Jeremiah 1-3a. 6-15
Preached at Center Moreland and Dymoind Hollow United Methodist Churches, Sept. 30, 2007
Did you feel as if your eyes would roll back into your head when you heard this scripture, this morning? Did you hear it as perhaps, a little overspecific? Yeah, me too, a little bit. But if you’ll remember what we’ve talked about when I have read Jeremiah here this far, you might realize that this is a little unusual.—a slightly different tone. We’ve had weeks and weeks of Jeremiah saying that the coming invasion from Babylon isn’t God’s fault, but that Judah has brought this on themselves.
Now the invasion is soon. The army has laid siege on Jerusalem, they are outside the walls. And this prophet, rather than running around, shouting “I Told You So!”, buys land, in the town of Anatoth, which is in the territory of the tribe of Benjamin, near Jerusalem to the north. It’s a field. Nothing major, no improved real estate, no houses or hotels, just a field. But he is conducting a real estate transaction about a patch of land that might be visible from the walls. It’s a patch of land that may very well be under the invading army’s feet as he speaks.
It would be exactly the same as if a German Jew were to buy a house in downtown Berlin, mark it properly, document it with the proper witnesses, and then get on the train to Auchwitz.
Just doesn’t seem prudent, does it? Why then?
Hope. Jeremiah has been the bearer of bad news, reminding people that they have broken their covenant with God. And the resulting invasion is the effect to the cause of their disobedience. But he is a prophet of God, among the people of God, and it is also his job to say to them, when all feels lost, that this too shall pass, and that this land is still ours, and that we will once again be a part of this land.
We read exactly that in the next parts of the chapter. Jeremiah prays to God, and God replies to Jeremiah, explaining why he has “allowed” the Babylonian army to come. But then, God also says to Jeremiah in verse 42:
For thus says the Lord: Just as I have brought all this great disaster among the people, so I will bring upon them all the good fortune that I now promise them. Fields shall be bought in this land. . .
Hope. Jeremiah buying land in the midst of an invasion is a signal that though this is current invasion is catastrophic, terrible, and changes irreparably the way Israel and Judah think of themselves, they will always be the children of God. Still. Everything will have changed, and yet nothing has.
When those of you who are parents think of certain ways your children have been disobedient, and you have been very angry, haven’t you also been somehow clear in stating that you still love your child, even as you punish them?
We, as the people of God, look for ways in which we can be reassured that God still loves us. Ways in which we are reassured that Jesus has saved us, still.
Communion is one of those. We come to the rail, in the midst of whatever is going on in our lives, some of us wondering if we will indeed be able to partake this time, or somehow a great hand will reach in the window saying “NO, not him!” And it never comes.
Or, at Dymond Hollow, today, we have another sign—we baptize a child today. That is another way in which we mark the future, we “buy land in the midst of the invasion”. The world is an inhospitable place for Christians, sometime. It’s actually an inhospitable place for everyone at times.
When we take communion, when we baptize, what we are saying to the world is “we are still here”. When we baptize, we are casting out children forward into that future. We do still believe that we are the children of God, and we expect there to be a time when God’s love will be the order of the day.
We expect that there will be a time when there will be no us and them, no Christians and non Christians, no church, but just people of God, and that will be everyone. We do expect there to be a time when wars cease. We do expect there to be a time when governments do not kill their own citizens for marching in the streets peacefully. We do expect there to be a time when marching in the streets isn’t necessary.
So, when we baptize, when we take communion, when we marry, when we have funerals, when we worship together, when we study the Bible, when we eat together, when we work at soup kitchens, we are expressing our belief in each other and in God’s love. We could meet together as a club and do most of these things. But we wouldn’t be marking our togetherness and expressing our common belief in Jesus Christ, and what he did for us.
When we do those things, especially communion and baptism, it’s as if we are weighing out the money, signing the deed, sealing it, getting witnesses, weighing the money on scales, and sealing the deed in a jar. And then keeping the jar safe. We are counting on the future being what we have been taught, what we have come to believe. We are buying the land out from under the feet of the soldiers besieging our city. This is God’s world, and just as Jeremiah believes it and acts upon it, never mind the current circumstances he’s living through, so too we believe it and act on it, no matter our circumstances. Communion and Baptism are our hope in our current circumstances, no matter what they are. They are our statement of belief that this is God’s world.