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Tuesday, November 28, 2006
What does the future hold? These texts invite trust of God in the midst of uncertain times. In situations that seem only to threaten loss, we hear words of promises kept. We find assertions of steadfast love. We lift prayers of restoration. We trust news of redemption approaching. Advent declares: the days of God’s reign are coming in our midst! Jeremiah 33: 14–16 Jerusalem and Judah are poised on the brink of ruin in 587 bce. An exile partially begun ten years earlier will soon come to bear full force. While most of the book of Jeremiah pronounces judgment to prepare Judah for exile, the prophet shifts to words of promise in 30:1—33:26 (“The Book of Comfort”). Within that section, our focus scripture announces hope in the face of mounting despair. The painful realities of exile test the ability to trust promises of an “everlasting covenant” (2 Samuel 7:16). Yet God’s keeping of promises forms the foundation of Jeremiah’s word. A new branch will “spring up” (tsamach), a Hebrew verb used in Genesis 2:5 about the life God would bring from the ground. Waiting is involved. What will come to pass in Genesis and Jeremiah is neither clearly seen nor firmly in hand. But Judah’s new creation, as with the first creation, springs up as God’s promised work. It invites living with hope of restoration. This passage points to community restored in several ways. “House” in the Hebrew Scriptures may refer to dynasty, temple, palace, or dwelling. The promise made to the “houses” of Judah and Israel involves the whole community. Jeremiah says that God’s “branch” (a Messianic term, as in Isaiah 11:1ff) will execute justice. The prophets see justice as equitable relationships. Justice produces fairness and avoids oppression. One reason exile has come is rulers who failed to insure such equity. Jeremiah promises that this failure and its effects will be reversed in God’s promise of justice done. Jeremiah’s imagery of salvation (verse 16) expresses why hope can be held in the midst of present difficulties. In the face of seeming abandonment, Jeremiah assures that God will save Judah. In the midst of times that appear anything but safe or trustworthy, the prophet announces the promise of life lived in “safety” (literally, “trust”). Living with hope threads through the other lections. Psalm 25:1–10 reflects on such trust in personal terms. The psalmist converses with God in confession (“in you I trust”) and plea (“be mindful of your mercy”). Luke 21:25–36 frames hope in cosmic terms. Signs and wonders in creation form an unsettling backdrop that might seem to cause only fear. Trust and anticipation recognize the nearness of God’s redemption and realm. In all the passages, hopeful waiting hinges not on clear knowledge of what will be, but active trust in God’s new workings. These texts balance one another. The “in those days” of Jeremiah and Luke complement the present joy and trust celebrated by the psalmist and the words of 1 Thessalonians 3:9–13. Together, the texts affirm God’s reign is both now and not yet. These words call individuals and communities to engage in trust, and intend to strengthen us as we live between those times. For even as we await God’s coming, Paul makes clear that hope takes shape in our present practice of love. Jeremiah and the other readings challenge us to live faithfully toward the future in present days that try our patience and trust. What, and who, do we trust for the future? What might surprise us about the new work of God in our day? In what ways might these passages shape how we live in the “now and not yet” of God’s reign with anticipation and hope?

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Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Blog

Reflections on the Revised Common Lectionary by Rev. Rick Skidmore and Rev. Jim Ogden.

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