bibl blog 412

This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:


Libya defector

JEREMIAH 11: 18-20

It was the Lord who made it known to me, and I knew;
then you showed me their evil deeds.
19 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!’
20 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.

Jeremiah mourns the destruction of Jerusalem

This is a crucial little poem by Jeremiah. He had spoken honestly in God’s name against the idolatry and injustice of his society and found his own life threatened. We should reflect that his society was certainly no more evil than ours today and ask what we would do with a preacher who threatened our destruction by foreign forces. No doubt he would be condemned as radical and extremist. Although Jeremiah feels for his people, here he prays for the retribution that will justify his witness. Although like Jesus in going “like a lamb to the slaughter”, he is unlike the one who prayed forgiveness for his torturers. Just here and there in this prophet there is a hint of the unpleasant self-righteousness we also find in some Psalms in which we are no longer sure if the author is on God’s side or wants God to be on his.

JOHN 8: 34-47

34 Jesus answered them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. 35The slave does not have a permanent place in the household; the son has a place there for ever. 36So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed. 37I know that you are descendants of Abraham; yet you look for an opportunity to kill me, because there is no place in you for my word. 38I declare what I have seen in the Father’s presence; as for you, you should do what you have heard from the Father.’

39 They answered him, ‘Abraham is our father.’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing what Abraham did, 40but now you are trying to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. 41You are indeed doing what your father does.’ They said to him, ‘We are not illegitimate children; we have one father, God himself.’ 42Jesus said to them, ‘If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me. 43Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word. 44You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God.’

Goebbels-child of the father of lies

It’s important to free this passage from any taint of predestination. If Jesus’ opponents are born as children of the devil and have no choice in the matter, then in all conscience they cannot be held guilty in any true sense of the word (although John Calvin thought they could). We have the choice of being children of God or of the “devil”, that is, of the transpersonal power of evil in our world. There is indeed a sense of such persons’ inability to recognise goodness, but that is the consequence of decisions freely made by which they have allowed themselves to be “possessed” by evil. Jesus words here bring together the Father and the truth on one hand, the devil and lies, on the other. It is a savage and penetrating indictment of evil which we should in no way try to diminish. From certain sources we shall never get truth.

Verses 34-36 have always puzzled me. Surely the slave to sin is in the household of sin, whereas the son is in the household of God. The contrast between slave and son (of the same household) therefore seems irrelevant. If any reader can enlighten me, I’ll be grateful.

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