“A Horizon of Hope” A Devotion on Jeremiah 32: 14-15

“Take these deeds, both this sealed deed of purchase and this open deed, and put them in an earthenware jar, in order that they may last for a long time. For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.” – Jeremiah 32:14-15 (NRSV)

It was the early 1970s when I first studied Jeremiah. It was the time of Watergate, Vietnam, and the Cold War. We were discouraged about the state of our nation and the world. Jeremiah prophesied during one of Israel’s worst times: the armies of Babylon had surrounded Jerusalem, and Jeremiah was under house arrest because his words had been too painful for King Zedekiah of Judah to hear.

There was not much room for hope. In the midst of all this trouble Jeremiah received a word from God to buy a field and to put the deeds in a jar to be kept safe for a long time. Someday, God promised, “houses and fields and vineyards shall again be bought in this land.”

It was Bill Holladay, my Old Testament professor, who first brought this text to my attention. He took Jeremiah to heart and bought himself land in Vermont as an act of hope.

We survived Watergate. The Vietnam War came to an end. The Berlin Wall came down and the Cold War ended. Of course, we have new worries. Global warming is an unprecedented threat to our world. There are still nuclear weapons. Gun violence threatens the lives of our children. Hatred and bigotry are on the rise.

But Jeremiah’s symbolic act of purchasing land at the very worst moment is a reminder to take a long view of history and to live our lives within a horizon of hope.

Prayer
God of time and eternity, help us to live, not by our worse fears, but by our best hopes, and by your enduring promise and steadfast love.

(This is my United Church of Christ Daily Devotion for September 29, 2019. To see the original go here. To subscribe to the UCC Daily Devotional and receive it every day by e-mail go here. Photo: “Lake Powell Sunset” by R.L. Floyd, 2019.)

“Joy Comes with the Morning” A Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Psalm 30

Isaiah 66:10-14

I’m glad today we have the brass quintet with us this morning because my sermon is about joy and rejoicing, and what better expresses that than the sound of brass instruments, which is why we often have them at Easter, at weddings and other celebrations..

There’s a lot of rejoicing in the Bible: the Israelites rejoiced when they brought in the sheaves; there is rejoicing in heaven over the one lost sinner. There are Paul’s admonitions to “rejoice in the Lord always, again I say rejoice!” Continue reading

“Unexpected Miracles” A Sermon on Isaiah 43: 16-21

Last spring, when your pastors Bruce and Barb invited me to come be with you I didn’t realize that I would be with you on a momentous day. For today is the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that ended The First World War on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. So before this service is over we will have reached that centenary. Continue reading

“God’s Righteousness and Ours” A Devotion on Psalm 111:2-3

“Great are the works of the Lord, studied by all who delight in them. Full of honor and majesty is God’s work, and God’s righteousness endures forever.”—Psalm 111:2-3

The concept of “righteousness” was important to Ancient Israel’s self-understanding of their covenant with God. The Hebrew word usually translated as righteousness could also mean integrity, justice, prosperity or wholeness. Righteousness was both an attribute belonging to God, and the order of things that God put into place for the well being of Israel. Continue reading

“We Shall Walk Through the Valley in Peace” A Devotion on Psalm 23:4

Valley“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” —Psalm 23:4 KJV

The “shadow of death” is a colloquial saying in Hebrew meaning “mortal peril.” For many people in our world who are in mortal peril “the shadow of death” is literal. We might think of the people of Syria, or refugees in leaky boats, or young men in gangs. Or we might think of people we know who are dying. They live in “the shadow of death.” Continue reading