This blog provides a meditation in the Episcopal daily readings. I’ve been in hospital today and apologise to readers for lateness and brevity.
11 The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Jeremiah, what do you see?’ And I said, ‘I see a branch of the watchful tree.’ 12Then the Lord said to me, ‘You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it.’ 13The word of the Lord came to me a second time, saying, ‘What do you see?’ And I said, ‘I see a boiling pot, tilted away from the north.’ 14 Then the Lord said to me: Out of the north disaster shall break out on all the inhabitants of the land. 15For now I am calling all the tribes of the kingdoms of the north, says the Lord; and they shall come and all of them shall set their thrones at the entrance of the gates of Jerusalem, against all its surrounding walls and against all the cities of Judah. 16And I will utter my judgements against them, for all their wickedness in forsaking me; they have made offerings to other gods, and worshipped the works of their own hands. 17But you, gird up your loins; stand up and tell them everything that I command you. Do not break down before them, or I will break you before them. 18And I for my part have made you today a fortified city, an iron pillar, and a bronze wall, against the whole land—against the kings of Judah, its princes, its priests, and the people of the land. 19They will fight against you; but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you.
27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, ‘What do you want?’ or, ‘Why are you speaking with her?’ 28Then the woman left her water-jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29‘Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?’ 30They left the city and were on their way to him.
31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, ‘Rabbi, eat something.’ 32But he said to them, ‘I have food to eat that you do not know about.’ 33So the disciples said to one another, ‘Surely no one has brought him something to eat?’ 34Jesus said to them, ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35Do you not say, “Four months more, then comes the harvest”? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37For here the saying holds true, “One sows and another reaps.” 38I sent you to reap that for which you did not labour. Others have laboured, and you have entered into their labour.’
39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me everything I have ever done.’ 40So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there for two days. 41And many more believed because of his word. 42They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Saviour of the world.’
These passages show two slightly different visions of the power of God’s word. In the case of Jeremiah, God watches over the word spoken by his prophet and guarantees its fulfilment. In the case of Jesus, God’s word is fruitful in the growth of faith. In both cases the word is spoken by a human being, although John wants his readers to remember that Jesus is the Word. The Samaritans believe not just because of what Jesus says but because of what he is. It’s not wholly different in the case of Jeremiah: he has to stand for the word he preaches; his courage and faithfulness are part of the word’s power.
Christians believe that God’s word has been spoken and written by inspired people. They don’t think the word arrives ready made (as perhaps Moslems believe). The messengers make use of their own experience, tradition, faith and intelligence to receive and communicate God’s word and their lives are integrated with their message. However, Jesus is called The Word because his whole existence perfectly expresses God’s love-that’s the conviction which constitutes Christian belief. Its truth cannot be demonstrated historically or scientifically but it is the measure which Christian believers use to judge anyone who claims to speak God’s word. It’s not hard to see the Christ-likeness of Jeremiah; harder to see it in the book of Joshua; impossible to see it in a man bearing a placard which says, “God hates fags.”