrified, utterly dazed!

–says the LORD–

For My people have done a twofold wrong:

They have forsaken Me, the Fount of living waters,

And hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns,

Which cannot even hold water.

Psalm 36:5-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

5  Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens,

and your faithfulness to the clouds.

6  Your righteousness is like the strong mountains,

your justice like the great deep;

you save both man and beast, O LORD.

7  How priceless is your love, O God!

your people take refuge under the shadow of your wings.

8  They feast upon the abundance of your house;

you give them drink from the river of your delights.

9  For with you is the well of life,

and in your light we see light.

10  Continue your loving-kindness to those who know you,

and your favor to those who are true of heart.

Matthew 13:10-17 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

At this the disciples approached him and asked, “Why do you talk to them in parables?”

“Because you have been given the privilege of understanding the secrets of the kingdom of Heaven,” replied Jesus, “but they have not.  For when a man has something, more is given to him till he has plenty.  For if he has nothing even his nothing will be taken away from him.  This is why I speak to them in these parables; because they go through life with their eyes open, but see nothing, and with their ears open, but understand nothing of what they hear.  They are the living fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophesy which says:

By hearing ye shall hear, and shall in no wise understand;

And seeing ye shall see, and shall in no wise perceive;

For this people’s heart is waxed gross,

And their ears are dull of hearing,

And their eyes have been closed;

Lest haply they should perceive with their eyes,

And hear with their heart,

And should turn again,

And I should heal them.

“But how fortunate you are to have eyes that see and ears that hear! Believe me, a great many prophets and good men have longed to see what you are seeing and they never saw it.  Yes, and they have longed to hear what you are hearing and they never heard it.”


The Collect:

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


A Related Post:

Week of Proper 11:  Thursday, Year 1:


There is inside of each of us a God-shaped hole.  If we are wise, we insert God there.  Yet many of us are foolish, for we resort to our collection of idolatrous pegs.  These idols include inherently destructive habits (such as drug abuse, overeating, and risky sexual acts), activities healthy except in excess (Dare I say certain varieties of religion?), and neutral activities (such as watching movies and television programs).  There is a time to watch television and there is a time to pray contemplatively.  There is a time to read a book and there is a time to take a brisk walk and enjoy nature.

I live in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, home of The University of Georgia (UGA).  It is not an exaggeration to describe football (especially UGA football) as a religion here.  Sport, as sport, is fine.  However, sport, as an object of idolatry, is not fine.  In late 2009, on the front page of the local newspaper, there was a story about the murder of a woman by her boyfriend or former boyfriend.  This story filled one column on the periphery of the page.  Yet the dominant story above the fold, complete with huge font, concerned the death of the UGA football team mascot, a bulldog.  “SHOCKING LOSS,” the headline screamed.  Which should have been the shocking loss?

We are here on this planet to, among other things, love God fully and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  How we live constitutes an act of daily worship.  So, when we chase idols, whether they are football or Baal Peor or cocaine, we forsake God.  We hew out broken cisterns which cannot even hold water.