Submitted by Jan on Tue, 22/10/2013 – 15:10
Year C (2012-2013)
Bible Book: Jeremiah / Jeremia
Focus Texts: Jeremiah 14 and Luke 18:9-14 Jeremiah’s Chapter 14, is bursting with pain. It is excruciating and heart-breaking.
Trying to understand experiences of pain can bring us face to face with choices about judgment, guilt and denial. Our own painful experiences with HIV and AIDS have shown us that the way we handle judgment, guilt and denial is literally a matter of life and death.
These days, I am separated from high-prevalence HIV communities. But there is still pain all around. I often reflect on what makes it possible for communities living with HIV to speak in ways which enable life, and which guard against dis-empowering and deadly judgment, guilt and denial.
How does the Prophet Jeremiah speak amidst this pain of his community?
His descriptions (vv 3-6) are specific.
His use of imagery and poetic metaphor (vv7-9) is personal and inclusive.
He speaks with a voice that belongs in a community, about his own people.(i.e. he uses words like ‘we’ and ‘us’).
He addresses God directly as ‘you’, and listens for the responsive voice of God to him, in return.
There is no accusation of any absent third party in his expression of pain.
The voice of his people (vv 19-22) also sustains this personal and collective conversation, without straying to accuse some one else.
Although our lectionary guide doesn’t include verses 11-18 in this week’s reading, I think we will misunderstand the laments of this chapter if we do not read these verses. A critique involving a third party appears in these verses. It comes from the mouth of God. Perhaps God is becoming the estranged one in these verses. God’s sense of ‘us’ and ‘we’ seems to have been whittled down to merely the company of Jeremiah. Jeremiah’s people and Jeremiah’s peers have become ‘them’ to God. In this conversation between Jeremiah and God, Jeremiah clings to his own shared sense of identity that includes both God and his people. I perceive that God accepts Jeremiah’s inclusive posture, despite God’s experience and movement toward estrangement.
In the conversation between Jeremiah and God, God levels a critique at Jeremiah’s own ‘kind’, the prophets – his peers, people of similar identity, role and responsibility. Amidst the indignity, starvation and violence experienced by Jeremiah’s people, God chooses to identify this people as ‘people to whom they prophesy.’ God could have chosen any number of ways to label this population, but he chose to identify the people in relation to prophecy. This identity continues to link them to God through their attentiveness to God’s voice, even though effective communication has broken down. Throughout, Jeremiah pursues his own sense of identity, which includes both God and the people.
Perhaps positive living involves the ability to speak with an inclusive, protective, and enduring realisation of shared identify, of who ‘we’ are, and of ‘us’.
To think about: The theologian, Walter Brueggemann, introduces his analysis of Jeremiah 14 as follows. “The lament speeches in vv 1-10 and 17-22 surround the prose section of vv 11-16. That prose section presents a controversy between Jeremiah and alternative prophetic voices that are judged to be false…Indeed, it is a false discernment of historical reality by the other prophetic voices that causes the grief and loss.”
Perhaps Jesus is pointing to another false discernment of reality in this week’s Gospel reading, Luke 18:9-14. What are the false discernments of historical reality in our communities of faith?What grief and loss are these discernments causing?
Walter Brueggemann, 1998 “A Commentary on Jeremiah: Exile and Homecoming”, p. 134
Written by: Greg Manning, Australia
Author: Manning G (Mr)