After the Disaster: Week 3 — Hope

Preaching Notes for the the Twenty-Second Sunday after Pentecost, Year C (October 16, 2016)
by the Rev. Dr. Dawn Chesser

Read the Introduction to the After the Disaster Sermon Series »

Jeremiah 31:27-34

The days are surely coming.

For a long period of time, Jeremiah’s prophecies that “the days are surely coming” referred to the imminent fall of Israel and Judah to Babylon. At this point in the narrative, that fall has already occurred. The chosen people have been conquered, taken captive, and hauled off to live in a foreign land for seventy years. The Lord God has instructed the people to build houses and live in them, plant gardens and eat, marry and have children, and seek the welfare of those neighbors (their enemies) with whom they are now living.

And the children of Israel are trying their best to do just what has been asked of them. But it is hard. It is hard to live through a time of loss and grief. It is hard to go on. Sometimes it feels as if they are just going through the motions.

I imagine that the words of the Lord God to the chosen people during this period must have “gone in one ear and out the other.” That is, maybe they heard the words, but they did not find much comfort in them.

It makes me think about all the times in my ministry when I’ve tried to speak words of condolence to people who have suffered a terrible tragedy. Someone’s family member has died; and I say, “I’m so sorry for your loss.” I tell people I will pray for them. I visit, and I try to listen. Maybe a few months later I will offer up some hope by saying, “It will get better one day. Time heals all wounds.” But to someone who is in shock, or someone who is hurting deeply, or someone who is facing the end of his or her life, words don’t always help.

In this week’s text, we have more words from the Lord God. And the Lord is saying, essentially, “Hold on to hope. It will get better one day. Time heals all wounds.”

  • One day, the house of Israel and the house of Judah will be restored.
  • One day, you will be able to return to the land that the Lord gave to you.
  • One day, there will be a new covenant.
  • One day, the sins of the past will all be forgotten, and you will be given a fresh start. A do-over. The slate will be wiped completely clean.
     

One day. Some day. The days are surely coming.

Could they hear it? Probably not at that point. But perhaps the thing that they could hear was the promise that when that day came, it wouldn’t be about words. It would be a promise made on their hearts that the Lord would be their God and they would be the Lord’s people and all would be made well in the relationship once again and forevermore.

This is going to be more than words that they might or might not be able to hear. This will be a hope that is written directly on their hearts.

If only during those times when I’m searching for something to say, something to do, something that will bring a momentary comfort to someone who is in pain, I could find a way to communicate something that will, if not heal, at least give the person some hope. If only we were able to bypass the limitations of our mouths, ears, and minds and find a way touch the place that most needs touching in a moment such as that.

This promise is powerful because it feels like a touch of hope from God’s very heart at the moment the people of Israel and Judah needed it the most.

That’s why this passage is so memorable and powerful to us every time we read it. Because it is a word of hope from God, just when when we need it the most.

In Jesus Christ, that hope from the heart of God came into the world in an even newer and profound way. The very embodiment of God’s love, Jesus was able to use so much more than words to communicate the love of God to the world. He poured God’s love into the hearts of the people he met through his words, yes. But he did more then that. He poured out God’s love through his healing touch and through his actions. He poured out God’s love in his welcome to all by sitting down at table with the outcast and the sick. More even than being written directly on our hearts, through Jesus Christ, the hope of God’s love came pouring out and and lived among us in the form of a person. And the good news is, that love and that hope continues to live in us, and continues to be embodied in the world today, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the body of Christ, the church. Again, I find Paul’s words of “hope” to the Romans to be such a wonderful parallel for this text from Jeremiah:

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us (Romans 5:1-5, NRSV).

 

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Categories: Worship, Worship Planning, Lectionary Calendar, Preaching, Weekly Lectionary Preaching Notes, Lectionary Preaching, After the Disaster (Jeremiah and the Minor Prophets), Sundays After Pentecost

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