Thursday, September 20, 2012

On Scripture: Jeremiah 11:18-20

Jeremiah 11:18-20
It was the LORD who made it known to me, and I knew;
    then you showed me their evil deeds.
But I was like a gentle lamb
    led to the slaughter.
And I did not know it was against me
    that they devised schemes, saying,
"Let us destroy the tree with its fruit,
    let us cut him off from the land of the living,
    so that his name will no longer be remembered!"
But you, O LORD of hosts, who judge righteously,
    who try the heart and the mind,
let me see your retribution upon them,
    for to you I have committed my cause.  

How does this text heal me? How do I hear the love of God in this text?

The prophet's double movement is like my own, though it is not mine. When one reads the prophets, one should not imagine Anne Frank, scribbling her confessions in a journal. When one reads the prophets, one should think Glenn Beck, in all his paranaoic insanity - not because the prophets were unbalanced or because Beck has the voice of God - but because there is no syllable of oracle, vision, or confession that was intended to be private. This is political grandstanding. There was an assassination attempt against me! I am innocent! I am persecuted! God has revealed to me the conspiracies of my enemies! One can almost hear Jerusalem Radio 1570 across the centuries. 

This is a difficult notion to swallow. As difficult as David lamenting Saul and Jonathan at a very politically expedient time, or David going out to console his men only after he heard that they would leave him otherwise. Yet one cannot double the canonical sincerity. There are people, says God, after God's own heart. So there is this double movement, in Jeremiah's case too: I will trust in God and I will rhetorically and politically manipulate. Clearly one does not come to the Old Testament for purity, despite one commentator's blithe assurance that we see here Jeremiah's simple trust in God. If Jeremiah as text is any indication, there was not as much as one simple thought in Jeremiah's heart. 
And yet. Here we are. Jeremiah reaches for the world and God at once. Jeremiah perhaps does not know where to place himself. This text wounded me because it wanted to call me on the carpet and stand somewhere. I did not want to be stood. I could not say if I was sheep or the tyranny of evil men. Innocent of assassination, I stand guilty of nearly everything else. Cruel thoughts conspire behind the kindness of my face. Often I cannot say if my own trust in God is simply American carelessness, heedlessness of consequence. And the rarity of that dilemma will tell you how often I might even try to relinquish control to the Master of the Universe.  
And yet. This text declares that is the motion that matters - yes, that double, impure motion toward God is movement nonetheless, but also that God is barreling through history to bring us to himself. Whatever his hesitations, Jeremiah was swept up in something far greater than himself, lifted off his feet. The size of both Jeremiah's self-aggrandizement and Jeremiah's faith pale in miniscule comparison to the natural disaster that is the love of God, a tornado of salvific intent. Jeremiah was prophesying at a time when the disposition of Israel might not even have mattered very much. It's the scale of the thing that gets you. Paranoids are always rambling about the magnitude of the deception, the abuse of power going all the way to the top. 

Well, Christians, people of faith, suspect a conspiracy of a different sort, a misdirection in plain sight that has guided every event in the history of the universe. And yes, our enemies might well scheme against us. But we see wheels within wheels, plots behind plots, and the organizer of this master plan could be no higher. And of course the conspiracy is a bit inverted, intended for our collective benefit. He's gonna save everybody, man! Everyone! 

the Curious Monk

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