No, a tattoo chair set up in the chancel would not be a good idea. On the other hand, we began this season by receiving a mark that represented our faith; represented both our sinfulness or mortality and our confidence in the one who brings us hope. So perhaps there is some sort of mark we could find to represent our desire to be shaped by the law of love that Jeremiah presents to us in our text for the week—maybe a bookmark or a wallet card, something that says, “We know the Lord” or “We are God’s people.” Not a card to give away, but something to remind ourselves.
This is a reminder worship experience. We are who we are, remember? We act how God’s people act, remember? When we haven’t done so, when we’ve acted out of selfishness or in reaction to a perceived slight or frustration, then we confess and cling to the truth that we are God’s people and that isn’t how we act; it isn’t who we are to behave in ways that diminish and demean. So we provide space for confession. We invite honesty before the Lord. We confront the body with the vision of who we are called to be to see if that fits how we have been. This word on our hearts or on our cards is not something to give away, but something to remind ourselves.
Yet, we give it away whenever we act out of that truth, whenever we treat others as though they were God’s people too. Or whenever we treat them with love because we know the Lord and we want them to know the Lord too. So, worship, as always, leads to action; worship leads to life beyond the sanctuary into the streets where we live. Help those who attend make those connections in whatever ways work in your setting. Use images, perhaps, of ministry in your neighborhood, beyond the walls. Tell stories of connections made outside the community of faith. Create opportunities for relationships to be built in the world around us. Let the concerns of the surrounding areas be brought into the life and witness of the church, into the prayers of the people of God.
The text this week comes from the book of consolation in Jeremiah. Like all the prophets, Jeremiah has difficult things to say. But this is a moment where he wants to build up the people of God. It looks bleak, he admits, but God is still God. God is still in control. And the day is surely coming when God will write on the heart of the people of God. And while even then we may still wonder what the loving thing is, we will desire to do that loving thing with our whole being. We will no longer be half-hearted followers, but fully committed members of the loving force that will bring in the kin-dom.
So, worship is one of hope and of joy, confidence in the goodness of God, even while we confess our unwillingness to love far too often. We proclaim, with song and prayer that we are still under the tutelage of the Spirit, still being shaped by the hand of God into disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. And that proclamation is what will be written on our hearts. Praise be to God.
Rev. Dr. Derek Weber, Director of Preaching Ministries, served churches in Indiana and Arkansas and the British Methodist Church. His PhD is from University of Edinburgh in preaching and media. He has taught preaching in seminary and conference settings for more than 20 years.