We are reading Jeremiah in our Sunday lectionary so each week I am praying over the Jeremiah text (as well as something from Paul and the Gospel of Luke) as I discern what I am to preach on. While I do think the Holy Spirit is involved, I also think my own agenda and baggage is at work. It is hard to know what is my mistaken pondering and what is God-given...
Jeremiah preached dark words. He also was sad much of the time. His message was a heavy burden to bear and I get the impression that Jeremiah would rather have done something else with his life. I have been especially struck by the contrast of this model for living ("the weeping prophet") vs. "the joyful/happy Christian" model which I have grown up with. Which of the two is more authentic? [and how much of either is a function of genetics, situation and choice?]
Jeremiah's agony over fallen Judah is heart wrenching. I have read contemporary 'prophetic' warnings of a similar stripe the last ten years. The basic message is "time runs short, return to the Lord." That was Jesus' preaching (The kingdom is near, repent and believe) so I do not have any issues with that message. I think the question for a lot of us is the exact form and time frame of that judgment. I believe my own denomination is under God's judgment. I see things which confirm, to me, that the time is now. The American culture seems to also be begging God for a fresh batch of 'correction' and renewal. However, I do not believe America is God's covenant people (a theme in some periods of American history and certainly something some of the religiously inclined immigrants seem to have embraced from time to time) so the strict parallels with Israel are off a bit. That being said, the Jewish Scriptures make clear that God's dealings with other nations was impacted by the people's righteousness and many times the prophets preached against the sins of a foreign nation... So there is no reason to think the USA is exempt from God's hand of judgment.
Yesterday the CDC announced pending doom because of the abuse of antibiotics. For a decade now there have been warnings that we are creating new super-bugs (resistant to our current supply of medications) because people are misusing antibiotics. To compound the issue, drug companies no longer do research in this area because there is no money to be made. This is a function of human decision making (both the companies and their critics). I think the prophet Jeremiah is able to look at a two year old and imagine some untreatable respiratory infection which slowly suffocates the child. I think it makes him weep. I guess the joyful Christian counters with the good news that the Lord will receive that same child into the Kingdom. [in the end we all die]
Seeing the frustration of the CDC as their dire warnings are ignored reminds me of Jeremiah. As does the warnings of economic collapse as we continue to add billions in debt. What happens when the weight of all that debt capsizes the economy. Once again, the vision of a future where jobs are even more scarce and people are reduced to struggling for food to eat (think of much of the third world). It couldn't happen here, right? Think again.
Jeremiah's threats are not unrelated to human choices. The warnings from secular agents in our own culture are a reminder that "prophetic vision" may not be limited to the overtly spiritual. God's Wisdom permeates creation. The call to repent does as well. As I sat holding baby boy yesterday, with such grave threats booming in the background, I contemplated his future. Should I weep or rejoice? I think both: cross and resurrection are each real.