The Gospel of Jeremiah

So, I’m not gonna lie, I was feeling a bit of pressure about today. Questions kept creeping up on me like, How rusty am I going to be? How much of a fool am I gonna make of myself? And then we were talking about the sermon during coffee hour last week and I thought, oh my gosh, the sermon! I’m gonna have to really wow them today! I’m gonna have to pull out all the stops! There’s some organ humor for ya Laura Ann.

I mean, I’m really gonna have to bring my A game! What if I can’t! What if I’m just not that inspired by today’s scripture reading? What if I disappoint our new members? This is the first time some of you have seen me in action! What if I, what if I…I…I…I…Did you hear all those I’s I’ve used so far? That’s when another voice came to me. And that voice, in the sound of my many seminary professors, that voice said, “How about you just stick to your training?” “How about you just stick to your training?” And I knew exactly what that meant.

Sticking to my training meant, sticking to the scripture that we have today. Be immersed in the scripture. And let it speak for itself. Let it do its magic. Because it’s not about me anyway. Once I remembered that, I felt so much better, so much more relaxed. But not too relaxed, because of course I was anxious about things running smoothly, anxious about this being a meaningful service for you all, and I’m still nervous about communion! Oh lordy. But once I recognized all the I statements I was fussing over, a weight was lifted off of me. I just needed a good divine slap upside the back of my head to remember that. So then I reread the scripture text, for the hundredth time, and bam! That’s when I realized that this was the lesson of this passage! Only instead of it not being about me, I heard, it’s not about us!

So, with that in mind, let’s dive into this beautiful passage from Jeremiah. And it couldn’t be a better passage for this day, and I can see why they chose this to be the finale of our six-week series in this book. It really is the pinnacle, the mountain top, of everything that Jeremiah passed on to God’s people, then and now. This passage completely changes everything they thought they knew about God. So much so, that even ol’ Jeremiah was surprised!

Now, scholars aren’t really sure when this was written. Some say it was written while God’s people were in exile. Some say that some of it was actually written after the exile was over. But narratively, in the text they are still in exile, and Jeremiah is still in prison, and I think that makes this passage all the more poignant. Because it’s easy to see good news when things are going well right! It would be easy to stand here and say, “And they went home and lived happily ever after! The end.”

But that’s not exactly how it ends. Oh, they eventually go home but, you may remember, it’s not exactly a happy ever after kind of ending! But that’s for another sermon. Here, in this book, they haven’t gone home yet, and still, God gives them the good news, the gospel, the greatest news, and urges them to let that sink in, deep inside their innermost being. Not on a scroll, not in a book, not on some stone tablets, not finger-painted on a wall, there’s a Bible joke for ya for all you Bible nerds, you know who you are.

No, it’s written on their hearts. Only this time, it’s not words that are written. It’s God’s unconditional love and forgiveness. God’s very being is imprinted on our hearts, not a list of rules and regulations for us to follow, or else. Unlike previous covenants, this new covenant was unconditional, there was nothing for us to do or not do to get God’s love and forgiveness, because, truth be told, that didn’t work, did it! It never does.

And so, the focus of the relationship with God turns from us…to God—where the focus should have been all along. This was God’s way of saying to us, “This has never been about you! As hard as you’ve tried, it has never been about you!” God says to us through Jeremiah. Now, let me give you a real-world example of this in the here and now. These masks. The fits people have had and continue to have about these masks. Even from people who have never had a big problem wearing them!

If I had a dollar for every time I heard some form of, “Well, most of us are vaccinated so we should be ok without masks.” These masks are not about us! And they never have been! They have always been about keeping others safe, keep the vulnerable safe, keeping the unvaccinated safe, and it doesn’t matter why they are unvaccinated. If I hear one more person say that “It’s on them if they are not vaccinated” I’m gonna explode! But my goodness, how easy it is for us to make everything about us.

And in this reading from Jeremiah, God reminds us that, not only is it not about us, and never has been, but that this is good news! Because when we make it about us we are going to fail, each and every time. And nobody knows that better than God, and so, God lifts that off of our shoulders, God lifts that responsibility, the heavy responsibility, off of our shoulders.

And since it is not about us, and never has been, God’s unconditional love and forgiveness is not dependent on our circumstances that we find ourselves in, it is not dependent on whether or not God’s people are in exile, on whether or not God’s people are home, on whether or not God’s people have behaved! Since it is not about us, and never has been, God’s unconditional love and forgiveness is not dependent on whether or not we are in the throes of a pandemic, on whether or not we can gather in-person, on whether or not we can worship like we used to—all because it is not about us, and never has been.

It is about God, and what God is doing in the world, and about the profound honor of being invited to participate in what God is doing in the world. Now, as we continue to work at not making everything about us, we are freed to do one very important thing, and I will leave you with this final thought. Since it is not about us, and never has been, we are freed to focus on all those around us—not in judgment, not in condemnation, not to change people, not to change how people think, or who people love, or how people behave—but rather we are freed to focus, to reflect, God’s unconditional love and forgiveness to all that God places in our path, no matter their circumstances we find them in. That is pure grace, my friends. And lo and behold, found in Jeremiah, long before Jesus was a twinkle in God’s eye, long before Jesus perfected that grace in human form, with a bloody cross and an empty tomb. Thanks be to God. Amen.

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