Jeremiah sees God at work in our lives and invites us to respond. God’s presence draws us into deep communion with God and the loving purposes that infuse all of creation. We may be tempted to read this assertion in individualistic terms—God the potter seeking to make something beautiful out of me, the clay. Okay, that’s there; but Isaiah offers us something more. God gets involved intimately with the kingdoms of this world, seeking to fashion goodness out of the collective life of humankind. God will do good for nations and kingdoms that renounce evil and seek good. But God will destroy nations and kingdoms that turn away from God. In other words, God does not ignore the political life of humankind. Jeremiah does not live in a democracy, so he does not provide this as an essay on responsible citizenship. Jeremiah reminds us that the way nations exercise political power cannot be removed from their spiritual life. The good or evil done by our state implicates us all.
And thus God through Jeremiah invites us to seek loving justice through our actions in the public sphere. We can do our part to seek the better in a public order that is neither perfectly good nor fully evil. Our faith calls us to care for the marginalized and victimized, to seek peace and reconciliation in the wake of violence, to recognize and relate to the hand of God even when others are given to cynicism, and to seek civility in public life.
O God, we trust that you are the God of all the ages and that your purposes will ultimately prevail everywhere. Grant us your light in the presence of so much evil and confusion, and make us humble about our own righteousness. Amen.
Jeremiah brings another warning of impending judgment. If the people will not turn to the Lord, God will break the nation and reshape it, just as a potter breaks down and reshapes clay on a wheel. The psalmist praises God for God’s intimate knowledge of each one of us. Even from the moment of conception, God knows us and has a plan for our lives. Philemon is often overlooked, but it packs a punch. A text that some used in the past to justify slavery teaches a very different message. Paul warns Philemon not to enslave Onesimus again but to receive him back as a brother. Secular power structures have no place in God’s kingdom. In Luke, Jesus uses striking examples to teach us that the life of faith cannot be lived well with half-hearted commitment.
Read Jeremiah 18:1-11. As clay, how can you better respond to the Potter’s guiding hand?
Read Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18. God knows you better than you know yourself, yet God has given you the ability to make your own decisions. How do you respond to God?
Read Philemon 1-21. How do you honor the full humanity of those who serve you through their work?
Read Luke 14:25-33. What does it mean for you to take up the cross in your life?
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