Jeremiah 26:1-16 (NRSV)
Early in the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came from the Lord: “This is what the Lord says: Stand in the courtyard of the Lord’s house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the house of the Lord. Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word. Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from their evil ways. Then I will relent and not inflict on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done. Say to them, ‘This is what the Lord says: If you do not listen to me and follow my law, which I have set before you, and if you do not listen to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I have sent to you again and again (though you have not listened), then I will make this house like Shiloh and this city a curse among all the nations of the earth.’”
The priests, the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speak these words in the house of the Lord. But as soon as Jeremiah finished telling all the people everything the Lord had commanded him to say, the priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and said, “You must die! Why do you prophesy in the Lord’s name that this house will be like Shiloh and this city will be desolate and deserted?” And all the people crowded around Jeremiah in the house of the Lord.
When the officials of Judah heard about these things, they went up from the royal palace to the house of the Lord and took their places at the entrance of the New Gate of the Lord’s house. Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and all the people, “This man should be sentenced to death because he has prophesied against this city. You have heard it with your own ears!”
Then Jeremiah said to all the officials and all the people: “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and this city all the things you have heard. Now reform your ways and your actions and obey the Lord your God. Then the Lord will relent and not bring the disaster he has pronounced against you. As for me, I am in your hands; do with me whatever you think is good and right. Be assured, however, that if you put me to death, you will bring the guilt of innocent blood on yourselves and on this city and on those who live in it, for in truth the Lord has sent me to you to speak all these words in your hearing.”
Then the officials and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, “This man should not be sentenced to death! He has spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.”
I wonder if in the time of the prophets the average citizen had a clue that some among them had the word of God on their lips. In today’s reading from Jeremiah, you quickly get the sense that not everyone was on board that this man was indeed sharing the words of God. In fact, when he finishes his call to the people of Judah, they say “You must die!”
Now as it turns out, Jeremiah is fortunate that when brought before the officials and the elders and he explains again what he has been charged to do, everyone says “this man should not be sentenced to death! He has spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.”
It could be that life was simpler in the Old Testament days. They were fortunate to have prophets walking among them. Not that they all knew it, but they were there. I believe it is more difficult for us to discern the word of God and to respond to where we see or feel that the kingdom of God is at hand.
The New Testament tells us that Jesus says the kingdom of God is at hand. The charge in our reflections for this Lenten season was to seek and speak to where we see evidence of this kingdom of God. My observation is that it is all around us; through the Lewinsville community we are better able to help people as a loving, Christian community, than by ourselves. We individually need to strive to reflect God’s love in our lives, but with a community of faith we can take hope in the work that we do collectively, and the impact can be tenfold.
God, give me strength to reflect your love in my life and to participate in the life of my church to multiply your love in our community, and our world. Amen.