A Reading from Jeremiah 4:9-10, 19-28
9 “In that day,” declares the Lord,
“the king and the officials will lose heart,
the priests will be horrified,
and the prophets will be appalled.”
10 Then I said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! How completely you have deceived this people and Jerusalem by saying, ‘You will have peace,’ when the sword is at our throats!”
19 Oh, my anguish, my anguish!
I writhe in pain.
Oh, the agony of my heart!
My heart pounds within me,
I cannot keep silent.
For I have heard the sound of the trumpet;
I have heard the battle cry.
20 Disaster follows disaster;
the whole land lies in ruins.
In an instant my tents are destroyed,
my shelter in a moment.
21 How long must I see the battle standard
and hear the sound of the trumpet?
22 “My people are fools;
they do not know me.
They are senseless children;
they have no understanding.
They are skilled in doing evil;
they know not how to do good.”
23 I looked at the earth,
and it was formless and empty;
and at the heavens,
and their light was gone.
24 I looked at the mountains,
and they were quaking;
all the hills were swaying.
25 I looked, and there were no people;
every bird in the sky had flown away.
26 I looked, and the fruitful land was a desert;
all its towns lay in ruins
before the Lord, before his fierce anger.
27 This is what the Lord says:
“The whole land will be ruined,
though I will not destroy it completely.
28 Therefore the earth will mourn
and the heavens above grow dark,
because I have spoken and will not relent,
I have decided and will not turn back.”
In 1984, the highly imaginative movie, The Neverending Story, appeared, based on a book by Michael Ende. In the story, a childlike empress rules a land called Fantasia which is slowly disintegrating under the influence of a destructive force called The Nothing. A boy warrior sets out to discover and stop The Nothing, but by the time he completes his quest, Fantasia has been reduced to a sparkling grain of sand. Yet from that grain Fantasia is rebuilt.
Under the grace of God, this is an archetypal story about the human race. It is about endless love, immortal power over evil, and resurrection after evil has done its best/worst. It is the story in today’s lesson from Jeremiah. “I writhe in pain … disaster follows disaster; the whole land lies in ruins.” The Word of the Lord comes through the prophet Jeremiah, who cries out that he sees the disaster that is coming.
He sees and cries out, yet no one believes him or heeds what he says. His anguish is severe, yet he is driven to tell the truth. Just as Jesus will say 600 years later, “Your enemies … will not leave in you one stone upon another” (Luke 19:43-44), Jeremiah cries, “I looked, and there were no people; … all its towns lay in ruins.” The lesson for today repeats predictions and descriptions of the coming, world-stopping disaster: “The whole land will be ruined.” And yet there is one sentence that upholds comfort and hope, like a sparkling grain of sand: “I will not destroy it completely.”
Judgment, punishment, collapse, the wiping away of an entire world — and yet one sparkling grain remains. Utter judgment is an expression of purifying love, and the rebuilding is certain. It is God’s way. Jesus said it, too: “Behold, I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5), and “these words are trustworthy and true.”
David Baumann served for nearly 50 years as an Episcopal priest in the Dioceses of Los Angeles and Springfield. He has published nonfiction, science fiction, and short stories. Two exuberant small daughters make sure he never gets any rest.
Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Renk – The Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan
The Episcopal Diocese of Lexington