This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
IRISH GUARDS KILLED IN AFGHANISTAN 6 DAYS BEFORE END OF TOUR
27 So you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not listen to you. You shall call to them, but they will not answer you. 28You shall say to them: This is the nation that did not obey the voice of the Lord their God, and did not accept discipline; truth has perished; it is cut off from their lips.
29 Cut off your hair and throw it away;
raise a lamentation on the bare heights,
for the Lord has rejected and forsaken
the generation that provoked his wrath.
30 For the people of Judah have done evil in my sight, says the Lord; they have set their abominations in the house that is called by my name, defiling it. 31And they go on building the high place of Topheth, which is in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to burn their sons and their daughters in the fire—which I did not command, nor did it come into my mind. 32Therefore, the days are surely coming, says the Lord, when it will no more be called Topheth, or the valley of the son of Hinnom, but the valley of Slaughter: for they will bury in Topheth until there is no more room. 33The corpses of this people will be food for the birds of the air, and for the animals of the earth; and no one will frighten them away. 34And I will bring to an end the sound of mirth and gladness, the voice of the bride and bridegroom in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; for the land shall become a waste.
This passage recalls a prophetic drama in which Jeremiah had his hair cut off as a sign that God has cut off the people from his protection. I’m not sure if this would work today. I guess it might be worth a go…I haven’t much hair anyway.
The prophet accuses the people of making human sacrifice to foreign Gods, a blasphemy which will lead to the slaughter of the people by their enemies. Of course such practices are unthinkable in our time. Except…… I live in a country which regularly packs off its working class young men to kill other young men in Afghanistan and to die there for reasons which cannot even be intelligibly expressed by the politicians who have sent them. The idea that killing Moslems in Afghanistan will make life SAFER in the UK is so laughable that only a bare-faced liar could put it forward with any seriousness.
So why are we sacrificing our children? To what God? And with what consequences?
“I will bring to an end the sound of mirth and gladness….for the land will become a waste.”
37 On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, 38and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, “Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.” ’ 39Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
40 When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, ‘This is really the prophet.’ 41Others said, ‘This is the Messiah.’ But some asked, ‘Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? 42Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?’ 43So there was a division in the crowd because of him. 44Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him.
45 Then the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, ‘Why did you not arrest him?’ 46The police answered, ‘Never has anyone spoken like this!’ 47Then the Pharisees replied, ‘Surely you have not been deceived too, have you? 48Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49But this crowd, which does not know the law—they are accursed.’ 50Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus before, and who was one of them, asked, 51‘Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?’ 52They replied, ‘Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.’
I’ve noted already the tendency of the religious authorities to demand that religious leaders, like themselves, worked to a script-in this case the prophecy that the Messiah will come from Bethlehem not Galilee. It may be that the bible story of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem was told to show that God did stick to the script. It’s not clear if John knew it.
In any case Jesus tore up the script and offered an abundant life which went beyond anything prophesied and sometimes,-as in the case of the Sabbath Law-contradicted tradition. This abundant life is symbolised by the heart which overflows with fresh water. The life comes from Jesus through whose completed mission the Spirit of Life comes to believers who in turn become sources of life for others. The exuberance of this life goes as far beyond the miserable allegiance to the script which passes for Christianity in some places as its freshness and purity go beyond the gun-toting ecstasies that disfigure it in others.
Almost always, serious distortions of Christian faith begin with inadequate attention to Jesus. Reformation, whether personal or institutional, begins with seeing him afresh.