In this passage, Jeremiah presents us with a series of potent metaphors for the person who places trust in mere mortals rather than in God, concluding with the shocking image of the devious heart. We think of the heart as the place that unites passion and goodness. In Richard Wagamese’s imagery, the full moon reflects the drum which echoes the heartbeat we heard in our mother’s womb—and this heartbeat is a source of healing. How can the heart betray such goodness? What if passion and good intentions—zeal—cannot see the heart’s tragic effects?
Wagamese’s fiction is based on the truth of what happened to native children who were removed from their families by government social workers and placed in foster care or residential schools. These placements, guided by Canadian government policy, sought to eradicate any native identity from the children. Churches partnered with the government in this effort. These social workers passionately believed they were doing a good thing, yet they were perpetrating a great evil. If they did this today, they would be guilty of kidnapping. Such is the nature of what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “folly,” or good, well-intentioned people led to cooperate with evil.
Again, Wagamese’s metaphors instruct us: What Jeremiah calls the “devious heart” may be healed by syncing our heartbeat to the heartbeat of the mother who gave us life, who takes us to the depth of our being, who reveals the Creator to us. These meanings of heart recall John Wesley’s famous metaphor of “the circumcision of the heart,” or the heart that is purified by turning toward God. Some people will identify with a metaphor of aligning our heart, others with the idea of removing imperfections. Regardless of our method, examining our heart in the spiritual realm is as important as caring for our heart in the medical realm.
Realign and purify my devious heart, O God. Amen.
God wants us to be rooted firmly in our faith. Jeremiah contrasts those who put their trust in themselves with those who trust in God. The latter are like healthy trees with deep roots and a constant water supply, never in danger of drying up or dying. The psalmist uses the same image to describe those who meditate on God’s teachings. Thus, as you do these daily readings and reflect on them, you are sinking deep roots into fertile soil. Agricultural imagery is continued in Paul’s letter. Paul describes Jesus Christ risen in the flesh as the first fruit, meaning that he is the first of many who will be resurrected. In Luke’s version of the Beatitudes, worldly success is not necessarily an indication of God’s blessing.
Read Jeremiah 17:5-10. Examine your heart. Do you place your trust in “mere mortals” or in the Lord?
Read Psalm 1. How do you seek to meditate on God’s word day and night?
Read 1 Corinthians 15:12-20. How has your understanding of the resurrection of the dead changed your living?
Read Luke 6:17-26. How do you hold together the paradoxes of Jesus’ blessings and woes?
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